Are you looking to tap into the fountain of youth? It’s never too late to start focusing on living a healthier life, even if you’re in your 50s, 60s, and beyond. Women can also potentially experience fewer or less severe menopause symptoms by making lifestyle changes in your 30s and 40s. Improve your overall well-being as a woman with these 7 aging secrets.
You don’t have to live in a Blue Zone to live to 100. Across the world, researchers expect an eight-fold increase in centenarians by the year 2050.
Women have better odds of living to 100 compared to men. Researchers believe biological, social, and environmental factors like healthy behaviors contribute to the difference in longevity.
Your mind also plays a significant role in healthy aging. Charlene Rothkopf, Founder & President of Wellness Consulting Group, LLC, co-created “The Art and Science of Healthy Aging” with Z. Colette Edwards of InsightMD and PeopleTweaker. They focus on the ideology surrounding the “fountain of youth.”
This quote gets to the heart of healthy aging – your mind. Focus your mind on the right aging secrets, to help you live longer and feel better.
The prescription for healthy aging includes a focus in these 7 areas:
- Physical activity
- Social support and connection
- Stress management
Focus on one component at a time. Set a goal you can commit to achieving in the next 30 days. By focusing on one thing at a time, you’re more likely to succeed and avoid paralyzing overwhelm.
What’s on your mind?
First, focus on your mindset. Women spend at least a third of their lives in this natural transition. It’s a marathon. How are you approaching/ did you approach menopause? Was it with a positive mindset?
Are you focused on the symptoms and how they control your life? Or have you found a way to live with them and made lifestyle changes to reduce them?
Despite the symptoms many experience, menopause is an opportunity to embark on a personal journey to a better you.
When you change your mindset and focus on optimism, menopause symptoms may not be as overwhelming.
It may be challenging to see menopause as a personal journey to a better you, even if symptoms are mild. Unlike many other countries, American society often makes menopause a dreaded time in a woman’s life and a sign of getting older.
Despite the data showing an aging population boom, cultural norms emphasize younger generations for purchasing decisions and the picture of good health.
Think about who you see in television commercials and magazine ads. It’s mostly young women in their 20s and 30s. Of course, there’s the intermittent pharmaceutical commercial for a medication for a condition affecting older people like incontinence, but for the most part, advertisers market to younger audiences.
Instead of happy and healthy women with graying hair, you see ads helping women eliminate gray hair and wrinkles.
Aging women are not celebrated in the United States like they are in other parts of the world where their wisdom is viewed as a priceless gift.
Instead, “old age” is attached to the menopause stage of the female life cycle in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. In these societies, menopause symptoms are often more pronounced.
Society also uses a few terms to make you feel “old.” When you’re in your mid 30’s, the medical community refers to you as “advanced maternal age” if you’re thinking about having children. That term alone does nothing to help a woman’s psyche.
Many women enter early menopause in their early to mid-40s. You still have half your life to live, even if your life expectancy is only in the 80s.
Don’t let anyone else – society, culture, television ads, medical terms – put you in a major funk.
Don’t let the notion of “bad genes” make you feel helpless and doomed, either.
While your family history can definitely be a predictor of health problems, genes do not always pre-determine your health outcomes.
A Danish twin study found genes only account for 20 percent of your longevity. Healthy lifestyle habits control the rest.
Ready to take ownership of your health and well-being? Taking action today can add years to your life and potentially improve some of your menopause symptoms.
Finding optimism as you age
So, let’s work on that mindset and turn menopause into a positive life change.
An optimistic person has an overall expectation that good things will come her way and the future is bright because she can control outcomes.
Researchers from Harvard, Boston University, and the National Center for PTSD found optimistic people have a 50-70 percent greater chance of reaching age 85 than less upbeat groups. The vast majority of participants were women, 69,744 compared to just 1429 men.
The optimistic group had a better chance of reaching their 80s and living longer. The most optimistic men and women experience an 11 to 15 percent longer life, on average.
So, how do you work toward a life of optimism?
- Create a strong social network.
- Get rid of any negative self-talk.
- Take a technology timeout.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Find your purpose.
- Maintain spirituality.
First, focus on your social network. Your friends can offer support and encouragement if you’re struggling. They’ll encourage you when you’re down or stressed and make you laugh when you’re happy.
