We all want to grow old—but not just to tick off the years. We want to grow old in the best way we can: healthy, active, mentally sharp and free of chronic pain and disability.
Chicago neurologist Marsel Masulam coined the term "SuperAger," referring, specifically, to cognitive aging and memory performance. But I'd like to borrow it here and use it to pertain to the whole person—from head to toe.
And while we're not always in total control—after all, genes exert a big influence on our health—there are things we all should be doing in our quest to be a SuperAger.
Here are some things—mental and physical—that are within your power to do, every day, to up your odds of aging in a super way:
- Have a positive attitude. A good attitude can get you far. Not only can it help you to put—and keep—things in perspective, it can help you recover from illness. According to a 2012 study published in JAMA, older people who felt positively about aging were 44 percent more likely to fully recover from severe disability compared with those who approached age negatively and looked upon it bleakly.
- Maintain a healthy diet. You are what you eat rings true: nutrition plays a vital role in how well you age. A Mediterranean-style diet—rich in plant-based foods, whole grains, fish, olive oil, nuts and wine (in moderation, of course)—is beneficial in helping to prevent heart attacks, strokes and premature death. And it's never too late. Although you benefit from eating this way early in life, a study gives thumbs up for adopting it in midlife, too. The diet works by lowering inflammation and oxidative stress, two possible causes of various age-related chronic diseases and health conditions. It can also help improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
- Watch how much you eat. The National Institutes of Health says that while your body needs food for survival, overeating can create undue stress on your body, leading to a shorter lifespan and serious health problems like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. That doesn't mean you should severely restrict your calories, but, instead, make smart food choices and enjoy a balanced diet that includes a daily serving of two to three-and-a-half cups of veggies, one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half cups of fruit, five to 10 ounces of grains, three cups of dairy, five to eight teaspoons of healthy oils and five to seven ounces of protein. And remember to keep your salt and sugar to a minimum.
- Get regular exercise. Staying fit has so many perks: It can help reduce memory loss that comes with age. It can help maintain muscle mass, balance and strength, which you lose more rapidly as you age. In short, it's one of the healthiest things you can do. It can even be an effective treatment for many chronic conditions like arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.
- Socialize. Friends count for a lot. People with strong social ties are more likely to live longer and age better mentally than those who are lonely, isolated and alone, finds a study published in the journal PLoS Medicine.