Wellness: Nutrition

Living Well to Reach Age 100

An American born in 1970 can expect to reach the age of about 71. For a baby born today, life expectancy is about 78 years old, and for babies born in 2020, it will be about 80. Many of us are already pushing past those age expectancies.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 400,000 Americans are over age 95.

If you want to live long and live well, consider the advice of longevity experts: Stay physically, socially, and mentally active, and stick to a healthy diet. Healthy lifestyle choices can help you enjoy a better quality of life for an increasing number of years. The best news is that it’s never too late to get started.

Staying physically active

Did you know that by age 75 only one in two women and one in three men get any physical activity at all? You may think that as you age exercise is less important, but just the opposite is true. And it's rarely too late to begin or resume exercise. Even people in their 90s can increase their strength through regular exercise.

The loss of strength, loss of endurance, and loss of balance that keep many older adults housebound may not only be prevented, but even reversed. Some of the problems that can be prevented or improved by regular exercise include arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stress.

Staying mentally and socially active

Staying socially connected has been shown to keep your mind and body active well into old age. In fact, the benefits of social connectedness are just as important as the benefits of staying physically fit.

Socially active older adults who keep in contact with friends and relatives and participate in group activities are less likely to decline mentally, physically, and emotionally as they age. One of the best things you can do to age well is to volunteer to help others. Having a sense of purpose keeps life moving forward. 

Mental exercise is as important as physical exercise if you want to live to be 100. According to research done by the National Institute on Aging, symptoms of mental decline, such as loss of memory, are not necessarily a normal part of aging. Your brain is like a muscle that needs regular exercise to remain healthy.

Eating well for longevity

Some of the nutrition problems experienced by older adults are caused by a decrease in the need for calories, loss of interest in shopping and cooking, and a decreased sense of taste and smell. These problems can be overcome with better food choices that are higher in nutritional value. You may be eating less, so it’s even more important to make sure you are eating well.

Older adults may also lose some of their sense of thirst, so it’s important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Fiber becomes more important for digestion, so eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.

Avoid the empty calories found in processed foods, sugar-laden beverages, alcohol, and sweets. Cut back on salt and saturated fats. Learning about nutrition and sticking to a healthy, balanced diet increases your energy and can help prevent diseases like diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. Overnutrition, or eating more calories than your body needs, can be just as bad for your health as poor nutrition.

Lifestyle tips for living to be 100

Ask your health care provider  to help you start a safe exercise plan that fits your abilities. Get advice from your doctor or a nutrition expert on setting up a diet plan. Call a friend, join a group, and find ways to interact with others.

Here are more tips for longevity:

  • Find physical activities that you enjoy and will stick with. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity every day. Try to include some strength training a few days a week.

  • Join a group. Try a group activity such as yoga or tai chi that combines exercise with balance and stretching.

  • Organize family get-togethers. Find friends and family members who will join you in social activities and stimulating conversation.

  • Exercise your mind. Challenge your mind by reading, taking a class, starting a new hobby, or learning a new skill.

  • Enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fill up your plate with many types and colors of fresh produce.

  • Educate yourself to eat well. Learn how to read the Nutrition Facts panels on food products and choose wisely.

  • Make food interesting. Flavor your food with extra spices, herbs, or fresh lemon juice to stimulate your taste buds.

Finally, don't forget to get enough sleep and to keep a positive attitude. If you want to live to 100, the sooner you get going, the better your chances of getting there. 

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