What Is Healthy Aging?
Healthy aging is a process of optimizing opportunities to maintain and improve physical and mental health and quality of life throughout an individual’s life.
The WHO defines healthy aging as the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older age.
Functional ability is described as having capabilities that enable people to perform activities that they wish to perform, which may include:
- Meeting their basic needs
- Being able to move around
- Building and maintaining relationships
- Contributing to society
- Making decisions
Environment influences our behavior, access to a healthcare facility, and social care as people age.
Every individual has the right to healthy and long life, including healthy aging.
It is important to understand that healthy aging is not just being disease-free but having an overall healthy well-being.
A key to healthy aging is an in-depth understanding of your health and wellness. Learn more:
Factors That Affect How We Age
Several factors affect how we age, including
Human genes are programmed for aging.
A protein called rapamycin regulates aging and growth.
A few theories suggest that an individual’s aging and longevity are determined by their parents' and grandparents’.
Diet and metabolism
We are what we eat, and our diet and metabolism play an important role in how we age.
Metabolism produces chemicals or oxidizing agents that may increase aging due to cellular damage.
Several studies have shown how pollutants and other factors like temperature rise and UV exposure contribute to lung diseases and dementia.
There is ample evidence that suggests certain air pollutants accelerate age-related illnesses.
Presence of medical conditions
Aging gives rise to several health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiac conditions.
Type 2 diabetes accelerates brain aging and cognitive decline, while hypertension increases the risk for age-related vascular conditions.
Smoking and alcohol consumption is injurious to health.
Though they impact the body differently, smoking and alcohol consumption influence skin and volume-related facial aging.
Smoking also increases the risk of various types of cancer, while liver damage may cause liver cancer.
The Study: Unique Factors Contributing to Healthy Aging
By studying factors associated with successful aging, individuals can work with families, practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to create a world and environment that supports healthy aging.
Researchers from the University of Toronto attempted to find the keys to “successful” or optimal aging by studying over 7000 participants.
Details Of Study Population
The study followed over 7000 middle-aged and older Canadian women from financially stable backgrounds.
The participants were non-obese, did not suffer from insomnia, and were more likely to maintain good health and less likely to develop cognitive, physical, and emotional issues as they grew older.
This study evaluated various factors like obesity, income, and lifestyle factors like smoking, physical activity, and sleep.
Here are a few findings from this study:
- Older adults with normal weight were 24% more likely to age optimally than those who were obese.
- About half of those below the poverty line aged optimally compared to 3/4th of those living above the poverty line.
- Older adults who never smoked were 46% more likely to maintain excellent health than current smokers.
- Older adults who engaged in moderate to strenuous physical activity were 35%-45% more likely to age well.
- Participants who never or rarely experienced insomnia or sleep problems were 29% more likely to maintain excellent health throughout the study.
- Older adults with obesity were less likely to maintain good health later in life.
- Though more research is required, inadequate income may cause stress and restrict healthy choices such as optimal nutrition.
- Former smokers did reasonably well as non-smokers, indicating that it is never too late to quit the habit for healthy aging.
- Engaging in physical activity is important for maintaining good health as you age.
- Good sleep is an important factor in aging.
This study was restricted to participants who were 60 years or older and in optimal health during the baseline wave of data collection.
More studies are required in different groups of older adults.
Is There A Secret For Healthy Aging?
There is no sure-shot secret to healthy aging.
However, here are a few things you can do to ensure you age healthily:
- Eat a healthy balanced diet containing whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and limit your consumption of refined carbohydrates and red meat.
- Stay physically active by getting moderate exercise daily, as it helps you maintain a healthy weight and cardiovascular system. Regular exercise is also good for your bones and muscles.
- Keeping your mind active with games, books, and puzzles is important to enhance brain activity and ensure healthy mental aging.
- Avoid health-sabotaging habits like smoking, alcohol, and overeating.
- Establish a proper sleep cycle.
- Participate in stress-busting activities like yoga, laughter clubs, hobbies, and walking in nature.
- Healthy aging is the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability to enable well-being in old age.
- Several factors influence how we age, including genetics, diet, and metabolism, habits like alcohol and smoking.
- A study by the University of Toronto followed around 7000 middle-aged and older Canadian non-obese adults from financially stable backgrounds.
- The Canadian study evaluated factors like sleep, obesity, overall health, and well-being to understand how they affected healthy aging.