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Predictors of Healthy Aging – Adult Health and Wellness
The latest research on centenarians and studies comparing 20- to 40-year-olds with 60- to 90-year-olds suggests that there appears to be a formula for healthy aging. Some predictors of healthy aging include: physical, intellectual, emotional, relationship, spiritual and sexual. Being healthy in these areas may not prolong your life, but it will certainly improve the quality and enjoyment of your everyday life as you age. And, you might be surprised to find that you live longer than you thought.
Physical predictors of healthy aging
The November/December 2006 Supplement to the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior introduces the new MyPyramid Food Guidance System, an updated replacement for the previous Food Guidance Pyramid based on research done over the years.
According to USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), healthy eating:
o Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and skim or low-fat milk and dairy products
o Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, eggs and nuts
o Low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugar
Researchers at Tufts University have updated their Food Guide Pyramid for Seniors to correspond with MyPyramid. This revised version of MyPyramid continues to emphasize the importance of nutrient-dense food choices and fluid balance, but adds additional guidance on the forms of food that best meet the unique needs of older adults. In addition, there is a greater emphasis on the importance of regular physical activity.
MyPyramid Modified for the Elderly Published in the January 2008 Journal of Nutrition. Added to the new pyramid is a basis for characterizing older adults’ physical activity, such as walking, yard work and swimming.
Government statistics show that obesity rates have been increasing among adults aged 70 and over, and physical activity is one way to avoid weight gain and its detrimental effects later in life. Older adults tend to need fewer calories as they age because their metabolic rate tends to slow down. Even if they continue to exercise, they tend to be less physically active than they were when they were younger. But their bodies still require the same or higher levels of nutrients for optimal health. Regular physical activity is associated with reduced risk of chronic disease, weight loss and improved quality of life in older adults.
Tufts’ recommendations for seniors include the following:
o Whole grains, fortified and fortified grains and cereals, such as brown rice and 100% wheat bread
o Brightly colored vegetables such as carrots and broccoli
o Dark fruits such as berries and melons
o Low-fat and nonfat dairy products, such as yogurt and low-lactose milk
o Dried legumes and nuts, fish, poultry, lean meats and eggs
o Liquid vegetable oils and soft spreads that are low in saturated and trans fats
o Fluid intake
o Physical activity such as walking, doing chores, and gardening.
Predictors of intelligence in healthy aging
Healthy aging requires us to keep our minds active both before and after retirement, to regularly learn new things and participate in new activities, to maintain an interest and enthusiasm for reading and current events, and to reflect often on the finer things in life.
Emotional predictors of healthy aging
Emotionally healthy people are optimistic, generally joyful about life, rarely hostile, recover quickly from angry events, and tend to live longer. They handle stress well, maintain a good sense of humor and a positive attitude, and they continue to develop many avenues for entertainment and relaxation no matter the circumstances in their lives.
Associated Predictors of Healthy Aging
Those who maintain their health as they age tend to feel the support of a large social network of family and friends. They tend to help others a lot, have lots of young friends, stay happily married or enjoy a full single life, attend social events and share happy events with others.
Mental predictors of healthy aging
Spiritually connected people tend to do better as they age. Spiritual commitments and practices, such as daily prayer, meditation, or regular church attendance, help them maintain a strong personal purpose and meaning in life, as well as an ongoing appreciation for the beauty and power of nature and its natural rhythms and cycles.
Sexual predictors of healthy aging
Those who age successfully continue to be joyful and zestful about life. They tend to continue to experience sensual and sexual pleasure within their own bodies, in physical and emotional contact with others, and in connection with their natural environment.
The formula for healthy aging appears to include:
o A large supportive social network of family, friends and neighbors
o Daily spiritual practice and belief in a higher power
o A healthy lifestyle, including exercise, nutrition, rest, sleep and play
o Active imagination, intellectual stimulation and enthusiasm for learning
o Emotional health, optimistic outlook and good sense of humor
o Zest for life, sensual and sexual vitality and appreciation for nature
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