Dr. Zhen-Yu Chen, Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board Member
More often than not, aging is a topic that we would rather avoid rather than discuss head-on, as our latter years are often associated with the loss of independence, sickness, loneliness and social isolation. With Asia Pacific being one of the fastest aging regions in the world today, it’s only a matter of time that we, as individuals, have to look at aging in the eye, and consider with care, what we can do to live a longer and more fulfilling life into our golden years.
By 2050, older persons aged 60 and above will make up 24 percent of the population in Asia. At the same time, the Korea population is aging faster than the rest of the world, and the country is on track to become the world’s most aged society by 2067. This means that many of those in their 20s and 30s today would also have moved into the ranks of the elderly by then as life expectancy continues to improve with better quality care.
Taking an advance reality check, how could we then put ourselves on the path towards healthy aging earlier on in life? According to Herbalife Nutrition’s 2018 Asia Pacific Healthy Aging Survey, 97 percent of Koreans believe that active steps can be taken to help them age healthily. 81 percent believe that by this can be achieved by making better nutrition choices, while 74 percent believe that this can be achieved by engaging in more regular physical activity.
While many of you may be still enjoying life in the pink of health now, it is never too early to take steps towards healthy aging as your actions have cumulative effects in the long run. To help you along, here are seven positive lifestyle habits to kickstart your healthy aging journey.
#1: Keep a Healthy Digestive System
Our digestive tract contributes to our well-being by absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste. . Unfortunately, many people suffer from abdominal discomfort and other digestive issues, and that may increase as we age.
To maintain a healthy digestive system, be conscious of what you eat. Supporting your digestive health with a variety of different kinds of dietary fiber can help. It also helps to take regular meals and probiotics to aid digestion. Probiotics have been shown to benefit the intestinal microbiota, which recent science has shown to be important in digestive and overall health. Exercising and drink plenty of water can help lower your risk too.
#2: Prioritize Your Heart Health
Our heart is at the center of everything that gives our body life – from the transportation of oxygen to the success of the immune system, maintaining a healthy heart is vital for our well-being as we age.
Be good to your heart by eating a healthy diet, performing regular physical activity by engaging in cardio exercises at least three times a week, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoid smoking. It is important to keep your cardiovascular system in good shape as we age, and there is no better time than the present to start heart healthy practices including staying active and supporting a healthy diet with supplements that are beneficial to your heart.
#3: Take Good Care of Your Bones
Our bone mass peaks in our 30s and 40s, before we start to lose calcium and other minerals. This is especially true for women after menopause, who will experience a rapid decline in bone mass in their later years.
Maintain healthy bones early by incorporating strength-training or weight-bearing exercises into your routine. You should also up your calcium intake by consuming high-calcium foods such as milk or soybeans, or a calcium supplement daily.
#4: Preserve Your Joints
While age-related factors contribute to degenerative changes in our joints, taking active steps to preserve our joints can help maintain our mobility functions and joint comfort as we age.
Maintain healthy joints by incorporating flexibility and stretching exercises into your daily routine in the morning. You can also consume a glucosamine supplement for added joint support.
#5: Protect Your Eyesight
One of the first signs of aging is the reduced ability to see things clearly up close – a condition called presbyopia. You may also find it difficult adjusting to glare or distinguishing some colors as you age.
One of the key nutrients responsible for healthy vision is lutein, which helps eye cells filter harmful ultraviolet (UV) light. Consume more lutein by incorporating foods such as spinach, kale, carrots or a lutein supplement into your diet. Protect your eyes from UV by wearing sunglasses and practice good eye habits by taking a break from your devices every 30 minutes.
#6: Exercise Regularly
As metabolism slows with age, maintaining a healthy weight becomes a persistent challenge. Regular exercise can help to increase our body’s metabolism, build muscle mass and burn more calories.
Build a regular exercise plan with at least 30 minutes of moderate-intense physical activity each day. Incorporate exercises that you enjoy and reward yourself when you achieve your fitness goals to keep you motivated. For the time-strapped individuals, try sneaking in short walks throughout your day, park further away from the office or use a standing workstation to avoid being seated all day.
#7: Keep Your Mind Active
Beyond preserving our physical health, maintaining our mental health is also vital in keeping dementia at bay while enabling a fulfilling life into our golden years.
Maintain an active mind by engaging in activities that you enjoy – spend time in nature, pursue a new hobby or take up music classes. It is also important to get enough sleep to improve focus, concentration and reduce stress.
No matter how young or old you are, it pays to start taking steps towards healthy aging now. By making simple changes to your lifestyle early with the goal of improving your long-term health, this will put you on the right track towards living a long, healthy and fulfilling life.