We all want to live a long happy life and we can help make that happen by eliminating certain habits and adopting a few healthy practices. Diet, exercise and getting more sleep is always a good start, but there’s so much more we can do. According to Dr. Saloni Sharma, MD Medical Director, Orthopaedic Integrative Health Center, “The key to longevity is to reduce inflammation and build resiliency. This means eating more plant foods, managing stress, moving more, sleeping better, and surrounding yourself with supportive people.” Eat This, Not That! Health, talked to several experts who give insightful information on staying healthy well into our golden years. Read the 10 tips below for advice about how to live longer if you’re over 60—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Staying active after 60 is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, says Integrative Cardiology/herbalist Dr. Patrick Fratellone MD RH FIM FACC. “As we age we need to be around more people than isolating older adults with the highest levels of loneliness and isolation double their odds of dying within six years. We constantly need to stimulate our brains with activities. I encourage a creative hobby twice a week for 30 to 45 minutes. This hobby can boost self esteem which can decline as we get older. Hobbies can be creative ones such as painting and coloring, bird watching and gardening. In general, people who lack the brain stimulation that human interaction provides are at greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia.”
Most of us are guilty of dedicating too much time to unhealthy habits and Dr. Fratellone explains how detrimental that can be. “Since we live in an addicted world, we need to avoid some of these addictions which I refer to as energy thieves. These can be the common addictions such as sugar, coffee, nicotine and alcohol. I remind my patients that their work, their phone, their computer and even their own families can be energy thieves. Perfectionism is a definite energy thief. I remind my patients that it is better to say ‘ I am imperfectly perfect. Negative thinking has been shown to age us quicker. I would rather they take time to meditate twice a week. If meditation is not ‘their thing’ perhaps yoga would be.”
Dr. Fratellone says, “Anger and resentments have shown to increase the aging process and lead to some serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It would be much easier if we could ‘ let go’ of some of our stress. It is a lot easier said than done, but try it in small incremental steps.”
Internist&physician nutrition specialist Dr. Melina Jampolis MD says, “Adding herbs and spices to your favorite foods reduces inflammation, a major contributor to aging. They also keep the brain and heart healthy and may reduce your risk of many types of cancers. Spices are among the most potent foods for supporting excellent health. In fact, 13 of the top 50 foods that are highest in antioxidants are, you guessed it—herbs and spices. By a certain age, most of us have a certain degree of chronic inflammation, so reducing our body’s inflammation through lifestyle changes is probably the single most important thing we can do for our health. And a big part of that is eating anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods.
Working out is essential to living a long life, but Jess Rose McDowell, certified fitness trainer and founder of KINETIC SWEAT® explains the right way to do it. “It is 80% how you fuel your body&20% how you exercise your body. It’s key that you maintain a steady routine that incorporates healthy meals&snacks, as well as 4 to 5 days a week of 30 to 40 minutes of exercise, plus at least 10 minutes of stretching a day. As we age and lose muscle mass and bone density, it is key to maintain balance between cardio and strength training to keep your body healthy&strong. To avoid injury, perform low impact, medium to high intensity exercises, such as cycling, swimming, rowing&walking for cardio training; then functional fitness, yoga and pilates for strength training. Focus on building up strength in your abdominals, glutes, quads&hamstrings to benefit posture and joints in the back, hips&knees.”
Dr. Jampolis adds, “Muscle mass peaks at age 30, and by age 80, many of us have lost as much as 30 percent. In women, our loss of muscle mass really starts to accelerate after age 50, which is partially caused by the hormonal changes of menopause, but also by inactivity. Excess loss of muscle mass and muscle function is called sarcopenia, and it affects 15 percent of people over age 65 and 50 percent of people over age 80. As you eat better to reduce your fat cells (if they are overstuffed), moving your body and building lean muscle will help to keep the ones you have healthier. Along with adequate cardiovascular exercise, strength/resistance training twice per week is important for both maintaining muscle mass and combating the inflammation.”
Seeing friends and family is not only a way to stay engaged with loved ones, but key to living longer, Dr. Jampolis explains.
“The importance of having/maintaining strong social ties with friends, family, and even volunteering to have purpose can really help according to research from the ‘blue zones’ where people live the longest. Two of the lessons learned from the centenarians in these regions may help you better manage stress: they tend to put their families first, and they’re highly social. Studies also support this, showing that high quality social support can help us offset the negative effects of stress, including trauma. So in addition to eating better and moving more, surround yourself with people you care about and with whom you have common interests (you get bonus points if those common interests are active)!”
There’s a few places known as Blue Zones like Icaria in Greece, Okinawa in Japan and Ogliastra in Italy where people live longer than anywhere else and have low rates of chronic disease. Erin Martin, Gerontologist and owner of Conscious Aging Solutions, says “Those that live in the Blue Zones where people age the longest in the world all have 3 things in common; 1. local food 2. daily exercise and 3. a close connection to the community. If food is not local, then it is not nutrient dense. Once it’s shipped, it starts losing nutrients immediately. Buy from your local farmers market. Move often. And enjoy yourself. These are the secrets of longevity that are long ignored because people are focused on a quick fix. Aging is a beautiful process and it starts with being healthy— mentally, physically, and spiritually.”
Juli Kramer, a certified qigong instructor and Chinese medicine nutritional therapist says, “The body converts the air you breathe into energy. This process is just as important as eating. That is why exercise, especially walking and other activities that allow you to breathe deeply, keep you healthy. Breathing is so powerful that people with mobility problems can improve their health by purposefully breathing deeply 15 minutes each day. Breathing also removes over 70% of the body’s toxins. If people do not breathe deeply each day, their body’s toxic load increases leading to illness and disease. Exercises, such as qigong and yoga, support deep breathing allowing people to tap into the fountain of youth.”
Even at 60 it’s crucial to keep pushing yourself physically, Pete McCall, CSCS fitness expert and author states. “Enhance mobility and improve coordination by performing bodyweight exercises that challenge the body to move in all directions, at least 2 or 3 times a week. Resistance training is good for building muscle, but it’s also important to move the body in multiple directions to help strengthen the connective tissues between muscle fibers. Exercise programs like yoga, tai chi or TRX training focus on using only the body and challenging it to move in multiple directions which can help strengthen muscle as well as connective tissues; if there is no specific exercise for the connective tissues they could become more brittle with a greater risk of injury.”
We hear all the time it’s important to maintain a healthy diet, but what exactly should we be eating? Dr. Kramer says, “If people take in a wide variety of whole foods, mostly whole grains, beans, and vegetables, they contribute to the food part of the equation. Ideally, the foods should all be cooked once people are over 50. That makes more of the nutrients available for the body to use. For example, if people only eat meat, fruit smoothies, raw salads, and processed foods like pizza, cookies, etc., their bodies could be starving. When the body senses danger from a lack of nutrients, it does all sorts of crazy things, like holding onto fat, creating cancer cells, and falling apart at the cellular level.”
Dr. Fratellone adds, “Our dietary changes should involve less refined carbohydrates and more complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, sweet potatoes and brown rice. Do not forget those leafy greens and low glycemic fruits as berries. I encourage hydration with water throughout the day and less after 7 pm. Water intake depends on your weight.” So follow these tips, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.