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Health & Wellness

Tips That May Lead to a Happier, Healthier You

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Part of healthy aging is investing in preventative health habits for our minds and bodies—so you can Get Old, while still feeling like your best self.

TIP 1: GIVE BACK TO YOUR COMMUNITY

Volunteering does more than make a difference in your community—it may make a difference in your health!  Studies have found that adults over 50 who contributed at least 200 hours of volunteer work per year were less likely to develop hypertension and experienced greater increases in psychological well-being and physical activity than those who didn’t volunteer.[1]

Further studies have even suggested volunteering may help you live longer and improve cognitive and physical function.[2] Contributing to your community may provide a sense of accomplishment as you observe the impact of your service—and make friends along the way!

TIP 2: BE A SOCIAL BUTTERFLY

Social relationships may affect your health in many ways—behaviorally, physically and mentally.[3] One study found those who have more diverse social networks were associated with greater resistance to upper respiratory illness such as colds.[4]

Loneliness isn’t just a mental condition—it can also contribute to our physical well-being.  Brigham Young University researchers found that those with stronger relationships were 50 percent more likely to survive over the study period than those with weaker connections.[5] More surprisingly, the researchers determined this risk was comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.[5]

Need to add a spark to your social life? Introduce yourself to someone you frequently cross paths with on the running trail, sign up for a local sports league, or encourage coworkers to take part in a bi-monthly happy hour—no shop talk allowed!

TIP 3: HELP PREVENT DISEASE BEFORE IT OCCURS

Are you someone who sees your doctor only when you’re sick or something is wrong? Taking preventative steps to help protect your health is just as important as treating conditions as they arise.

Annual appointments offer the opportunity to check in with your doctor about screening for health measures such as blood pressure and colon cancer, and talk about your personal risk for disease. This is especially important as we may not realize we are at risk for certain health conditions. In particular, some people dismiss pneumonia as an illness that only affects the elderly or those sick in the hospital; however, certain types of pneumonia, including pneumococcal pneumonia, can occur in otherwise healthy people outside of hospital or healthcare settings—and even people as young as 50 may be at increased risk.[6]

The good news is that there are certain things you can do to help prevent infectious diseases like pneumococcal pneumonia. Remember taking your child to the doctor for vaccinations? Well, they’re not just for kids! Vaccines help teach the body’s immune system to recognize and defend against harmful viruses or bacteria before getting an infection.[7] Depending on your age and health, CDC vaccination recommendations vary. Want to arrive to your doctor’s office prepared to speak about your personal risk for vaccine preventable diseases? The CDC’s Adult Vaccine Quiz is a great place to start.

TIP 4: BALANCE YOUR FOODIE INDULGENCES

Whether you’re firing up the grill for a BBQ or breaking out the rolling pin to bake holiday cookies, it’s important to remember to balance potluck treats with nutritious options. Did your parents always tell you to eat your veggies? Well, there’s a good reason. Men who eat a lot of red meat or dairy products and few fruits and vegetables appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer (though the exact role of diet with this disease is not clear)[8], and a low fat diet high in fruits and vegetables may reduce, or eliminate, symptoms of menopause in women.[9] However, the U.S. lags behind the CDC goal of 50% of the population consuming vegetables three times a day.[10]

Instead of going for that second hamburger, consider a salad instead and indulge in some extra dressing—your body absorbs the most nutrients from vegetables when they are correctly paired with fat-based condiments.[11] The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend eating a variety of vegetables, whole fruits, grains (at least half of which are whole grains), low fat or fat-free dairy, protein foods, oils, and limiting saturated and trans fats.[12] More information can be found in the first chapter of the Guidelines.

Tip 5: RE-VAMP YOUR MOTIVATION FOR EXERCISING

If you solely exercise to achieve your desired physical appearance—think again! You may be able to (literally) run away from certain diseases. An international team of researchers which included investigators affiliated with the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society recently published data from an analysis of 12 studies showing moderate to vigorous exercise may lower your chance of developing certain types of cancer.[13] Activities considered to meet this threshold include swimming, walking and running at least 150 minutes per week.[13]

Not a member of a gym? No problem! Check to see if your company has corporate-sponsored sports teams, speed walk while chatting with a group of friends, or rekindle a favorite childhood pastime—jumping rope!


[1] Watson, S. Volunteering may be good for body and mind. Harvard Health Publications.

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/volunteering-may-be-good-for-body-and-mind-201306266428. Accessed June 28, 2016.

[2] Population Reference Bureau. Volunteering and health for aging populations. Today’s Research on Aging.

http://www.prb.org/pdf11/TodaysResearchAging21.pdf. Accessed June 28, 2016.

[3] Umberson D, Karas Montez J. Social relationships and health: a flashpoint for health policy. J Health Soc Behav. 2010;51:S54-S66

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150158/. Accessed June 28, 2016.

[4] Cohen S, Doyle WJ, Skoner DP, et. al. Social ties and susceptibility to the common cold. JAMA. 1997;25(24):1940-4.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9200634. Accessed June 28, 2016.

[5] Miller, A. Friends wanted. American Psychological Association Monitor on Psychology. 2015:45(1):51.

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/01/cover-friends.aspx. Accessed June 28, 2016.

[6] Jain S, Self WH, Wunderink RG, et al. CDC EPIC Study Team. Community-acquired pneumonia requiring hospitalization among US adults. N Engl J Med. 2015;373(5):415-427

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26172429. Accessed June 28, 2016.

[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Vaccines Prevent Diseases.

Available at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/vaccine-decision/prevent-diseases.html. Accessed September 3, 2014.

[8] American Cancer Society. Prostate cancer risk factors.

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-risk-factors. Accessed June 28, 2016.

[9] Bakalar N. Low-fat diet may ease hot flashes.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/16/low-fat-diet-may-ease-hot-flashes/. Accessed June 28, 2016.

[10] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State-Specific Trends in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Adults — United States, 200-2009. MMWR:59(35).

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5935a1.htm. Accessed June 28, 2016.

[11] Purdue University News Service. Study: No-fat, low-fat dressings don't get most nutrients out of salads.

http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2012/120619FerruzziSalad.html. Accessed June 28, 2016.

[12] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015.

http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/. Accessed June 28, 2016.

[13] Paddock, C. Medical News Today. Keeping Fit May Help Prevent Cancer.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/310366.php. Accessed June 28, 2016.

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