by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
Who does not want to live a long, healthy life? All of us hope for at least a long enough life to see our dreams fulfilled, our grandchildren born, and all the while being healthy and happy, definitely not bed-ridden and being at the mercy of someone else for daily functions. So what does scientific research say about the tips for a long, healthy life? Let us see.
Just don’t stop being engaged in meaningful work. If your current employment terms and conditions forces you to retire at 60 years old, find another fulfilling occupation even if it pays little or nothing. Be meaningfully engaged as long as you can stand up and walk. Why is this important? It is important because human beings need to feel important and needed, in order to feel psychologically alive and physically upbeat.
Reminiscing does not promote health. Wallowing in self pity remembering past misfortunes, or regretting past mistakes can lead to the production of stress hormones that rapidly age the body and mind. There is no growth possible when one is stuck in a rut, in a vicious cycle of regret and guilt feeding on each other.
Get your heart rate going fast. This can be done on a treadmill, on a level walking path or in nature. A walk in a rugged terrain where you have to think where to put your next foot to avoid falling is the best type by far of exercising, because it exercises both the body and the mind. As a rule of thumb, one should do aerobic exercise to the degree of intensity when he/she cannot talk while working out; this means that the heart beat is increased to the maximum possible. Not only this, strength building exercises are also important.
As the old adage goes, excess of anything is bad for you. Enjoy everything in moderation, be it food, or entertainment or spending money on shopping. Even exercising. In food habits for example, a moderate lifestyle with healthy practices could mean a balanced diet of all food groups in moderation, with more plant-based food than animal – based food.
Man is a social animal. We are wired to live in society, in contact with others. And the more we interact with people who help us grow, the better are our chances of maintaining a positive and growth-oriented outlook, which is immensely important for maintaining physical and mental health in old age.
There are many things that young people can learn from older people. Even if the elderly might be physically not as strong, their wealth of experience and wisdom are invaluable to the youngsters who lack the lived experience of decades.
There are routine medical tests that can detect common ailments, and these tests should be done once a year or as often as necessary as one ages. It is not only life threatening diseases that one should check for; the illnesses that can affect the quality of life should also be screened for, and a doctor’s advice sought.
You become what you think. Prophesies can be self-fulfilling. Therefore, do not get into the trap of thinking of yourself as old and invalid. Your internal narrative should be one of vibrant life, not of hopeless retirement from active life.
There are many cognitive strengths such as pattern recognition, crystallized intelligence, wisdom and accumulated knowledge that older people possess considerably more than youngsters. This wealth of experience-born cognitive strengths in oneself should be appreciated well as one ages, and put to good use in activities such as doing voluntary work.
The brain is continuously evolving; the concept is called neuro plasticity. Activities such as travelling, spending time with grandchildren, and immersing oneself in new activities and situations such as learning a new language, taking up a new hobby, joining a musical instrument lesson, or starting to go on hikes with friends, are immensely useful to build new connections in the brain. Do new things whenever you can. It is only your own imagination and courage that decide the limits of your experiential horizons.