Any doctor will tell you that it's much easier to prevent something than it is to reverse it.
As we get older, our bodies may change and our athletic prowess may decline—but the good news is that the steps we need to take to lead a longer, healthier life remain the same (for the most part). A healthy diet and regular activity are at the top of the to-do list, but it doesn't stop there…
From skin care and oral health to managing heart disease and weight control, it may sound like a lot to remember, but the experts break it down into easy and actionable tips. If you're looking for the proverbial fountain of youth, here's where you can start. Memorize this advice and then keep the improvements going by stocking up on these 40 Best Fat-Burning Foods!
A good routine is key when it comes to diet,and committing to a healthy eating plan is where you will reap the most benefits. "When I think of nutrition, I think about how it can not only be preventative but how it can manage disease," says Jessica Crandall, a Denver-based RD, Certified Diabetes Educator, and National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "I always say that it's not one day that's going to make you healthy or one day that's going to make you unhealthy. It's about adding that accountability in every single day that will help you improve your overall nutrition so that you can improve your health and longevity." Not all habits are good, though; make sure you're avoiding these 40 Habits That Make You Sick and Fat.
Fuel Up With Protein
You don't have to eat chicken for breakfast lunch and dinner, but it is recommended that you fit a hearty dose of protein in at every meal. "Focusing on protein is something that's really important as we get older because it plays a crucial role in keeping our muscles strong. You should be having a good protein source at breakfast lunch and dinner—whether that be beans, nuts, yogurt, eggs, meat or fish. Aim for 20-30 grams per meal," says Crandall. We live by this rule at Eat This, Not That!, which is why we've already curated a list of 20 Ways to Get 20 grams of Protein at Every Meal for you!
Eat an Antioxidant-Rich Diet
Antioxidants are one of your greatest defenses against aging, so it would serve you well to bolster your diet with as many as possible. "I'm always an advocate for adding antioxidant-rich foods to your diet to help prevent and ward off disease. Berries, bell peppers, grapes, and brightly colored fruits and veggies are all great options. I suggest having at least three cups of veggies and two cups of fruit per day at minimum," says Crandall.
Drink More Water
It's impossible to talk about a healthy diet and aging gracefully without mentioning this essential component. Drinking enough water daily can help with weight management, skin health, and keeping your body efficient. "A good range is between 64 and 90 ounces of water per day, which would translate to eight glasses of eight ounces of water or more. Other fluids count towards hydration, including things like milk, decaf coffee, and teas," says Crandall. Not a fan of plain water? Don't miss these 50 Best Detox Waters for Fat Burning and Weight Loss!
Cut Out Fake Foods
If the ingredient list is long and full of words you can't pronounce, toss it. If it has an ingredient list at all, always be skeptical. The best foods for your body don't come in boxes. "As we get older, I think it's important to cut out non-nutritive foods like added sugars and really limiting sweets. As we age, our palates can sometimes shift towards sweeter foods, so be mindful of that. The more sweets we have, the more inflammation we have. Inflammation in the body can put you at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, joint pain, diabetes and metabolic syndrome," says Crandall. To learn how to cut out added sugars—and lose up to a pound a day—check out the brand-new book, Zero Sugar Diet, from best-selling author and Eat This, Not That! creator David Zinczenko!
Don't Forget Your Omegas
By decreasing the amount of non-nutritive foods you consume and increasing the nutrient-dense ones, you'll set yourself up for success in the long run. "Focus on omega-3-rich foods like tuna, salmon, mackerel, and herring. You should be eating fatty fish two or three times per week in three to four ounce servings. This helps decrease inflammation. If you don't eat seafood, you can take a fish oil supplement as an alternative. Aim for around 1,200 to 2,400 mg of omega-3s each day," Crandall instructs.
Consult a Dietitian
"The best thing we can have on our side is prevention. Working with a preventative specialist such as a dietitian can be really instrumental in making sure you're hitting those good quality nutrition markers. I'd recommend seeing and RD once a year at a minimum; some people do it three or four times per year if they have an actual concern that needs to be addressed," says Crandall. Leading a healthy life is all about developing good habits and exercising them daily. Consulting an expert helps take the guess work out of it all and can help set you up for true success from the get-go. Still not sold that you need to go see a dietary expert? Cross-check yourself with these 15 Signs You Need to Go See a Nutritionist.
