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A Balanced Anti-Aging Plan
By Susan Howard - 06/08/2016

Genes account for less than one-third of the health issues associated with aging. Two-thirds of age related health issues are attributable to lifestyle choices—something well within our control. When we make and follow a plan for healthy living, many of the illnesses of age (including arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis) can often be deterred, sometimes even prevented.

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Exercise is one of the most effective antidotes to aging, and it's free. Physical exercise slows the erosion of muscle strength, maintains better cardiovascular and respiratory function, limits the risk of developing diabetes, and increases bone mass to help prevent osteoporosis. Exercise also facilitates digestion, promotes efficient bowel function, reduces insomnia, and prevents depression. An effective weekly exercise routine should include consistent cardiovascular training (such as walking, jogging, or cycling) as well as two or three strength training sessions using light weights—1 to 12 pounds. If you don't exercise, it is easy to begin. Just start walking and increase with time.

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A diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of many cancers by 50%. It also reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, macular degeneration, cataracts, and many other lifestyle diseases. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables also helps with bowel issues like diverticulosis and constipation. Eat at least 9-12 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Eat meat sparingly. Choose beans, seafood, and fish as alternatives to beef, pork, or lamb. When you do eat meats, select lean cuts.

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Virtually all chemical processes in the body take place in water or use water as part of the reaction. Older adults are prone to dehydration, especially in warm weather. Drink at least 64 ounces (about 6-8 glasses) of water daily.

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Aging skin and eyes are vulnerable to sun damage because protective pigment diminishes over time. Although sunlight is needed to produce vitamin D, excessive sun exposure increases your risk of skin cancer.

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Stress and anxiety impair the immune system and make us more susceptible to illness. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as leisure reading, meditation, yoga, and exercise. Set aside time for these things.

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Think of the brain as a muscle; it will atrophy without use. Exercise your brain by learning new skills and maintaining old skills. Regular physical activity, strong social support, and belief in you ability are three key factors of strong mental function. Make time to strengthen these areas of your life.

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Smoking increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and all other lifestyle diseases. A pack-a-day smoker is four times more likely to develop congestive heart failure than a non-smoker. But it’s never too late to quit. Five years after stopping, ex-smokers have about the same risk of developing heart disease as someone who never smoked. Quitting also lowers your risk of stroke, cancer, and emphysema.

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The older you are, the more cautious you should be. Alcohol metabolism slows with age, so the effects are more pronounced in older adults. If you don’t drink, don’t start.

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Positive social interaction lowers the stress hormone levels in the blood, helps preserve cognitive function, and prevents depression.

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Be consistent in your anti-aging plan. Take your Balance of Nature every day. Remember, consistency is key.

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