For some people, the idea of aging is a scary and uncomfortable phase of life to think about. However, aging can be beautiful! Embracing self-care practices, engaging in healthy habits, and taking care of your oral and overall health all contribute to the art of aging gracefully.
Tips for aging gracefully
If you don’t already have a consistent exercise routine, now is the time to create one! According to the National Council on Aging, “experts say the best way to slow physiological changes is through consistent exercise.”
The magic behind moving more is that people who exercise consistently have significantly longer telomeres compared to those who live a sedentary lifestyle. According to Stanford University, telomeres “are the protective caps on the ends of the strands of DNA called chromosomes, which house our genomes… They shorten with each cell division, however, and when they reach a critical length, the cell stops dividing or dies.”
Essentially, telomeres are like an internal biological clock that shorten as we age. The shorter the telomeres, the older the individual.
If going to the gym doesn’t fit your lifestyle, there are plenty of other ways to get your heart pumping. There are several forms of aerobic exercise, better known as cardio, that you can do at home to help keep your heart and lungs healthy. Stretching is another form of exercise that helps us age gracefully. Flexibility exercises help to reduce our chances of muscle cramps and joint pain. They also help increase our range of motion and maintain our flexibility for everyday things like tying shoes.
Unfortunately, stress will always be a part of life. However, chronic stress can cause accelerated aging. According to a study from Biomedicines, this is due to the fact that when you feel stressed your body reacts by sending out hormones, chemicals, and other resources to “fight” the perceived threat. While this response is good for short term problems, it can cause damage to cells in the long term. Stress can even cause telomeres to shorten faster.
Additionally, stress can take a toll on your skin. People with chronic stress are more likely to have wrinkles, under eye bags, flakey skin, and acne due to the imbalances in their bodies.
Aging gracefully requires stress management, like learning how to say “no” and not taking on too much in your professional or personal life. If you can’t change the situation, consider changing how you react by adjusting your standards and practicing gratitude. When everyday demands cause stress, take a quick moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in life.
Slow down on sugar
As you age, the things you put in your body may have a more significant impact than they did in your younger years. For example, eating excess sugar may make you look older than your age.
When you eat more sugar than your cells can process, the leftover sugar molecules are exposed to proteins, creating “advanced glycation end products,” or AGEs. In time, AGEs can ruin your skin’s collagen—the protein that helps keep skin youthful and firm.
Why spend money on expensive creams and treatments that may not work when you can adjust your diet and prevent the need for them in the first place?
A high-sugar diet can also ruin your smile. Sugar sticks to your teeth and can sit between them and along the gum line, encouraging plaque and bacteria growth that can lead to decay.
Drink more water
You’re likely already familiar with the many benefits of drinking water. Now, a new study from eBioMedicine suggests “optimal hydration can potentially be such [a] systemic preventive approach that is able to prolong diseases-free lifespan.” The study compared the levels of sodium in the blood of the participants and found that those with high levels had a higher risk of developing chronic diseases and premature mortality.
When you’re dehydrated, the sodium levels in your blood increase, which can lead to accelerated aging through processes such as “pro-inflammatory and pro-coagulation changes within vascular endothelial cells, DNA damage, protein oxidation, increased energy expenditure due to metabolic remodeling towards metabolic water production, and cellular senescence.”
The study concludes that optimal hydration in older people helps decrease these aging processes and may slow down biological aging.
Brush, floss, and visit the dentist
A beautiful smile is an important part of aging gracefully. Brushing and flossing helps to remove plaque and leftover food from your mouth and between your teeth. Not sticking to the routine can lead to yellow teeth and cavities. Combine twice-a-day brushing and daily flossing with regular dentist visits for a comprehensive check-up that goes beyond your teeth. Dentists screen for oral cancer and other health problems like diabetes and heart disease during your exam.
Looking for more on healthy practices for older adults? Check out, “Older Adults: 3 Oral Health Issues to Look Out For”.
*Updated August 2023