Ageing gracefully is a challenge we all face as the sands of time tick away.
Whether we like it or not, and despite what we do, our bodies will perish with age. In fact, every second as you're reading this, your body is changing.
While most of these changes are internal and undetectable, some are external and disturbingly visible.
To manage and disguise the external changes, Dolly Parton has some simple (but expensive) solutions!
'If I see something sagging, bagging or dragging, I'll get it nipped, tucked or sucked'.
For the rest of us, there are other far more straightforward and cheaper solutions. We can age more slowly and gracefully merely by healthy eating and remaining active throughout our lives.
On the other hand, neglecting our essential health needs can cause many ailments that diminish the quality of life by limiting some day to day activities.
Knowing what you can expect should encourage you to take whatever anti-ageing steps you can to counterbalance the effects of the passage of time. Inspiring you to maintain a well-conditioned, healthy body and living an independent life.
A healthy diet, regular exercise program, and positive attitude can help delay the onset and slow the progression of many age-related changes.
The Effects of Ageing
- As muscles age, they shrink and lose mass. This is a natural process, but our usually sedentary lifestyle accelerates it.
- The number and size of fast-twitch muscle fibres decrease significantly. Our 50's muscles don't respond as they did in our 30's.
- The water content of tendons, the cord-like tissues that attach muscles to bones, decreases with age. Making the tissues stiffer and more likely to tear under stress.
- Hand-grip strength decreases, making it more difficult to accomplish routine activities such as opening a jar or turning a key.
- The heart muscle becomes weaker and less able to pump blood efficiently around the body. With the limited oxygen supply, we take longer to recover and tire quicker.
- The body's metabolic rate (the speed at which the body converts food into energy) slows. This can lead to high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, high blood sugar, chronic fatigue and weight gain.
In healthy individuals, bone formation and resorption are in a state of balance. The age-related variations in bone structure are related to this balance between bone formation and bone remodelling.
After 30, the balance between bone remodelling and bone formation changes, resulting in a loss of bone tissue. In women, this loss of bone density accelerates after menopause, and bones become more fragile.
- The mineral content decreases as the bones become less dense and more fragile.
- As bones lose mass, osteoporosis develops. Osteoporosis is responsible for almost all hip fractures in older men and women.
- Cartilage, which provides cushioning between bones, has less water content and becomes more susceptible to stress. As the cartilage degenerates from a lifetime of use and neglect, arthritis can develop.
- Ligaments, connective tissues between bones, become less elastic.
- With the changes in tendons and ligaments, motion becomes more restricted, and flexibility decreases.
Things You Can Do for Ageing Gracefully
Many of the changes in our musculoskeletal system result more from disuse than from chronological ageing.
Less than 10 percent of Americans participate in regular exercise. The most sedentary group is older than 50 years of age.
So there is no better time than now to start your ageing gracefully crusade.
Eliminate fast, convenient foods from your eating plan. Replace them with fresh fruit, vegetables and home-prepared meals.
Be aware of the contents of the foods you pick off the supermarket shelves. Read the packaging labels and start understanding what you are eating.
Accept that the transition may not be easy ... old habits die hard. But look at the benefits both financial and health-wise that you'll gain through being more healthy.
Regular exercise will slow the loss of muscle mass and prevent age-associated increases in body fat. Exercise also helps maintain the body's response times and its ability to deliver and use oxygen efficiently.
Just 30 minutes of moderate activity, incorporated into your daily routine, can provide health benefits, and the exercise program doesn't have to be strenuous to be effective.
Walking, square dancing, swimming, and bicycling are all recommended activities for maintaining fitness as we age.
The 30 minutes of moderate activity can be broken up into shorter periods. For example, you might spend 15 minutes working in the garden in the morning and 15 minutes walking in the afternoon. It all adds up.
Also recommended is strength training to slow down the loss of muscle mass and maintain strength and balance. This does not require joining a gym as there are many varied programs available. Done at home, bodyweight, yoga or simple weights made from water-filled containers all work.
But if you have never attempted an exercise program before, be sure to do a realistic self-assessment before starting out.
Stretching is an excellent way to maintain joint flexibility. Weight training can increase muscle mass and strength, enabling people to continue their daily routine activities without significant exertion. Moderate amounts of physical activity can reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer.
Breathe Consciously and Deeply
It's strange that something we do about 23 000 times a day or 8.5 million times a year, we generally do so badly!
How many times a day do you fill your lungs and air passages with a full breath and then exhale completely?
Apart from being a great stress reliever, a deep, full breath increases the oxygen available to our bodies, increasing our energy and reducing stress.
It is accepted that with age, people require less sleep. However, this doesn't apply to me! I regularly go to bed at around 10 pm, and rise at 6 am (the classic 8 hours a night). I'm not always (very seldom actually!) having a whole night's sleep, but I have my 8 hours in bed.
There are many critical housekeeping functions your brain does during these hours, so it's advisable not to neglect them.
I'll cover these anti-ageing advice issues in a lot more detail in future articles, so I hope you'll join me in working through our step by step life-changing process of ageing gracefully and beautifully.
Conclusion - Ageing Gracefully
- Eat healthily - you are what you eat. Just by eliminating fast and processed food and sugar you'll be a long way down the healthy eating path.
- Exercise daily - 30 minutes a day doing whatever you can from walking to gardening to housework - it all counts.
- Stretch - do at least a full-length body stretch every day. Stretching out on the floor or bed as long as you can for 30 to 60 seconds. If this is done on the floor, it also requires getting down and up - another helpful but straightforward exercise.
- Breathe - take at least one full deep conscious breath a day - in through the nose, filling the lungs and slowly out through the mouth. This mindful breathing can also be done during your daily walk - breath in for 3 or 4 steps and out for 3 or 4 steps.
- Get a good night's sleep - your brain will thank you.
*Ageing (usual spelling outside the US) or aging (the US and Canada) are both considered acceptable.