Friendships are the key behind many of the healthy aging lifestyle tips. They can help you eat better, move more, and lessen your feelings of stress when you’re overwhelmed.
Think of your social network as a companion on this journey to healthy aging.
During times of social distancing, this network is more critical than ever for mental health. Find a way to make connections virtually or a simple, old-fashioned low-tech phone call.
Next, look inward. Get rid of negative self-talk and the noise in your life. That may include social media, where you tend to see picture-perfect imagery that’s hardly a reflection of real life. Take a technology timeout. Even a short one can have a profound impact on your happiness.
Re-focus your energies on you and strengthen your mental health. You can do this with mindfulness, spirituality, or engaging more often with your social network.
Find a few minutes each day to be mindful. Focus on the present moment and your breathing. Focus on what you hear and smell. Imagine you’re in a calming location like on a beach listening to the waves crash onto the shore or in nature listening to the birds.
While you’re taking a moment from life with your technology timeout or mindfulness practice, focus your energy on identifying your purpose in life. What motivates you every day? Find the reasons you would want to live to 100.
Spirituality is another powerful way to find optimism in life. It can help you cope, find calm, provide purpose and hope, reinforce positivity, and build a strong and supportive network of people.
Having faith is a vital part of the fabric of life in a Blue Zone, locations across the world where it’s not uncommon for people to live to 100 without chronic conditions. Dan Buettner, the author of The Blue Zones Solution and National Geographic Fellow, explored these parts of the world with researchers.
Of the 263 centenarians Buettner interviewed, all but five were part of a faith-based community.
Spirituality can also help you cope with chronic and extreme stress.
After September 11th, 90 percent of Americans looked to their religious beliefs to cope, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
That’s an extreme circumstance of stress, but one the world will always remember.
Think about your own life on a much smaller scale, whether it’s the death of a loved one, loss of a job, health complications, or a significant life change like menopause. Did you turn to spirituality to help you get through that moment?
Weight gain as you get older
What else is holding you back from happiness? For some menopausal women, it’s their weight. During menopause, women tend to gain weight and fat in their mid-section. That can be dangerous and increase one’s risk of heart disease.
In the U.S., the obesity rate is twice the average of comparable countries. So, Americans are more likely to experience more years battling a chronic disease like hypertension, heart disease, and cancers.
Obesity puts you at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and some cancers.
Physical activity as you age
Physical activity and healthy eating can both help you lose weight.
As you age, exercise becomes more critical than ever. Even if you don’t think your body can handle strenuous activities, doing something is better than nothing. Physical activity improves your overall quality of life and reduces your risk of dying prematurely.
A study of more than 92-thousand women by The Women’s Health Initiative, published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine,found sedentary behavior led to an increased risk of dying at a younger age.
So, get off the couch and start moving if you want to live longer. Studies show it doesn’t have to be intense. Even walking makes a difference.
It’s better to move most of the day than exercise for an hour and then sit. The study found that even women who exercised regularly still had a higher risk of earlier mortality if they sat most of the day.
So how much sitting is too much? Women who are inactive for 11 hours a day or more had the worst outcomes. They had a 12 percent increase in premature death. Even just 6-8 hours of inactivity can be harmful to your health.
When you sit, you burn fewer calories, and your muscles are not working. They’re in a relaxed state. While relaxation and lowering stress is vital to your overall health, and promotes healthy aging, relax in small doses. Get up and move at least once an hour. Get your heart pumping and your muscles working.
Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise plus muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.
Try a combination of exercises – strength, weight-training, aerobic, balance, stretching, and flexibility. Strength-training can help a woman build muscle and reduce her risk of osteoporosis. These are some ideas for menopause exercises and videos to improve how you feel.
If you have a chronic disease, it’s still possible to exercise. These are some of the best exercises for the most common conditions facing older adults.
For menopausal women, exercise offers several benefits: stronger muscles and bones, improved energy and focus, better balance, and a reduced risk of falling.
And an added bonus is that physical activity can have a powerful and positive impact on your mood. Studies have shown that for many with mild-moderate depression, physical activity can be at least as effective as anti-depressant medication.
Healthy eating will also help you age gracefully.
