Categorized | Healthy Lifestyle

Aging healthfully can add quality years

By Judith Boyko

Advances in medicine enable us to live longer than our ancestors did. In the mid-1800s, for example, one’s mid-30s was the typical life span. Fast forward to June 2013: Jiroemon Kimura, the world’s oldest person, died at the ripe old age of 116.

How’s that for progress?

It’s one thing to add years to your life, but another to add life to your years. Following are some tips to limit illness and get the most out of life as you age:

headshot_jboyko•Exercise your body to keep fit for as little as 30 minutes daily. Benefits of exercise include mood lifts and energy boosts. Exercise also fights certain health conditions like cardiovascular disease, arthritis and falls, and it bumps up HDL — “good” cholesterol.

Physical exercise also improves brain function. Even walking to increase heart rate fosters an increased blood flow to the brain. In fact, risk of stroke was cut by 57 percent in people who walked for as little as 20 minutes each day, according to one study.

•Exercise your brain to keep it active. Cognitive activities may lead to greater mental acuity. According to WebMD, “The brain typically shrinks in late adulthood, and this shrinkage is believed to play a role in age-related memory decline.”

Some activities that stimulate the brain, protect against cognitive decline and improve memory loss include crossword and jigsaw puzzles, mental challenges and numbers games like Sudoku.

•Calm your heart with exercise. In addition to exercise for physical and mental fitness, exercise can improve one’s heart health. How? A Harvard study conducted in 2001 on 40,000 women over the age of 45 found that walking just 60 to 90 minutes per week cut “their risk of coronary artery disease in half.” Even very moderate exercise, like gardening, housework or a neighborhood walk, can help protect your heart.

Breathing exercises can also calm your heart, clear your head, minimize stress and lower blood pressure and heart rates — all while restoring your energy.

•Quit smoking. According to a recent National Geographic article, “tobacco smoking, including second-hand smoke, is still the top risk factor for disease in North America and Western Europe. Globally, it’s risen in rank from the third to second leading cause of disease.”

The American Heart Association indicates that smokers, on average, die around 13 or 14 years earlier than their non-smoking counterparts. Why? Smoking makes it more likely for a person to develop a blood clot; temporarily raises blood pressure; raises risk of stroke; and contributes significantly to heart disease.

•Eat well every day. Control portions and eat balanced meals. Healthy and smart food choices will help you stay regular. Drink lots of water and consume the proper amount of fiber. Get through your day with the right number of calories. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a moderately active woman over the age of 51 needs about 1,600 calories daily and a moderately active man over the age of 51 needs about 2,000 calories daily.

To provide the best energy levels, food gives your body the fuel it needs throughout the day. To stay at a healthy weight, eat low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods.

A commitment to a healthy lifestyle early on can lower one’s risk for age-related illness.

Judith Boyko, MBA, MS, RN, is CEO of Century Health Systems, Natick Visiting Nurse Association and Distinguished Care Options. She can be reached at For additional information, visit, or


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