By Donna Mishke, Director of Family Services for Concierge Care Advisors
Last week I turned 50. It was a weird transition and time for me. Two out of my three children were leaving for college, and although I wasn’t empty nesting quite yet, I began to feel the emotional effects of finally being able to have some time to focus on myself. After dropping off my daughter, and driving back home for five hours alone in the car, I reflected a lot on my life, what I would have done differently, what I could change, and what I was proud of having accomplished. I think at any milestone or decade birthday, we tend to reflect. Everyone kept telling me that 50 is the new 30, and I liked hearing that. Entering into that next decade can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. I decided to do some research on how to optimize the next 50 years of my life. Following are the four things that I found to be the most important:
1. DIET – I really do believe the old cliché “you are what you eat”. Food, in my opinion is the most important part of our health. We must eat, and what you fill your body full of is going to directly affect how you feel, look, act and age. There is no shortage of controversial opinions out there about what we should and shouldn’t eat, but so far, I haven’t heard anyone deny the health benefits of vegetables. So I say – eat as many as you can! Most experts agree that sugar and processed food is bad for you, so I would recommend eliminating those from your diet. Talk to your doctor and discuss what type of eating plan might work best for your body. In conjunction, do your own research online or talk to other healthcare professionals. If you need to lose weight or gain weight, do it, because maintaining a healthy weight is key to living longer and feeling better. If you don’t feel like the typical “Food Pyramid” diet has served you well over the years, research and find different ones that may suit your body and preferences better. Not every diet will work for everyone, our bodies are all different, so don’t be afraid to experiment (under your doctors’ supervision of course) with different types of diets that may help you to feel better. Many illnesses such as obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or controlled with proper diet. A couple that I discovered that I think are worth looking into are The DASH Diet, The Ketogenic Diet, The Mediterranean Diet, The Paleo Diet, Flexitarian or Whole 30. Find one that fits your lifestyle. If you feel overwhelmed by all the dietary information out there, my suggestion would be to keep it simple and cook like your Grandmother used to cook. Use whole foods with very few ingredients, eat fresh vegetables and stay away from boxed foods or foods that contain more than four ingredients. My Grandmother ate eggs, meat, fruit, took a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar daily and cooked all her vegetables in bacon fat. Her mind was clear and alert. She took no prescription medications and her body was healthy way into her 90’s; I’d like to think there is something to that!
2. SLEEP – Our bodies need sleep! This is when our bodies repair, replace and restore. It is suggested that most people get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep will directly affect how you feel, what you look like, and what choices you make throughout your day including what foods you may eat. When you sleep, your blood pressure drops, your breathing slows, your muscles relax, and blood supply to your muscles increases, causing your energy to be restored. Tissue growth and repair begins, and hormones are released. You wake up with your energy restored and your body and mind well rested. If you don’t sleep well or don’t feel rejuvenated in the morning, talk to your doctor. There are so many natural remedies and methods to get a better night’s sleep. It really is very important, especially as we age and we naturally lose melatonin, which helps us sleep.
3. MIND – Take care of your mental health. Older adults have a higher risk of developing mental disorders. It’s important to get your mind in a positive position for aging. Make peace with your past and move forward. Re-evaluate your life and what you want for your future, and decide to act and make those goals happen. Work on being happy! Smile a lot, even when you don’t want to! Hug your friends and family and if you’re going to watch TV, watch something that will make you laugh. Get a pet for company. Research different methods of meditation or yoga. Read a book, work puzzles, or play cards. Make friends and nurture current friendships. If you are spiritual, take it deeper. Start journaling about the things you are grateful for, even the really small things. There are so many positive ways to help improve your mind and keep it active. The older you get, the easier it is to start feeling down or depressed. Set yourself up now, so you are well equipped to handle what may come your way. Again, talk to your doctor if you need help finding help to get your mind healthy.
4. EXERCISE- Physical health is a huge contributor to longevity and can add years to your life. If you do not already exercise, start now. Find an activity that you can do and enjoy. Make sure to start slowly and work daily to increase the time and amount of exercise you do. Even a few minutes of stretching or balancing can get your heart pumping and blood flowing. Neurotransmitters are triggered, meaning endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and glutamate are all flowing to your brain, which will increase cognitive abilities. Exercise will dramatically help your joints, bones, heart, brain and lungs. If you can walk, get out and take a short stroll in nature. Even practicing sitting and standing can be beneficial. If you are not able to walk, move the parts of your body that you can and build your strength up gradually. It will make a difference. Before you begin any exercise program, please check with your doctor and determine which exercises are safe for you.
It’s never too late to start taking care of yourself. Even if you haven’t been kind to your body in the past, there are still many ways to change and improve. The human body is an amazing machine that can constantly repair itself over and over again. Take the time to get connected with yourself again so you can cruise into the golden years looking and feeling better than ever.