In designated Blue Zone regions of the world, researchers found several approaches to nutrition.
In Ikaria, Greece, they eat the Mediterranean diet but with a unique twist. They eat a lot of potatoes, beans, and Horta or wild greens.
Beans are an excellent alternative to red meat. They’re high in protein without the health concerns associated with red meat.
In Okinawa, Japan, Blue Zone residents eat a plant-based diet. They eat very little fish, unlike their Mediterranean counterparts, and they eat sweet potatoes and turmeric.
There are lots of nutrition plans that support healthy aging. While following one of them may lead to improved health, sticking to healthy eating basics can also prove beneficial.
If your diet consists mainly of meat and potatoes, the National Institute on Aging says you may see increases in your BMI every year. If white bread is a staple of your diet, waist circumference may be a challenge.
For the lowest increase in BMI and waist circumference, focus on the following foods:
- high-fiber cereal
- low-fat dairy
- nonwhite bread
- whole grains
Eat less red and processed meat, fast food, and drink little to no soda.
Have you ever heard the saying you are the sum of the people who surround you? It’s true. Social support can affect your health and well-being. The people you surround yourself with can impact your happiness, influence what you eat, how often you exercise, and your mood.
While you need grit to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it’s even more challenging to follow the routines if everyone around you is engaging in less healthy behavior.
If your friends are playing tennis or swimming every day, it’s easy to make that a priority.
Strong social support keeps you on task, helps you find purpose, and keeps your engaged.
Dan Buettner found loneliness takes eight years off your life in Okinawa, Japan.
The health risks of social isolation are as high as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having alcohol use disorder. Plus, loneliness is twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity. That’s according to the American Psychological Association and analysis by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University.
That’s why there’s a strong emphasis on the tradition of “moai” or a group of lifelong friends that offer social, financial, health, or spiritual support.
It’s common for friends to “meet for a common purpose” every day or weekly to talk, share in life experiences, and support one another.
Social networks are the fabric of a Blue Zone culture.
Ahh, sleep? What is that again? Sleeplessness is a common problem in menopause due to hormone changes, night sweats, and hot flashes.
It’s not just menopause that impacts your ability to sleep. Stress can also affect it. A third of U.S. adults say they don’t get enough sleep, according to the CDC.
Lack of sleep increases your risk of health problems like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and obesity. It can also cause you to eat more, may you feel more irritable, or forget things.
As you get older, the amount of sleep you need doesn’t change. You may not be working or following a daily regimen strictly, but you still need 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
CDC data shows adults who sleep less than 7 hours a day are more likely to report being obese, physically inactive, and smoke.
At least an hour before bedtime, turn off the T.V. and put away your cell phone. The blue light emitted from a phone can impact your ability to fall asleep.
Start a relaxing ritual to help signal to your body that it’s time to settle down for the evening. For example, read a book or listen to calming music.
Avoid eating before bed.
Next, set your thermostat to cool down at night (65 degrees has been noted to be the optimal temperature). Make sure it’s comfortable, but not too hot.
Everyone experiences stress even in remote parts of the world where people live to 100.
Stress can increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Over time, chronic stress can impact the size of your brain, memory, and lower essential bodily functions like your immune system.
Know your stress symptoms. Then, observe and be self-aware. Don’t judge yourself for feeling this way, but find ways to manage it.
In the Blue Zones® context, stress management is known as downshifting.
Adventists in the California Blue zone pray, Ikarians nap, Okinawans remember their ancestors, and Sardinians go to happy hour.
Plus, small steps you can take to change your life each month.
Prescription for success for older women
Ignore what culture tells you, and the images you see on television and in magazines of young women deemed to be beautiful women.
These subliminal messages can ruin your healthy lifestyle habits if you let them get to you. You can be beautiful as your hair turns gray too. Just look at Helen Mirren.
While older Americans are under-represented in mainstream media, and cultural norms correlate aging with more health problems, it is possible to be a healthy older woman. Get off social media where people only post photos and updates of their best days and surround yourself with a powerful support system.
Whether you find that through an exercise class, religion, or strong girlfriends – hold yourself and others accountable. Together, take small steps to improve your overall health and well-being. Remember, it all starts with the right mindset.
What are you going to tackle first on your path to healthy aging?
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