Can gratitude help one live longer and healthier? Research shows that gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness, positive emotions and improved mental and physical health. Conscious aging is recognizing and accepting the aging process as a natural part of the life cycle or learning to love growing older and eliminating what prevents us from appreciating our golden years. Truth is, we are all in the process of aging at any given moment. How we handle that realization may predict how well we age. It appears that a negative view of aging may actually speed the aging process. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, fear of memory loss can actually create memory decline. Belief that physical and mental decline is inevitable accelerates whatever decline occurs.
How old is old anyway? Certainly not middle-aged or even late middle-aged as the youngest among us might imagine, if they could even picture themselves growing older. Someone once said that old is always 15 years older than your present age. One survey found that young adults in their 20’s thought that old age began at 60; middle-agers thought it was 70; and those older than 65 thought to add another 10 years before they themselves reached old age. Many people in their 50’s say they feel at least 10 years younger than their actual age, while the healthiest people in their 60’s felt 20 years younger. In other words, as we age most people move the goalposts that represent major life stages.
As long as one remains in a healthy state, perhaps it’s true that age is just a number and you are only as old as you feel. That is not to say that we needn’t live a healthy lifestyle. Not surprisingly, grateful people are more likely to take care of their health by maintaining a healthy weight, staying active and practicing preventive medicine by getting regular health screenings. When not addressed, changes that occur with normal aging, such as high blood pressure or high blood sugar, may make one more likely to develop certain disorders. Timely addressing preventable modifiable risk factors with lifestyle adjustments or medications can potentially prevent development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.
How we age
- Chronological age is a person’s age in years based solely on the passage of time.
- Biological age refers to bodily changes that occur naturally as one ages. Different from chronological age, biological age is measure of determining the state of health, which can be influenced by lifestyle factors.
- Psychological age is based on either a negative or positive attitude towards the aging process.
- Cellular aging is generally defined as a progressive decline in resistance to stress and gradual loss of cellular functions. Cells also have a life span and eventually reach their replication limit.
- Metabolic aging is based on an individual’s basal metabolic rate, or the amount of energy or calories burned while at rest to keep the body functioning. Basal functions include breathing, circulation, cell production, nutrient processing, protein synthesis and more. As we age metabolism slows, affecting body composition, muscle loss and fat accumulation, which is one reason why a healthy diet and exercise are so important to long-term health.
Aging is a lifelong gradual and continual process of natural change that occurs on multiple levels. It is the combination of the impact of time on the human body, as well as the result of how well we take care of ourselves. Taking measures to compensate for changes in various physiological functions that occur during normal aging may slow the biological clock and lead to a longer and healthier lifespan.
Healthy ways to delay the aging process
Eat better: Eat more fruits and vegetables. There are thousands of disease-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables and many have unique roles in fighting free radical and age-related cellular damage. Strive to obtain 25 to 30 grams of protein at each meal to maintain muscle mass.
Make exercise part of your daily routine: Strength training can improve metabolism and mobility by preventing muscle wasting. Aerobic exercise has many health benefits, including improved cardiovascular conditioning, lowered blood pressure, weight management and better controlled blood sugar.
Take a staycation: In our busy lives, we sometimes feel we don’t even have time to destress. Reduce chronic stress and its detrimental effects on health by taking some time each day to relax and rejuvenate. Every small effort can help to reduce stress hormone production. Try taking a short walk in nature or a warm bath before bed.
Seriously, get some sleep: The quality and quantity of sleep affects mood, energy level, concentration and overall healthy function. Chronic sleep deprivation can result in fatigue and increased appetite leading to weight gain and can negatively affect cognitive and emotional function.
Maintain a positive outlook. Negative attitudes about aging can affect both physical and cognitive health in later years. Aging consciously with a healthy lifestyle and positive attitude may help prevent both physical and cognitive decline. Remember that negative self-fulfilling prophecy? Research has shown that positive self-perceptions about the benefits of aging well can help one to stay mentally, physically and psychologically younger.
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Learning to Love Growing Old. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199409/learning-love-growing-old
10 Things to Stop Doing If You Want a Longer Life. https://www.verywellhealth.com/things-to-stop-if-you-want-to-live-longer-2223866
Aging Types, Causes, and Prevention. https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-aging-2224347
Overview of Aging. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/older-people%E2%80%99s-health-issues/the-aging-body/overview-of-aging
[Aging, basal metabolic rate, and nutrition]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8361073
Positive Attitudes About Aging May Be a “Fountain of Youth.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201601/positive-attitudes-about-aging-may-be-fountain-youth