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Predictors of Healthy Aging – Adult Health and Wellness
There seems to be a formula for healthy aging, suggested by the latest research on centenarians and research comparing people in their 20s and 40s with those in their 60s and 90s. Some of the predictors of healthy aging include: physical, intellectual, emotional, relational, spiritual, and sexual. Maintaining health and wellness in each of these areas may not extend your life, but it will certainly improve the quality and enjoyment of your daily existence as you age. And you might be surprised to find that you’re living longer than you ever thought possible.
Physical predictors of healthy aging
A November/December 2006 supplement to the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior introduced the new MyPyramid food guidance system, an updated replacement for the old food guide pyramid, based on several years of research.
According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), a healthy diet:
o emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products
o Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts
or is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars
Researchers at Tufts University have updated their Food Guide Pyramid for Seniors to match my pyramid. This modified version of the MyPyramid continues to emphasize nutrient-dense food choices and the importance of fluid balance, but has added additional guidance on the forms of food that might best meet the unique needs of older adults In addition, more emphasis is placed on the importance of regular physical activity.
My modified pyramid for older adults was published in the January 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Added to the new pyramid is a base that represents physical activities characteristic of older people, such as walking, gardening and swimming.
Government statistics indicate that obesity in adults aged 70 and over has been increasing, physical activity is one way to prevent weight gain in later years and its adverse effects. Older adults tend to need fewer calories as they age because their metabolic rates tend to decrease. Although they continue to exercise, they are often not as physically active as when they were younger. But their bodies still require equal or higher levels of nutrients to maintain optimal health. Regular physical activity is linked to reduced risk of chronic disease, lower body weight and improved quality of life in older adults.
Tufts University recommendations for older adults include the following:
o Cereals and whole grains, enriched and enriched such as whole grain rice and 100% wheat bread
o Brightly colored vegetables such as carrots and broccoli
o Brightly colored fruits such as berries and melon
o Low-fat, fat-free dairy products such as yogurt and low-lactose milk
o Beans and nuts, fish, poultry, lean meat and eggs
o Liquid vegetable oils and soft spreads low in saturated and trans fats
o Fluid intake
o Physical activity such as walking, household and garden work.
Intellectual predictors of healthy aging
Healthy aging requires keeping our minds active before and especially after retirement, regularly learning something new and participating in new activities, maintaining an interest and passion for reading and current affairs, and often reflecting on the good things of life
Emotional predictors of healthy aging
Emotionally healthy people are optimistic, generally happy with life, rarely hostile, recover quickly from angry episodes, and tend to live longer. They cope well with stress, maintaining a good sense of humor and a positive attitude, regardless of how their life circumstances unfold, and continue to develop many outlets for recreation and relaxation.
Relational predictors of healthy aging
Those who stay healthy as they age tend to be supported by a large social network of family and friends. They often help others, have many younger friends, remain in successful marriages or enjoy a fulfilling single life, attending social functions and sharing happy events with others.
Spiritual predictors of healthy aging
Spiritually connected people tend to fare better as they age. Spiritual commitments and practices, such as daily prayer, meditation, or regular church attendance, help them maintain a strong sense of personal purpose and meaning in life, as well as an ongoing appreciation of beauty and the power of nature and its natural rhythms and cycles.
Sexual predictors of healthy aging
Those who age successfully continue to feel joyful and passionate about life. They tend to continue to obtain sensual and sexual pleasure, within their own bodies, in physical and emotional contact with others and in connection with the natural environment.
The formula for healthy aging seems to include:
o A large social support network of family, friends and neighbors
o A daily spiritual practice and faith in a higher power
o A healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, nutrition, rest, sleep and play
o An active imagination, intellectual stimulation and a passion for learning
o Emotional well-being, optimistic outlook and good sense of humor
o Passion for life, sensual and sexual vitality, and appreciation of nature
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