Your 80s are the new 60s -- you aren't old yet, so don't you dare use your age as an excuse to be lax about your health. Now more than ever, you can make a difference in your longevity. Your 80s are a time to be on top of any health conditions, and be religious about screening appointments. You can also work to preserve your memory and brain function, balance, energy level and much more. Get started with this longevity To-Do life today.
1. Eat for Healthy Aging
Maybe you didn't have the nutrition of a saint your entire life -- that's okay. The good news is that making improvements now can really help to stop and (in some cases) reverse the damage already done. Start by eating as many antioxidants as you can. Why? These substances, found in plants, provide the raw material your body needs to make repairs and prevent damage. See the list above for the foods with the most antioxidants.
From high blood pressure to cancer, screenings can save your life. Sure, it's a pain to schedule the appointments, get to the doctor's office and then wait for a test -- but do it anyway. I know it's inconvenient and even a little bit scary, but find a way to make it a least a tiny bit fun. Save a good magazine to read only while you are waiting, reward yourself with a nice lunch afterwards or bring a friend and make a screening date. Whatever you do, screenings really can save your life.
Adherence is what medical professionals use to say "follows doctors' orders." It turns out that many people are not adherent. People will (on their own and without consulting a doctor) just stop taking medications. This is very dangerous. It's really amazing how many people do this. If you believe that your medication is not working or is causing difficult side effects, talk to your doctor. Keep a log of your symptoms and have a detailed conversation about what is best for you -- but don't go changing doses, taking breaks and stopping your medications.
Your body is built to move. Movement keeps your heart, your bones, your muscles and even your brain healthy and active. The more you move, the more energy and health you will have. Make movement a part of every day. You can do formal exercise or just get out and walk. Sign up for some classes on yoga or other types of exercise that combine balance, strength and flexibility -- but whatever your do, keep moving!
5. See Friends, Protect Your Brain
Seeing your friends can protect your brain. Older adults who reported less loneliness were more likely to have healthy, well-functioning brains year later. Why is this? Our brains are stimulated by people (much more so than by crossword puzzles). People are engaging, interesting, and sometimes hard to understand. Almost every encounter with another person present the brain a number of emotional, cognitive and social puzzles to solve. Spend time with people and keep yourself sharp.
One of the reasons that relationships are good for aging is that people can be helpful. When you are not feeling well, need some extra help or are just going through a bad day; having friends and family nearby can really help. Here's the trick -- they can't help if you don't let them. Sure, you don't want to annoy other people, but no one can help you unless you ask them. Make clear, limited requests and people will be glad to help out when needed. It is easier for your friends and family to help you with small things than to let problems build up in secret.
Stories are a fundamental way your brain processes the world. Taking a moment and telling rich, creative stories is a great brain work-out. Not only that, but telling stories well is a way to connect with people. Instead of reporting "just the facts" when you are talking on the phone or with loved ones, develop ways of enriching your language, adding drama and keeping interest. Spending time on this will keep your brain sharp and your relationships strong.
8. Keep a Good Sleep Schedule
There is a terrible myth out there that older people need less sleep. It's simply not true. All adults, regardless of age, need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. As you age, you may find yourself sleeping less than that -- but this is because of sleep challenges, not changes in sleep needs. Illnesses (like high blood pressure), medication side effects and bad habits (like napping too long or watching TV in bed) combine to make sleep a challenge for the older adult. Spend a week or two focusing on improving your sleep habits and see if you don't start feeling younger.
Don't let your brain get bored. If your days are too routine and predictable, your brain is just going to start "tuning out." Curiosity is one of the best ways to prevent that. Become engaged in the world around you, make changes in your daily routine and find something you are passionate about. Use the techniques here to get your started and then make up your own. If you can always find something interesting, then your brain will be more likely to age well.
10. Remember to Work On Memory
We've already talked about keeping your brain fit, but don't forget to work on your memory specifically. Your memory needs exercise too just like your curiosity. Do a memory "work-out" every day. You can try simple things like not using lists, trying to remember to open the door with your opposite hand or driving a new way to a store. As you keep practicing, you'll develop new techniques and "exercises" for your memory.