Today's question comes from a listener who's turning 30 and seeking tips to stay healthy in the next decade and beyond. Happy Birthday to our listener!
Most people start to think about the future of their health when it’s too late – meaning, they’ve been diagnosed with a chronic disease. Heck, that was me.
What steps can you take right now to help you feel your best as you prepare to cross more birthday milestones?
1. Continue to Stay Active
What many people discover is that it becomes more difficult to stay active as we get older. There are a number of reasons for this: work and family life start to become more of a priority, your schedule starts to fill up, and honestly, it’s literally more difficult. Once we hit our late 20s and early 30s, our muscles start to become smaller. The fancy way of saying this is our muscles atrophy. This process is actually natural. But if we stay active, we can delay this process.
The best way to do this is to be sure you are incorporating some form of resistance training into your routine. Of course, this can mean that you actually lift weights. Even yoga and Pilates count.
2. Manage Your Weight after Turning 30
Another nasty side effect of aging is weight gain. Yes, our metabolism does slow as we age. This is mostly because our Resting Metabolic Rate –the amount of calories we burn at rest each day – starts to slow down. In part, this is due to our muscles shrinking. We end up burning fewer calories each day. But at the same time, many of us continue eating the same amount of calories each day… if not more! Plus, like I said, we tend to be less active as we age, so we need fewer calories, but eat the same amount or more, and are less active. This is a perfect recipe for weight gain.
We’re learning that as our weight climbs, our risk for disease does, too. Carrying too much weight leads to increased stress on the body; this is called “systemic inflammation.” Systemic inflammation is equivalent to your body being stressed all the time. When your body is always stressed, increased disease risk is the nasty side effect. Illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, sleep apnea, and even some form of cancer are more common in those that are overweight or obese. The good news is that you can control your metabolism to some extent by trying to burn more calories by staying active. See tip #1.
3. Stay Social
Human beings need other humans around. That’s just how we’re built. We tend to be healthier when we have friends and family around. Well, let me clarify… friends and family that we actually like to be around. Being able to have the unconditional love and support from others makes us happier and healthier.
When we look at studies on aging, we find that social support is so important. Having 845 Facebook friends doesn’t appear to matter as much. Staying social has been found to even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Eat Your Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are a type of fatty acid. We need fat in our diet, and this is one that many of us here in the U.S. need to consume more often. Remember how I mentioned systemic inflammation – our bodies being under stress? Omega-3 fats help prevent this inflammation. Think of it this way: systemic inflammation is like a raging fire, and omega-3 fats are the fire extinguishers.
Where do we find these fats in our diet? Use this acronym to remember: SMASHT.
This first S in SMASHT stands for salmon.
M is mackerel.
A is anchovies.
The other S is sardines.
H is halibut and herring.
And T, trout.
Algae also counts. You may have heard that flax seeds, walnuts, and soybeans contain omega-3 fats, too. You would be right, but plant-based versions of these fats actually contain a different form of omega-3 when compared to those found in fish and algae. They’re not as potent as the omega-3s found in the fish above.
If you can, eat 3 oz. of cold-water, fatty fish (like the acronym SMASHT) 2-3 times per week.
5. Stay Busy, But Manage Your Stress
As you get older, it seems like life responsibilities increase exponentially. It may feel at times like demands are piling up. You may feel like you never get a moment to catch your breath. Having 4 jobs myself, I can relate! But I promise you, it will be ok. It will all get done. You’ll find a way.
The key is to not stress out during those moments in between–those moments when it feels like there’s no way all of this can get done. Easier said than done, right? Pun intended.
Stress affects every cell in the body in a negative way. Why is stress management so important? This might be a “no duh,” but besides increasing risk of heart disease and stroke, we’re learning that stress can increase our risk for all sorts of other diseases (even cancer).
What to do? Here’s the trick: think of stress management like you would any other important event or meeting during your day. For me, I actually schedule a trip to the gym – I’m not kidding. I block out an hour out of my schedule on those days I want to get in that oh-so-important workout. That’s worked really well for me. Now, I block out time for some peace and quiet—my time for a mind dump, or to do some yoga, or some stretching, or some deep breathing, or some reading, or some guitar playing–an activity that makes me happy and helps me feel more energized and less stressed. Chances are, if you’re anything like me, if it’s not scheduled, you won’t do it. Schedule it, think of that time as sacred, and you’ll be feeling your best in no time.