A 25 year study of almost 6000 people aged 65 and older published in the American Journal of Geriatrics found that those with healthy lifestyle habits lived out about 80% of their remaining years disability-free, while those with the least healthy lifestyles lived 55-60% of their remaining years disability-free. Healthy lifestyles meant longer, better lives.

 

Article summary: https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_161371.html

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The take away from the research is - the more healthy habits we have in our later years, the longer we live disability-free. The healthy habits looked at in the study above included: no smoking, regular exercise, healthy diet, and healthy weight.

Not Smoking

For starters, the most important healthy behavior to have is not smoking. So, if you smoke, it’s the one habit out of all of them that should be changed. Smoking causes a whole host of diseases that can result in disability  and early death including:

Lung cancer and at least 10 other cancers (cervical, stomach, pancreatic, colon, liver, kidney, bladder, larynx, esophageal, pharynx) 
Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD)
Asthma
Heart Disease
Stroke
Diabetes
Cataracts, Age related Macular Degeneration
 

For more information on ways to quit smoking:

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute:
Strategies to Quit Smoking
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/smo/strategies
 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
How to Quit
http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit/

 

Physical Activity

Not enough can be said about the importance of physical activity. If you’re looking for the fountain of youth – exercise is it. Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean joining a gym or running a marathon. It can be something as simple as walking more and sitting less.

         Examples of Aerobic Activities

Aerobic exercise classes

Bicycle riding

Dancing

Golf (without a cart)

Some activities of yard work/gardening (e.g., raking, pushing a lawn mower)

Swimming, water aerobics

Tennis or racquetball

Vacuuming

Walking, jogging


             Muscle-strengthening activities

 

Carrying groceries

Using exercise bands, weight machines, or handheld weights

Pilates

Some activities of yard work/gardening (e.g., lifting, digging, carrying)

Some yoga and tai chi exercises

               Washing windows or the floor
 

                Adapted from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 physical activity guidelines for 
                   Americans. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines.

 

 

For more information on physical activity for older adults:

Centers for Disease Control:
How Much Physical Activity Do Older Adults Need?
https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/


American  Academy of Family Physician:
Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults
http://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0101/p55.html

 

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is key to a healthy lifestyle. That means a diet with nutritious foods from all of the food groups - lean protein or plant protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fiber and sufficient fluid.

MyPlate.gov offers these suggestions for older adults:

  • Use spices and herbs instead of salt to add flavor to food
  • Add fruits and vegetable to your meals and snacks, and use pre-sliced ones if slicing and chopping is a challenge.
  • Talk with your doctor about medication options if the ones you take affect your appetite or change your desire to eat.
  • Drink water, flavored seltzer or unsweetened iced tea instead of sugary drinks.
  • Eat foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as fortified cereals.

For more information on what constitutes a healthy diet for older adults:

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):
Choose MyPlate – Older Adults
https://www.choosemyplate.gov/older-adults
 

American Heart Association:
Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations
 http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp#.WAPWU8kVW6Q


Healthy Weight

To find out what your healthy weight should be based on your BMI (body mass index), you can use the BMI table at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmi_tbl.htm

Or the BMI calculator: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/english_bmi_calculator/bmi_calculator.html

BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Generally, the higher the BMI, the more body fat a person has. However, BMI is not always accurate. Since muscle is heavier than fat, a muscular person will have a higher BMI, but not necessarily more body fat.

 

 

Keep in mind that the goal is to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, not just lose weight by dieting and gaining it back. Dieting is not the way to go – permanently changing the way you eat, is. 

For more information about healthy weight loss:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
 Healthy weight loss
https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/

American Heart Association:
Losing weight
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/WeightManagement/LosingWeight/Losing-Weight_UCM_307904_Article.jsp#.WAPeVskVW6Q