How the aging process will affect you is hard to gauge until it actually hits you. Seemingly without warning, one morning you wake up and your knees ache as you shuffle toward the kitchen. You’re not sure where you left your car keys. And when you look in the mirror you don’t quite recognize the grizzled face staring back at you. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With a few changes in developing healthier habits you can make a noticeable difference in how you age.
“If I could turn back time; if I could find a way” Cher’s wish in a song from 1989 may not actually be possible but, many longevity experts, say you can reset your biological clock and stave off the effects of aging and it’s not really that hard.
In their book Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy - Until You’re 80 and Beyond, Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry S. Lodge outline these 7 steps to slowing and even reversing the effects of aging:
- Exercise six days a week.
- Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week.
- Do serious strength training with weights, two days a week.
- Spend less than you make.
- Quit eating garbage.
- Connect and commit.
It is not surprising that exercise is at the top of their list. It is a proven fact that after our 30th birthday we lose about 10 percent of our muscle mass every decade. The biggest danger of losing muscle mass is the increased likelihood of a serious fall which can lead to death, but that is not the only danger. Our hearts are muscle, so loss of muscle can lead to cardiovascular health issues. Loss of mobility, insulin resistance, and lengthy hospital stays are just a few of the other health complications you could face if don’t exercise regularly. Medical research says that losing just 10 percent of our total body weight can significantly improve our well-being, mental health, and life expectancy.
Exercise also affects our brains. Crowley and Lodge say that on average fit people increase their cognitive abilities by about 10 percent as opposed to those who are sedentary. Exercise also helps us get a good night’s sleep. Six to ten hours of sleep every night gives you another 10 percent cognitive boost.
We know we have given you the hardest tasks first: exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep, but what about a few easy ways to beat Father Time?
Eat a banana. Bananas are a great source of potassium, which can help keep your heart healthy and reduce muscle cramps, making it easier to hit the gym day after day. Some research in Sweden has indicated an intriguing possibility that eating bananas may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
Smear on the Sunblock. Too much sun exposure not only increases your risk of deadly skin cancer, it can also contribute to wrinkles and dark spots which can make you appear years older than you are. Get into the every day habit of applying at least an SPF 30 sunscreen (which will block 97 percent of harmful UVB rays).
Think good thoughts. “Practicing a little positive thinking can go a long way toward turning back the clock,” says the website for Eat This Not That magazine. “Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reveals that elderly nuns who had positive things to say about their lives significantly decreased their risk of death, and looking on the bright side about things can make you seem more youthful, too.”
Get out of the house. Women who live close to nature reduce their overall mortality risk by as much as 12 percent according to research published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
Eat chocolate—but make it dark chocolate. Want to stop the clock on the aging process? We’ll finish on this super easy way. Dark chocolate can increase your brain’s serotonin which has many health benefits, but serotonin especially improves your sense of well being. That is why it is often called the body’s “feel-good” chemical.