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Thursday, July 18, 2024

The year in aging: What we learned about getting older in 2023

In recent years, there has been a significant focus on aging. This has led to notable progress in research, as well as an increasing interest among individuals seeking insights on how to extend their lifespan while maintaining good health. Dr. Barbara Bawer, a family medicine physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, emphasizes that aging doesn’t necessarily mean a slowdown. She notes that as our population ages and advancements in medicine and technology enable longer lives, we aim for these extended years to hold significance. We want to use them for our pursuits, rather than simply passing them by in care facilities.

This year’s research has made significant strides in finding ways to reduce the risk of chronic conditions, emphasizing the impact of specific foods on brain health, and even shedding light on methods to slow down the aging process. Additionally, intriguing findings have emerged, indicating that older adults excel in navigating certain scenarios compared to their younger counterparts. Here’s a glimpse into what we

What have we learned about aging in 2023?

These are some of the key research advancements of the year:

  • Adopting healthy habits can increase lifespan. Studies presented at the Nutrition 2023 conference showed that people who practice eight healthy lifestyle habits by middle age live longer than those who don’t. These habits include physical activity, avoiding smoking, managing stress, eating well, avoiding binge drinking, staying away from opioids, getting good sleep, and building positive social relationships.
  • Social interactions help seniors adapt to aging. Older adults who have a high level of life satisfaction can cope better with the challenges of aging. Research involving over 8,000 participants showed that certain social interactions, such as engaging with children, volunteering, socializing with friends, using community centers for seniors, and joining hobby clubs, contribute significantly to life satisfaction across different age groups.
  • Starting strength training later in life can be beneficial. A study focused on people aged 85 and above found that resistance training, done three times a week for 12 weeks, resulted in increased muscle mass, strength, and physical performance. This regimen was just as beneficial for this age group as it was for healthy older adults aged 65 to 75.
  • Sex has a positive impact on cognitive health in older adults. Studies found that quality sexual experiences, regardless of intercourse or orgasm, among adults aged 62 to 74, were linked to improved cognitive functioning. Additionally, those aged 75 to 90 engaging in sex more frequently showed enhanced cognitive health, possibly due to increased blood flow and emotional connection.
  • Age affects distraction tendencies. Research comparing adults aged 18 to 35 with those over 60 during a simple online task discovered that younger adults were more prone to distraction by negative thoughts, which negatively impacted their task performance. In contrast, older adults demonstrated reduced distraction by negativity and outperformed their younger counterparts.
  • Housing affects biological aging. Studies analyzing UK adults found a correlation between renting and accelerated biological aging compared to homeownership. Renting exhibited a stronger association with faster biological aging than unemployment or former smoking, indicating the potential negative impact of challenging housing situations on health. These significant findings from 2023 shed light on various aspects of aging, offering insights into health, social interactions, physical activity, and housing circumstances that affect older adults.
  • Ensuring adequate hydration is linked to healthy aging and longevity, as highlighted by a National Institutes of Health study published in eBioMedicine. Examining health data from 11,255 adults across 25 years, the study revealed that individuals with higher serum sodium levels, indicating lower fluid intake, were more prone to developing chronic conditions and displaying advanced biological aging signs. Less hydrated adults were also observed to have a higher likelihood of premature death compared to well-hydrated counterparts. To maintain optimal hydration, the National Council on Aging suggests drinking one-third of your body weight in fluid ounces per day. For instance, a person weighing 150 pounds should aim for 50 ounces of water daily, though consulting a primary care physician for personalized recommendations is advised.
  • Furthermore, calorie reduction has shown potential in slowing down aging, as evidenced by a two-year randomized controlled trial involving 220 healthy individuals. Those reducing their calorie intake by 25% exhibited up to a 3% slower pace of aging, akin to the impact of quitting smoking, according to the study published in Nature Aging.
  • Dietary choices, such as following the Mediterranean or MIND diets, have shown promise in promoting brain health and reducing dementia risk. An autopsy study of 581 individuals published in Neurology found that those adhering to diets high in leafy green vegetables, as in the MIND or Mediterranean diet, were less susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Moreover, swapping mayonnaise and margarine for olive oil could lower the risk of dementia, as indicated by a Harvard University study involving 60,582 women and 31,801 men. Consuming more than 7 grams of olive oil daily correlated with a 25% reduced risk of dementia-related mortality, while replacing a teaspoon of margarine or mayonnaise with olive oil daily resulted in up to a 14% lowered risk of dementia-related mortality.

Here’s the guidance from doctors on maintaining health as you age

Aging is a major risk factor for the most common causes of death, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. William Hu, the chief of cognitive neurology at the Rutgers Institute for Health, points out that aging is not just about the number of years a person has lived. Rather, aging is a health trait in itself, and individuals may age differently regardless of their education, finances, or genetic makeup.

While ongoing research uncovers insights into healthy aging, doctors currently advocate adhering to established healthy lifestyle practices. “There’s no magical formula for healthy aging,” notes Dr. Bawer, emphasizing that healthy aging stems from a combination of various factors, a sentiment echoed by Dr. Hu, who underscores that successful aging isn’t singularly dependent on specific actions.

However, certain recommendations set the stage for future well-being. Prioritizing a diet rich in healthy, pesticide-free foods holds significance, according to Dr. Bawer, who urges minimizing processed food consumption.

Dr. Hu advises incorporating fruits and vegetables into one’s diet, ensuring sufficient and restorative sleep, and attending routine medical check-ups. Dr. Bawer stresses the benefits of daily walking, stretching exercises, and the importance of regular physical activity to maintain joint mobility, muscle strength, and overall circulation.

Additionally, fostering a strong sense of purpose contributes significantly to healthy aging, notes Dr. Scott Kaiser, director of geriatric cognitive health at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute. He highlights the importance of having a reason to rise each day, feeling a sense of responsibility, making valuable contributions, and potentially leaving a positive impact on the world—an outlook supported by numerous scientific studies.

This post originally appeared on YahooLife

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