Fit In "Me" Time Every Day
Stress is a major issue as we age. The older we get, the more responsibility we take on and the less time we have to ourselves. "Learning to de-stress is very important," says Rachel Goldman Ph.D., psychologist, clinical assistant professor, NYU School of Medicine. "If you're typically at a high-stress level to begin with, it can make managing stressful situations much more difficult and as a result can take a greater toll on your health. If you can fit in some "me" time into your day on a daily basis, your overall stress level or baseline is lower. Making sure you have good coping mechanisms to deal with stressors is important to our overall wellbeing as we age."
Use Your Breath
Developing good relaxation techniques can be instrumental in handling difficult situations and keeping your mental state in a healthy place. "The easiest relaxation technique to do either in the moment or on a daily basis is to practice deep breathing techniques like diaphragmatic breathing. I usually have my clients practice doing that when they're not stressed to learn how to do it properly. Try taking five deep breaths before you sleep or when you wake up. That way when a stressor comes, you have the technique readily available to you," says Goldman.
Build A Daily Routine and Stick to It
When we fall out of our daily routines, we tend to hit a few bumps in the road. Whether you confront dietary, physical, or mental challenges, having a routine can help minimize the effort in keeping yourself sane and healthy. "I always tell people, no matter what's going on in your life, it's critical to stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, get dressed, and get out of the house. Give yourself a plan or schedule," says Goldman. Think you might need a little boost? Hone in on these 22 Truths About Willpower!
Leave the House at Least Once Per Day
If you live somewhere with four seasons, we know it's cold and dreary for at least a quarter of the year. But when it comes to your health, there are no excuses. "In the winter months, people start isolating themselves and it has a ripple effect. You don't want a 24-hour period to go by without leaving the house, unless you're sick or have a good reason. Even if it's a walk around the block or going to your local coffee shop, doing something to get fresh air is so important. Our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are all linked. By changing one of these things, the rest will follow. In general, this really helps people try to combat depression or seasonal affective disorder," says Goldman.
Know When to Ask for Professional Help
Even when we need it the most, it may feel incredibly daunting or difficult to reach out for help. However, taking that step can be dire to your overall health. "I think people don't realize the benefit of being in therapy until they start. Usually, there's a major life problem or stressor that gets them in the door. Once they're there, they realize the benefit of it. The time at which I tell people to seek therapy is when people notice that their symptoms are impacting their daily functioning or if the issues feel troublesome to the person. If things seem to be going well overall and you have a good supportive network, then you probably don't need to seek professional help," says Goldman.
Educate Yourself on Mental Health
Our newsfeeds are typically flooded with nutrition findings and workout tips, but in order to have a more accurate grasp on healthy practices, you need to stay in the know about all areas of health. By educating yourself about mental health, you can equip yourself with better tools and insight into your own personal state, which can encourage greater personal growth and health as we age. "The American Psychological Association website and Psychology Today are both great resources," says Goldman.
Brush With a Timer
The most attention you probably give to your teeth is for 30 seconds twice each day. However, you would benefit tremendously by paying more attention to your chompers. "One of the biggest mistakes with oral health is that people tend to forget about it. It's important to keep your teeth clean and remove plaque and bacteria by brushing and flossing daily. The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day for two minutes. Two minutes doesn't sound like much, but most people don't spend that much time brushing. Try putting yourself on a timer while you're brushing. If you're not doing that already, it will make your mouth much healthier," says Edmond Hewlett, Consumer Advisor for the American Dental Association and Professor at the UCLA school of Dentistry.
Invest in an Electric Toothbrush
If you're not using a timer while you brush manually, you have other options. "There is value in using an electric toothbrush because it's on a timer. Most devices vibrate every 30 seconds to tell you to move on to a different part of the mouth so you cover all of your bases. Because of the way that they move and vibrate they can help you do a better job in the hard to reach places, like the back of the mouth," says Hewlett.
Floss Once Daily
While an electric toothbrush will seriously step up your oral health game, it's not an end-all-be-all solution. "Flossing is just as important as brushing, and you should do it once per day. Flossing helps remove the plaque build up between the teeth where the toothbrush can't reach. Missing those areas can put you at risk for gum disease and cavities," says Hewlett. Don't be deterred by bleeding gums, either. According to Hewlett, bleeding gums are a sign you need to floss more. Once you make it a habit, the bleeding will subside—even in a matter of days.
Don't Avoid the Dentist
No one likes going, but taking a trip to your dentist yearly will give you the power of prevention. "At the very least, you should visit the dentist once per year and we also recommend that people go in to get their teeth cleaned twice per year. That annual visit to your dentist is very important because you need to have that professional person who cares about your oral health to make sure you're doing it right and to catch things early if something isn't going right," says Hewlett.
