Healthy Habits

Want to Age Gracefully? Adopt These Habits Now

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By M. Elizabeth Swenor, D.O.

The concept that “good genes” are the key to aging gracefully is simply not true. There’s a lot you can do to stay in top shape as you get older. In fact, the real secrets to avoiding chronic illness, having a good quality of life and maintaining your appearance lie in simple everyday habits:

One of the most important habits I recommend is maintaining a diet rich in plant-based foods. To understand why, let’s start with your gut – specifically the large intestine, which is home to what doctors call the microbiome. Here, your body maintains trillions of good bacteria that help support biological processes, such as digestion, that keep you alive. Eating meals consisting largely of fruits, vegetables and whole grains ensures that bacteria in the microbiome are well-nourished and working hard to keep you feeling great.

Other habits that can help you age gracefully include:

  • Staying hydrated: From our brains to our stomachs, cells throughout the body need water to function properly. I tell patients to divide their weight in half and aim to drink this many ounces of water every day. For example, a 180-pound person should drink 90 ounces of water every day.
  • Exercising regularly: The benefits of exercise extend beyond your heart and vascular system. Anything you do to build muscle – including resistance training and going for regular walks – also protects your bones. Exercise has the added benefit of helping you maintain balance and perform everyday activities, like walking up stairs, with ease. I advise aiming for 30 to 90 minutes of activity every day. Choose the right type of exercise for you – find activities that you enjoy so you will consistently keep at it and ones that will help you reach your goals.
  • Getting enough sleep: Your body works hard to support you as you move through your busy life. This is why it’s so important to get 8 hours of sleep every day. While you’re sleeping, your body can restore itself and clear out waste, including damaged and worn out cells, which allows you to feel your best at any age.
  • Managing stress levels: It’s hard to avoid stress entirely, so I help my patients find good ways to manage it. Research shows that just a few minutes of deep breathing throughout the day can lower levels of the body’s stress hormone, cortisol. This is one of many ways you can de-stress your life.
  • Keeping your brain active: Taking care of your brain helps you maintain short- and long-term memory. Simple activities such as crossword puzzles, knitting and maintaining close relationships with loved ones are all good for brain health.
  • Selecting gentle skin care products: Taking care of your skin helps you maintain a healthy glow, but that’s not all: From regulating temperature to experiencing sensations from the world around you, your skin does so much for your well-being. Pamper your skin by using mineral-based makeup and petroleum-free hygiene products.

It’s never too early to start adopting habits that help you age gracefully. Learn more about what you can do by talking with your doctor or one of our functional medicine experts. Functional medicine uses a holistic approach – considering mind, body and spirit – to help adults of all ages achieve optimal health and wellness.

Make an appointment by visiting henryford.com or calling 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Written By:

M. Elizabeth Swenor, D.O.

M. Elizabeth Swenor, D.O., has been practicing functional medicine for more than 15 years and leads the Functional Medicine program at the Henry Ford Center for Integrative Medicine. Her goal is to empower her patients with the knowledge and tools they need to achieve optimal health and wellness. Dr. Swenor strongly believes that all patients can improve their overall health by reducing whole body stress and inflammation by correcting metabolic imbalances through good nutrition. Board certified in family medicine, she has also received advanced certification in metabolic and nutritional medicine from the Metabolic Medical Institute and is also certified in anti-aging, regenerative and functional medicine by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.

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