Did you know Americans are living longer than earlier generations, with an expected average lifespan of around 76 years in 2022?1 It’s also projected that the number of adults ages 65-plus will nearly double by 2060.2 With more people living longer, it’s important to think about ways to get and stay healthy so those extra years are lived well.

Good health helps you stay independent and productive as you age. Of course, your body will change with time. But there are lifestyle choices you can make now that can help reduce the risks of some common age-related health problems. And fewer health issues can build a positive quality of life for the long haul.2

5 key health factors

There are many things we can’t control about our health and life—things like genetics or natural conditions. But of the things we can control, improving our health can change how long and how well we live. With that in mind, here are five key factors that can influence how we age:

  1. Physical activity: Moving more and sitting less is a cornerstone of healthy aging.3,4 Scientific research suggests people who exercise regularly live longer and better.3 It helps keep your bones strong. And it improves your muscle tone and function so you have the mobility and energy to do more things and stay independent.3 You’re more likely to maintain a healthy weight when you exercise and stay active.3 And, stretching and balance work can help your coordination.3
  2. Healthy eating: What you eat and drink makes a big difference in your overall health. Eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods like colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins is good for everyone.3,7 This type of eating habit has been linked to a lower risk of heart attack, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity.3 It’s also important to stay hydrated, especially if you are also becoming more active.4 Building healthy eating habits will help you have the energy and strength to grocery shop, cook and eat well as you age.6
  3. Sleep quality: Believe it or not, it can be hard to get enough sleep as we age! Older adults need just as much sleep as younger adults, a recommended seven to nine hours per night.3 But many seniors don’t get enough sleep because of illness, pain or medication side effects.3 Poor sleep can affect your mood and concentration, making you feel irritable or forgetful.3 It can put you at a higher risk of accidents or falls.3 Good sleep, on the other hand, can help your health: it has been associated with lower rates of heart disease, insulin resistance and obesity.3
  4. Tobacco and alcohol use: No matter your age, quitting tobacco will improve your health. Going tobacco-free lowers your risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke and lung disease.3 It will also help your circulation, your sense of taste and smell, your energy and your ability to exercise.3 It’s also important to be aware of your alcohol intake. Limiting alcohol can improve your blood sugar and your heart and brain health.3 Also, make sure you watch your medications if you take any—many are dangerous when mixed with alcohol.
  5. Mental wellness: The state of your mental health affects how you think, feel, act, the choices you make and how you relate to others.3 It’s a key piece of your overall well-being. Depression and dementia are not a normal part of aging and can make you more prone to physical problems like heart disease and metabolic issues.2,3,4 It can be hard to keep social connections as we age due to changes in vision, hearing, physical abilities and loss of friends or family.3 Mental wellness helps your ability to think, manage your mood, handle everyday stress and combat loneliness.3

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Tips to boost your health as you age

Keeping these health areas front and center is only part of the challenge as we age. It’s the changes you make in your everyday living that can have a positive impact on your overall health. Because when you feel better, you can do more, and vice-versa. It’s a positive upward cycle. So here are some ideas you can weave into your everyday life to make your years ahead golden ones:3,4,5,6,7

  • Stay active! You don’t have to join a gym or fitness club to exercise—but if that works for you, by all means go for it! You can bring more activity into your everyday life with small changes, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or choosing a parking spot farther away in the lot. When you do more walking, strength and balance work, you can boost your endurance and overall fitness. This can help you do more activities and also keep you safer from falling.
  • Check in with your health team regularly. Talk with your doctor about any health concerns you have—like your balance and your medicines and their effects. Schedule annual checkups to keep your vaccinations and screenings up to date. Don’t forget to have your hearing and vision tested and do a nutrition review. It’s better to catch any health issues early when they’re easier to treat, and you have more options.
  • Find activities you enjoy. Hobbies, social or leisure activities like art, gardening or book clubs are fun and can lower your risk of loneliness and other health problems.
  • Learn something new. Do you have time to learn to play an instrument or take cooking, singing, dance, knitting, woodworking or drawing lessons? There’s a whole world of new things that will keep your mind challenged and stimulated.
  • Go explore. It doesn’t have to be far away—look around your local community for museums, restaurants, concerts, sporting events and more that you haven’t tried yet. You could discover a hidden gem!
  • Connect with the community. Visit your local senior center. Engage yourself through volunteer work at a school, library, pet shelter or hospital. It’ll help your mental health to get out with people while you help out a good cause.

Online health resources

Have questions about healthy aging? We can help. At Teladoc Health, we’ve made healthcare more accessible so that you don’t have to wait weeks for an appointment. With a virtual appointment, you can speak with a practitioner right from your home, your office or wherever you’re most comfortable. We’re here to help you get started today!

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Published September 4, 2023


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