While your body will change, and can, in some ways, decline over time, the changes do not necessarily lead to disease.
Age affects everyone differently. The rate at which you age is affected by your lifestyle, genetics and disease processes.
Healthy aging is about cultivating and sustaining your most functional lifestyle habits so you can enjoy practical longevity—the ability to be independent and highly functioning as you age.
Research shows that living healthfully is roughly 75% of the lifestyle choices you make and 25% genetic factors. This indicates that you are a bio individually unique combination of your genetic predisposition and the sum of the lifestyle choices and habits you’ve made up to this point in time. It suggests you can make different choices from this point forward, thus creating the control in how healthy you live.
With each decision you make and the habits you sustain regarding health, you are choosing to enhance your longevity or detract from it.
The first key to knowing if you are aging healthfully or unhealthfully is compassionate awareness and assessment of where you currently are with your health and well-being.
Unhealthy aging involves being out of balance physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, or any combination of these areas. While the scales might be not be tipped drastically one way or the other, even a slight imbalance can be noticeable. This applies to you if you examine your life and health and find one or more of the following:
- Moderate to high stress levels.
- Feeling overwhelmed or dissatisfied by your life.
- General sense of not feeling 100%.
- One or more disease processes have been diagnosed.
- You have pain, discomfort, stiffness or tension somewhere in your body.
- You’re not sleeping well and are experiencing some level of fatigue.
- You feel disconnected from yourself or the people in your life.
- Your spirit feels dampened.
Healthy aging involves having a functional balance physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This applies to you if your life includes the following:
- Low to moderate stress levels.
- Feeling content or happy by your life.
- Feeling good on most days.
- Proactively managing disease processes with appropriate medical intervention and lifestyle choices.
- Proactively managing pain, discomfort, stiffness or tension in the body by movement, integrative treatments such as massage, acupuncture, chiropractic/osteopathic adjustments, etc.
- Sleeping well and feeling rested.
- Feeling connected to yourself, the people in your life and your community.
- Your spirit feels nourished.
Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and author of Chasing Life, indicates there are researched ways to slow down the aging process.
Begin by taking out pen and paper or your favorite notetaking device and answer these questions from Chasing Life:
- How do you define aging?
- What kind of life would you like to be living?
- What kinds of activities to you think you will be doing?
- What would you like to look like?
- What’s at the root of your desire to age with health and high functionality?
- What action do you need to take first to live a high quality of health and longevity?
Once you honestly and compassionately reflect and assess where you are, you can explore one or more of the ritual pages and choose where to begin.
Don’t know where to begin? Take insight from Blue Zones author and National Geographic researcher Dan Buettner, who claims, “Diet tends to be the entrance ramp for better health,” and start with the nourish ritual.
Healthy Aging Resources
Blue Zones https://www.bluezones.com/
Chasing Life http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2007/chasing.life/
National Institute for Health https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/healthy-aging-lessons-baltimore-longitudinal-study-aging/introduction