As life expectancy has continued to increase for Americans, we no longer think of people who are retiring at age 65 as being old. People are staying active and enjoying life well into their golden years.
There is a definite parallel between increased life expectancy and advances in medicine. As science continues to advance, we are better able to treat infectious disease, help people survive heart disease, and manage chronic disease like diabetes. Even cancer treatment has improved a great deal, making big leaps in just the past two decades.
People are also focused on better nutrition and being more active, and now there are joint replacements that are a tremendous help in keeping people active even longer.
The fountain of youth?
There are three keys to increasing your chances of a longer life.
The first is exercise. Staying active and focusing on heart health will go a long way toward keeping you healthy as you age. In general, strive for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
The second is nutrition. A Mediterranean diet that contains fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, and healthy fats like olive oil and nuts is good for the body and the mind. While you may enjoy red meat and potatoes, they’re certainly not necessary for a well-balanced, healthy diet.
Finally, I believe having a purpose to your day is the third key factor. Setting intentional goals that support what you most value is a big part of that purpose. Being more mindful about your words and your actions can help you achieve a sense of harmony and balance. That sense of well-being is good for your overall health.
Of course, as life expectancy increases, so do cognitive issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. If we can get a better handle on that through research, it will make a tremendous difference in the overall quality of life as people age. And while brain training activities can be fun, unfortunately, there is no evidence that they make a difference in the development of Alzheimer’s disease or other pathological dementias.
It’s important to remember that sometimes things just happen. We as Americans like to think we have control over everything and we tend to forget that many illnesses strike randomly. So, what is the takeaway? There are steps we can take to live a long, healthy life, eating well, exercising, and living purposefully. At the same time, be cognizant of fate, and try to enjoy each day.
About the Author:
Joseph England, MD is a family medicine physician with Jamestown Family Practice, and the chair of family medicine at Newport Hospital. He specializes in geriatrics. Dr. England can be reached at 401-423-2616.