Understand the Implications of Oral Health
Of course, we all want to keep our pearly whites bright and shiny, but taking care of your teeth has implications way beyond the cosmetic. "In the last several years, we've learned a lot about associations between your oral health and your general health. The issues that come up most frequently are heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. What the research is telling us is that if you have poor oral health—unhealthy gums in particular—the chances of having one or more of these diseases is increased. As far as one causing the other or not, that's unclear. The fact is that there is an association, so ignoring your oral health could make you less healthy overall," says Hewlett.
Say Goodbye to Sugar
If you're serious about your health, you've got to at least try resisting one of life's greatest vices: sugar. Life will be actually sweeter if you do! "There are two things people should avoid when it comes to their teeth: sugar and acid. Sugar is the source of energy for the bacteria that cause cavities. If you're feeding the bacteria sugar, they eat the sugar and put out a lot of acid and that acid makes holes in the teeth, which causes cavities. In terms of acid, I'm talking about things like sports drinks and soft drinks—both sugar and diet varieties can be acidic. Drinking excessive amounts of these beverages can really do terrible damage in terms of eroding and dissolving enamel of the teeth," says Hewlett. Psst! Sports drinks also just so happen to be one of the 50 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet.
Avoid Constant Grazing
It's not just what you eat, but how you eat it. For example, if you're popping one Jolly Rancher in your mouth every hour, you're still doing some serious damage because the sugar is lingering in your mouth for a long period of time. "If you're constantly snacking on sweets—even if it's a small amount—the acid level in the mouth stays up. The saliva doesn't have a chance to clear it out and bring it back to normal. We see a lot of damage with this," says Hewlett.
Apply Sunscreen Every Single Day
Our skin is our largest organ, so taking care of it properly can help prevent serious health issues (and unsightly age spots and wrinkles) in the long term. "Ninety percent of the signs of aging and 90 percent of skin cancers come from unprotected daily exposure to ultraviolet light. It's raining, it's snowing, I'm in the car, I have darker skin—for all these reasons, people may not think they need to wear sunscreen. But it's a big misconception. Wearing sunscreen every day is essential. It should be SPF 30 or higher and cosmetically elegant. There's a big selection of what people can wear, so find whatever works for you," says Dr. Mona Gohara, Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Dermatology at Yale School of Medicine.
Don't Use Soap
Don't stop bathing just yet. There's a difference between healthy cleansing and harmful cleansing, when it comes to picking the right products. "The biggest problem I see with washing your face is that people use the wrong thing to cleanse—like soaps, which are not good for your skin. They strip the epidermal barrier of its natural proteins and lipids. By soap, I don't mean a bar, I mean a product with a PH of 13 or higher. The skin has a natural PH of 5.5, so you want a product that's within that range like the Dove Beauty Bar, which is the quintessential bar that you can use on your face that's not a soap. If you're only going to wash your face once, I would suggest doing it at night. If can do it twice per day, that's better," says Gohara.
Exfoliate Once a Week
We spend enough time researching and picking out the right products, but unless we prepare our skin to soak up all that goodness, we're not going to see the results. "Exfoliation is essential. We lose about 50 million skin cells per day. Some of them naturally fall off and some of them hang around. When they hang around, that's prohibiting beneficial stuff from penetrating the skin. You don't need something with microbeads or a gritty texture. Applying pressure with a washcloth is enough to slough off those dead skin cells," says Gohara.
Always Test Cosmetic Products Before Using
Promises of a youthful glow—all packaged in a pretty bottle with an organic stamp of approval—can be particularly intriguing. But it's best if you do your due diligence before lathering up your face in the latest product. "Just because something is organic and natural, doesn't mean it's good for your skin. Poison ivy is organic and natural, and it's not good for your skin. When trying a new product, I recommend that my patients apply it on their inner arm as a test for a week to see if their skin becomes inflamed," says Gohara.
Get Screened for Skin Cancer
You may have coveted a tan in your teens and twenties, but the sun spots and skin cancer scares that follow down the road should not be taken lightly. "The American Academy of Dermatology recommends yearly skin cancer screenings starting at age 40, assuming you haven't had any skin cancer before or a family history of melanoma. You should also be doing monthly skin examinations on yourself and schedule a yearly skin examination with a board certified dermatologist. Melanoma is now the number two skin cancer in young women, so it's not unheard of for these things to be developing early. If you've been in a tanning booth just once, it would be wise to get a skin cancer screening," says Gohara.
