Not many people are happy about growing older. But while you may not look forward to aging, positive lifestyle choices and maintaining healthy habits make the process much easier.
Below, Dr. David Chen, family medicine doctor at Summit Health, offers expert tips for living a long and healthy life.
Don't Focus on Dieting—Focus on Lifestyle
"When it comes to food choices, the key is sustainability," says Dr. Chen. "A lot of these fad diets aren't necessarily terrible, and they can help you lose weight quickly." But he points out, it's unrealistic for many people to maintain these diets in the long term. Instead, base your diet around the following:
- High-fiber foods
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Unprocessed food
While Dr. Chen isn't completely averse to his patients drinking, he advises moderation. "A little red wine is certainly not bad," he says. "But you want to stay out of the danger zone." For women, that means consuming no more than one drink a day and for men, no more than two.
Approach Exercise Strategically
"Recent research shows that metabolism in adulthood doesn’t start to slow down until age 60," Dr. Chen notes. "However, muscle is what burns calories, and when we're younger we have more muscle mass." To get the most of your workouts he recommends:
- Adding weight training to your workout routine. "Cardio just isn't enough," he says. "Weight training helps you build muscle back."
- Make exercise part of your everyday life. Exercise increases overall health and sense of well-being. It can also decrease stress which, if continuous, can actually speed up the aging process. "Everybody is a little different," Dr. Chen says. "But try to get a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise per day."
- Incorporating a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout once or twice a week. "I see people have real results with high-intensity interval training," he notes. "That's probably the best way to maintain good weight loss."
Get Ahead of the Game
"Focusing on preventative care is key," says Dr. Chen. "Getting checkups, blood work done, and staying on top of tests is important. Sometimes that gets lost because people feel good, and they assume they're doing well." As you age, be sure you're getting the proper tests done at the right time. Standard screenings for adults include:
- Skin check
- Blood pressure and cholesterol screening
- HIV and STI screening
- Gynecologic exam
- Eye exam
- Dental exam
By the time you reach your 40s, other tests and vaccinations become necessary. When to start depends upon your risk. Discuss this with your doctor and work together to decide when you should take action on the following:
- Colorectal screening
- Testicular exam
- Diabetes screening
- Bone density test
- Prostate screening
- Shingles vaccine
- Pneumonia vaccine
Remember, your doctor is here to keep you healthy. Open and honest conversations help them do just that. Making good lifestyle choices and paying attention to what your body is telling you can set you down the right path for a long life.
Let Us Be Your Partner in Well-Being
At Summit Health, we care about our patients’ overall health. There are many reasons you may come in to visit with us, but we want to be sure you get the most out of every appointment. At your next visit, be sure to talk to your provider about appropriate screenings and necessary evaluations. And, if you are over the age of 65, you may want to discuss fall risk, bladder health, physical activity expectation, and mental health. Additionally, if you are having trouble affording your medications let your provider know. It’s important to have these conversations to stay on top of your health and minimize your risk of developing certain diseases.