The siren song of immortality has called to us for centuries. From the ambrosia of eternal life at the heart of many Greek myths to the Fountain of Youth that apocryphal reports from the 1500s say Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Léon sought to find, we’ve chased after anything and everything that might help us live longer.
The details of the 21st century version of this story differ, but the goal is the same. In 2014, Dr. Joon Yun, managing partner and president of a healthcare investment firm, announced the $1 million Palo Alto Longevity Prize—an incentive to encourage scientists to find a way to reverse the aging process. While researchers and innovators hunt for the secret to eternal life, there are things you can do right now to lengthen your life.
Starting a National Conversation About Aging
Two decades ago, Carolyn Worthington, editor-in-chief of Healthy Aging Magazine and executive director of Healthy Aging, created “September is Healthy Aging Month.” The baby boomer generation was about to turn 50, and “no one wanted to talk about growing older,” Worthington explained. “You know, it was that same ‘60s attitude—‘Don’t trust anyone over 30; hell no we won’t go.’”
Worthington hoped to start a national conversation about aging, and how a healthy lifestyle can affect the aging process. She wanted to combat stereotypes about aging and empower individuals to see the ways that they had control over what growing older meant for their lives. “We saw a need to draw attention to the myths of aging, to shout out ‘Hey, it’s not too late to take control of your health, it’s never too late to get started on something new,” said Worthington.
Now, as boomers hit 60 and 65, the way we talk about aging has changed. Worthington was at the forefront of the movement to emphasize health and vitality. In its current iteration, Healthy Aging Month, and Worthington’s work throughout the year, offers inspiration and practical ideas to adults ages 45-plus on how to enhance their well-being—physically, mentally, socially, and financially.
She feels September is the ideal month for focusing on healthy aging since it’s a time many of us are inclined to think about taking on new activities, thanks to the school year rhythm dating back to childhood. The intention behind the activities promoted during the month is to help people establish healthy habits that can deeply influence the rest of their year, and even the rest of their lives.
What Science Says About Extending Your Lifespan
If you’d like to live long and prosper, the advice about how to do so can be distilled down to a few simple principles that have remained remarkably consistent. Of course, some factors aren’t so easy to control; for instance, your socioeconomic status. Statistics tell us that people living in wealthier counties, those surrounding New York City, for instance, tend to have greater longevity than those living in more economically downtrodden areas. It’s also clear that our genes do impact our lifespans, though scientists have yet to determine exactly how.
While researchers continue working to crack the formula for longevity, here are 4 actions you can take today, sourced from the American Geriatrics Society as well as other experts, to give yourself the best shot at aging well and living a long and healthy life.
- Fill your plate with longevity-promoting foods: recent studies have identified the ways that certain foods can help to extend your lifespan. Ever heard the one about an apple a day keeping the doctor away? According to a 2015 study carried out at the University of Iowa, the reason for that may be the ursolic acid they contain. This compound, found in high concentrations in apple peels, can strengthen the muscles of aging mice.
- Make time for sleep: if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re increasing your risk of age-related diseases including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and cancer. Findings published in 2014 by a research team at the Federal University of Sao Paulo found that older adults are more likely to have difficulty falling and staying asleep, so you may need to put time and attention into optimizing your sleep health.
- Prioritize physical activity: exercise can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some kinds of cancer. It also appears that exercise’s protective effect helps you live longer, period. If you’re not sure where to start, The National Institute on Aging even offers a downloadable guide to exercise and physical activity that’s filled with tips, sample exercises, and methods for measuring your progress.
- Take care of your mental health: chronic stress raises your risk of heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and diabetes. It can also slow the rate at which wounds heal. Stressful responsibilities, like caring for a spouse with dementia, can accelerate the rate at which your immune system ages, according to research from Ohio State University. Sometimes stress can be unavoidable, but you can mitigate it, for instance, by staying socially active and building and maintaining a strong support system.
Don’t Overlook This Essential Ingredient to Healthy Aging
A key part of healthy living as you grow older is ensuring that you get an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals. For many individuals, the most efficient option is to take a multivitamin. Due to limitations in capsule or tablet size, it’s quite challenging to provide an effective dose of all the essential vitamins and minerals in a single dose—though that doesn’t stop unscrupulous manufacturers from marketing them that way!
Your body can store certain nutrients, but water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B must be replaced on a regular basis. This is especially true under strenuous or stressful situations. If you’re seeking to build the perfect foundation to support your healthy aging goals and maintain optimal levels of key vitamins and minerals, you’ll want to add a high-potency, food-based multivitamin to your daily routine. To access a carefully formulated multivitamin that also contains a complete fruit and vegetable complex…spirulina, juice extracts, enzymes, fiber, herbs, trace minerals, and more…click here.