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7 Keys to Healthy Aging

Stay healthy throughout your golden years with these successful aging tips.

By Sally Wadyka, additional reporting by Francesca Castagnoli
Elderly couple walking on the beachDougal Waters/Getty Images

 

3. Protect Your Joints

Every joint is a complex system of bones, muscles, tendons, and cartilage that act as a unit. As you get older, your weight-bearing joints (hips, knees, and ankles) are often the first to show signs of aging. Why? The cartilage and the tendons lose water content over time, making them less flexible and elastic, which ultimately results in pain.

If you’re just starting to feel the first zings of joint pain (for instance, when you get up in the morning or stand for too long), you’re going to need to do more than garden. To promote long-term joint health, “try workouts that combine cardio, strength training, and agility and relaxation exercises,” says Gregg T. Nicandri, M.D., an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and sports medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in Rochester, New York. He recommends that each week you aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking and free-weight muscle toning—plus, optimally, yoga two or more days a week. (This is only a recommendation. Keep in mind that anything you do to strengthen your joints is helpful.)

If you are experiencing the early stages of arthritis or are suffering from persistent inflammatory joint pain, consider trying Tai Chi. Studies show that this practice gives you similar benefits to yoga but is less wearing on joints. And while all doctors agree that exercise is essential to joint health, the jury is still out on supplements (such as glucosamine), which have been shown to offer relief to people with moderate to severe arthritis but don’t work for everyone. (If you’ve considered using them, first discuss this with your doctor.)

4. Know Your Numbers

Your blood pressure and cholesterol level may be the best indicators of how you will age. According to Michael Roizen, M.D., the chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, you should maintain a blood-pressure reading of 115/75 or lower; an overall cholesterol level of 200 or lower; and an HDL cholesterol level of 50 or higher. (HDL is the kind of cholesterol that is thought to reduce the risk of coronary disease.)

The best way to hit those goals? Eating well. While the famous Mediterranean diet—which emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meat, nuts, and heart-healthy fats, like extra-virgin olive oil—has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and promote heart health, you don’t need to follow it religiously to reap those benefits. According to Roizen, the trick is to take processed foods out of your diet and replace them with foods proven to reduce bad LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. Some to consider: potassium-rich foods, such as bananas, sweet potatoes, oranges, and tomatoes. These all help your kidneys flush sodium (which makes blood pressure rise) out of your bloodstream. Berries are also known to knock points off your blood-pressure reading. A study conducted in 2011 by the University of East Anglia and Harvard University found that people who eat at least one serving of blueberries a week reduce the risk of developing hypertension by 10 percent. And save room for dessert: Eating minimally sweetened chocolate (meaning a cocoa content of 70 percent or higher) can shave off cholesterol points, too.

 
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