Ageless aging: How to stay young at heart

Celebrating aging means more than just stocking up on birthday candles. By adapting your lifestyle to the variety of changes your body is undergoing, you can continue to maintain vitality and good health through the years.

Brain gains

Forget those excuses about senior moments. When it comes to staying sharp mentally either use it or lose it. You can’t be a couch potato and expect to be healthy–you have to challenge your brain and stay physically active.

Brain activity doesn’t improve with watching TV or movies, but it does with reading, with education, with trying to memorize things. In general, activating your brain cells helps them last longer.

In fact, research suggests that reading, dancing, playing musical instruments and spending time on computer games may even help prevent or delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Doing things that require motor coordination and memory keeps people sharp.

Work it out

Regular physical exercise can also help alleviate and prevent some of the chronic conditions that often accompany aging, such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Exercising 20 to 30 minutes a day, three to four times a week benefits emotional health, builds muscle mass, and boosts basically every organ system in the body.

Preserving muscle mass, though, may be more difficult for older women than for older men because of differences in how their bodies process foods, according to research released last year by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. The researchers suggested that in addition to doing weight-resistance exercises, older women should be sure to eat plenty of protein such as eggs, fish, chicken and lean red meat as part of a healthy diet.

Portrait of happy senior couple in arms

Skin and hair care

Skin changes can be one of the most obvious signs of aging. Because your skin becomes thinner and loses fat as you get older, scratching dry skin may cause bleeding or even infection. Using a moisturizer every day, bathing in warm rather than hot water, and washing with a milder soap can all help prevent dryness.

Gray hair is one of the easiest aging changes to reverse if you’d rather keep your original hair color, or even strike out in a bold new direction. But covering up the gray doesn’t undo the changes that aging brings to your hair. Your gray hair may have a different texture than you’re used to and it may be drier; conditioning regularly with a moisturizing formula can help.

If your hair begins to thin with age, you’ll want to use a conditioner that includes sun block so that you don’t get sunburned on the top of your head, especially if you’re outdoors much of the time.

Intimate moments

Emotional and physical intimacy with your spouse is an important part of maintaining good health at any age. If medications or physical changes in your body are creating difficulties for you or your partner, talk with your physician about possible solutions. As with many other age-related health issues, staying active and taking good care of yourself can help alleviate and even prevent problems, so you and your spouse can enjoy satisfying intimacy well into your golden years.