What Does Healthy Aging Look Like?

What Does Healthy Aging Look Like?

If you are 65 or older, you are part of the fastest-growing population age group worldwide! [1] Life expectancy at age 65 in the U.S. is another 19.4 years. [2] With more people than ever before reaching this age, it is important to know what aging healthfully looks like. Read on as we explore this topic over a 4 part series.

So what does it look like to age “normally?” Disease states such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, and some cancers are commonly associated with old age. While rates of these diseases do increase among senior adults, this does not mean that they are considered “normal” or “inevitable.“ For this reason, scientists of the Baltimore Study of Longitudinal Aging (BSLA) found that a better question to ask is, “What is the relationship between age and disease?” [3] The short answer to this question is risk.

For example, arterial aging is known as the process when arteries stiffen as the body ages, thus, increasing the risk of developing heart disease. [4] An additional example is bone loss. It is normal for bone loss to occur in the aging body, which leads to an increased risk of falls and fractures. As scientists continue to investigate these correlations, there are some general recommendations that have been found to be effective in preventing the onset of disease in older adults.

Nutrition

There is no universal diet plan that works “best” for everyone, which is why it is important to find one that is sustainable and that works with your lifestyle! However, there are some key dietary recommendations* that those 65 or older should heed.

  • Older adults may lose their sense of thirst as they age. [5] Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink and try to take sips of water or other beverages between bites at mealtime.
  • It is important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables as they often contain antioxidants which are helpful for reducing levels of inflammation in the body.
  • Consuming whole grains and limiting saturated fats is beneficial for overall cardiovascular health. Try to make at least half of the grains you eat whole grains and focus on incorporating more lean meats and plant-based sources of unsaturated fats into your diet.
  • Calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K are essential nutrients to include in your diet for building and maintaining strong bones. Talk to your doctor to determine the best source of these nutrients for you.
  • What about protein? Older adults experience something called “anabolic resistance” which is when normal bodily signals that stimulate muscle building are muted. [6] Because of this, the adult RDA for protein is not enough for those approximately 65 or older. Christine Rosenbloom, Ph.D., RDN, FAND, and author of Food and Fitness After 50 recommends consuming at least 30 g of protein per meal and spreading overall protein intake evenly throughout the day. [7]

*This is not an exhaustive list. Remember to consult your doctor and/or dietitian to know what the best dietary practices are for you!

senior couple cooking in the kitchen

Physical Activity

Staying active is important for healthy aging, as it has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, bone loss, and other age-related chronic diseases. Americans should all get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week, according to the latest Physical Activity Guidelines. [8] This can be spread out over the week as 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days/ week. Examples of moderate-intensity activities include bike riding, fast walking, swimming, or walking stairs.

For older adults, it is important to begin an exercise routine with a low-intensity exercise like walking at a normal pace. [9] It is also essential to include a warm-up and cool-down period as well to reduce the risk of injury. Lastly, when choosing activities to participate in, choose ones that you enjoy!

african american senior couple on bicycles

This is the first in a series on what it looks like to enter the golden years mindfully and healthfully. Look for more blogs on our page about aging with a healthy heart, mind, and body!

Written by Darci Bell, RDN, LD | Edited by Laurel Sanville, MS, RDN, LD

[1] United Nations

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[3] National Institute on Aging

[4] Rossman MJ, LaRocca TJ, Martens CR, Seals DR.

[5] National Institute on Aging

[6] Current Opinion on Critical Care

[7] Christine Rosenbloom, Ph.D., RDN, FAND

[8] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

[9] National Institute on Aging

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