Modern medicine has eliminated deadly diseases and extended the human lifespan. Unfortunately, many people spend these added years coping with a new set of chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
But your last decades don’t have to consist of a slow, steady decline. Taking steps to stay active and healthy can help you stave off illness until your final days. Just consider a recent study in the American Journal of Medicine. It found older adults who lived the healthiest lifestyles delayed disability by about 8 years.
The earlier you start a healthy lifestyle, the better — but it’s never too late. In one study, adults with an average age of 72 who made just one healthy change decreased their risk of becoming disabled in the next two years. Those who adopted a few new habits reaped even bigger rewards.
Exactly how do you age successfully? Doctors recommend:
“Changes in combined lifestyle risks and disability transition in older adults: Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging, 2006–2008.” Y. Lee et al. Preventive Medicine. February 2013, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 124-9, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23234859.
Exercise and Physical Activity: Getting Fit for Life. National Institute on Aging, June 2013. www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/exercise-and-physical-activity.
Good Health Habits at Age 60 and Beyond. American Academy of Family Physicians, January 2012. familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/seniors/staying-healthy/good-health-habits-at-age-60-and-beyond.printerview.all.html
“Healthy Behaviors and Onset of Functional Disability in Older Adults: Results of a National Longitudinal Study.” W. Liao et al. Journal of the America Geriatrics Society. February 2011, vol. 59, no. 2, pp. 200-6, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21275933.
Healthy Eating After 50. National Institute on Aging, June 26, 2013. www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/healthy-eating-after-50.
“Influence of individual and combined healthy behaviours on successful aging.” S. Sabia et al. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Dec. 11, 2012, vol. 184, no. 18, pp. 1985-92, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23091184.
Lifestyle & Management. American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging, 2013. www.healthinaging.org/aging-and-health-a-to-z/topic:prevention/info:lifestyle-and-management/
“Lifestyle Risk Factors Predict Disability and Death in Healthy Aging Adults.” E. F. Chakravarty et al. The American Journal of Medicine. February 2012, vol. 125, no. 2, pp. 190-7, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3266548/.
“Mortality and Morbidity Trends: Is There Compression of Morbidity?” E. M. Crimmins and H. Beltrán-Sánchez. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences. January 2011, vol. 66, no. 1, pp. 75-86. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3001754/.
Protect Your Health As You Grow Older. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Aug. 29, 2013. www.healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/nutrition-and-physical-activity/physical-activity/protect-your-health-as-you-grow-older
Smoking: It's Never Too Late to Stop. National Institute on Aging, Sept. 17, 2013. www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/smoking
Young at Heart: Tips for Older Adults. Weight-control Information Network, August 2012. win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/young_heart.htm