Get Plenty of "Beauty Sleep"
Whether you ask a dietitian, a trainer, or your general practitioner, sleep is one of the most important components in leading a healthy life. It's particularly crucial for keeping skin healthy. "The reason it's called "beauty sleep" is because your skin naturally regenerates itself at night. It's really important to maintain eight hours of sleep every night, which is hard for people. A lack of sleep increases cortisol levels in your blood, which is a pro-inflammatory hormone which can create irritation in the skin. Getting sleep is not just about the aesthetics of decreasing puffy eyes, but really allowing your skin to regenerate itself and keep it in a low inflammatory state," says Gohara. Cortisol also makes you gain weight, which is why you'll want to check out these 32 Foods That Turn Off the Stress Hormone That's Making You Fat!
Remember to Stand Up
Regardless of your workload, taking small breaks throughout the day is non-negotiable when it comes to taking care of your ticker. "One of the biggest mistakes people can make when it comes to heart health is that they ignore their hearts. Everyone is so busy that they sit at their desks all day and work. They have to remember to get up and walk around. Bad habits such as smoking and sitting too often can increase your risk for heart attack," says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, MD and Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Medicine at NYU.
Make Walking a Part of Your Daily Routine
Fitting activity into your day can seem unachievable, but it doesn't take much to activate the health benefits of movement. "People don't believe that a moderately-paced walk for 30 minutes per day can lower your risk for heart disease, [but it can]. Instead, they think you have to do more intense exercise," says Dr. Goldberg.
Ask Your Doctor About Your Heart
At its core, eating healthy and exercising can help keep your heart healthy, but it's best to consult an expert on other matters of the body. "Schedule a checkup with your primary care physician to learn about your personal risk factors. You will learn about your blood pressure and have labs drawn to check your cholesterol and glucose levels. Go to the appointment with information about your family's history of heart disease [so that your doctor can provide you with the best and most accurate advice possible to keep your heart healthy]," says Dr. Goldberg.
Workout Your Heart
Hitting the gym can help you slim down, tone up, and can boost your energy tenfold. However, breaking a sweat can enhance your livelihood far beneath the obvious markers. "Aerobic exercise lowers blood pressure and bad (LDL) cholesterol. It also raises the good or (HDL) cholesterol and improves blood sugar. To promote greater heart health, you should do at least a half and hour of aerobic exercise every day," says Dr. Goldberg.
Strengthen Your Muscles
"Studies show that we lose about three to five percent of our muscle mass per decade. So, to combat this, I recommend weight training at least two days a week," says Jim White, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach. By making an effort to maintain muscle strength, you can help prevent weakness, fatigue, and reduce the risk of falls or injuries associated with decreased muscle mass as we age. Not to mention, if you're able to maintain a healthy physical state, you're able to continue doing activities on a daily basis and uphold a better quality of life for longer.
Break Up With Alcohol
Too many happy hours make for a not-so-happy time down the road. First there's the issue that imbibing is often replacing your time at the gym. Plus, over time, excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, certain cancers, and dementia. White recommends sticking to one serving for women and two servings for men of alcohol per day at most to avoid weight gain and the negative health effects of overconsumption.
Keep Cardio Consistent
Not only do we want to avoid disease as we age, but we also want to feel good and maintain our abilities to be active. The way to do this is to be active consistently. "Weight training and cardiovascular training are a must. We need to continue on rebuilding muscle, burning calories, and working out our hearts. For cardiovascular training, I recommend at least 150 minutes per week at minimum. Aim for 220 minutes per week if possible," says White.
Give Your Metabolism a Hand
In our youth, our bodies seem to work efficiently with little to no help at all. However, as we get older, you need to give your metabolism a hand in order to maintain a healthy weight. "Our metabolism drops one to two percent per decade after age 25, which can lead to unhealthy and unwanted weight gain. There are physiological reasons why we're gaining weight, but also a lot of psychological reasons and socioeconomic factors. Regular exercise increases our metabolism and also eating six small meals throughout the day can help," says White.
Avoid Sleep Disruptors
Turn off the TV, put down your phone, and shut your body down. When it comes to being physically fit and healthy, sleep is at the top of the list of necessities. "Poor eating can affect sleep and not exercising can also hinder sleep. [If you want to set yourself up for success], I recommend you workout in the morning and have a light dinner before bed. Also really try to shut down electronics late [which can inhibit or delay sleep]," says White. Good sleep is also critical for reaching your flat-belly goals, which would be nice since you're going to live longer, right? For more weight loss tips, don't miss these 47 Best New Weight Loss Tips of the Year!