There’s an old saying that goes, “You only live once but if you do it right, once is enough.”
Age is more than the number of the candles on your birthday cake. It doesn’t matter if you’re blowing out forty or fifty or sixty candles if your well-being is youthful!
Aging well isn’t just about your physical health; it includes your mental and emotional health too.
Medical experts say these are six signs that you are aging well.
Your Height and Weight
People usually lose height at an annual rate between 0.08% and 0.10% for males and 0.12% and 0.14% for females as they age, according to a study in Economics and Human Biology. That’s roughly an average of ¾ to 1.5 inches over your life (2cm to 4cm).
According to the University of Arkansas Medical Center, the cartilage between bone joints wears down over time, slightly decreasing a person’s height. If your height loss is within that range, it’s a sign you’re aging well.
Weight also plays a huge role in aging well. Doctors use the Body Mass Index (BMI) to classify weight, which calculates body fat based on height and weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), different BMI levels indicate weight status.
The levels are:
Below 18.5: Underweight
A BMI of 25 or more puts you at risk for chronic disease and poor health. According to a study in Research on Aging, obesity is a health risk at any age, including as you get older.
Your Physical Activity Level
Your physical activity level is also a sign of how well you’re aging. When considering your activity level, think about your:
Your posture and physical activity level affect your energy, stamina, and independence. While it may take a little longer to do some activities, a sign of aging well is how physically independent you are.
Another important consideration is that just as people typically lose a bit of height as they age, they also lose a certain amount of muscle mass.
Less muscle mass means more weakness, reduced strength, less mobility, and diminished independence unless you do something about it by engaging in the kind of physical activity that saves your lean muscle mass.
According to the Harvard Medical School, after age 30, people lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade. This age-related muscle mass loss is known as sarcopenia.
Sarcopenia increases the risk for damaging falls. An American Society for Bone and Mineral Research found that peoplde with sarcopenia have a 2.3 higher risk of breaking a bone if they fall.
Your Grip Strength
It might seem a little odd and not make sense, but apparently, your grip is a sign of healthy aging. According to research, grip strength is an independent sign of aging that’s associated with:
Upper Limb Function
Bone Mineral Density
Falls and Fractures
Quality of Life
All of these health-related issues are signs you’re not aging well. Good grip strength is a sign you are healthy and physically independent!
Your Cognitive Ability
According to a study in Seminars in Hearing, your brain undergoes functional and structural changes as you age. These “normal” changes may lead to a decline in how fast a person processes information.
But here’s some good news, researchers say that a healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of diseases that increase cognitive decline. Keeping your brain in shape is an important factor in aging well; it also lowers your risk for dementia and other cognitive issues.
Your Social Calendar
We are social creatures. Social connection brings out our best.
A study in the Animal Science Journal showed that rats kept in isolation became more aggressive and had decreased cognitive function. Social scientists have noticed the same results in people who don’t socialize.
Consider this: During lockdown for the COVID pandemic, four in ten people reported mental health issues. Before that, one in ten people reported mental health concerns.
People who age well have a strong social connection to friends, colleagues, and family.
Your Quality of Life
Regardless of the condition of your physical and mental health, your quality of life depends on your emotional health! Read that sentence again and let it sink in.
To put it another way, are you in charge of your emotions, or are they in charge of you? Is your outlook optimistic – do you find the silver lining, do you laugh, do you live with hope and have a vision for your life – or are you moody and go through life with a glass half empty?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines actively aging well as the process of maximizing opportunities for health, participation, and security to enhance a person’s quality of life. Your mindset, outlook, and emotional health tell you if you feel you’re aging well.
Helen Hayes said, “Age is not important unless you’re a cheese.” She’s right!
What’s important is aging well.
The encouraging news is that you’re in charge of these six areas of aging well!
You’re in control of your weight, physical activity level, and grip strength. These choices are yours to make! It’s up to you whether you exercise your brain to protect and enhance cognitive ability; only you can decide if you’re going to be a social butterfly or hermit and whether you’re going to be a cheerful optimist or a sour Ebenezer Scrooge.
By focusing on these six areas, you can be youthful and independent as you age! So start now because at least you’re not as old as you will be next year!