Choices people make in their 20s and 30s about exercise, eating and handling health issues set the stage for the future, but in your 50s and 60s you still have time to make up for any mistakes and increase your odds of healthful aging. Eating well, spending time with others, getting screened for some health problems and tending to your emotional needs are all important.
Here’s what experts had to say about some simple changes you can make or measures to adopt to maximize your chances of aging well from middle age on.
Joy Bauer, a nutritionist and the author of “From Junk Food to Joy Food”:
Metabolism slows with age, so it’s vital to eat voluminous and tasty meals without bumping up calorie intake. Fruits and vegetables are high in volume and low in calories, so they fill you up without filling you out. They are also loaded with antioxidants to boost memory and brain power. Eat a vegetable with every meal — veggies are packed with potassium, calcium and magnesium, which help lower blood pressure and protect bones and joints.
Andrew Weil, a physician and the director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, and author of “Mind Over Meds”:
To reinforce healthy habits, spend more time with people who have them. To improve eating habits, spend time with people who eat well; if you want to be physically active, associate with active people. Maintain social and intellectual connectedness: They correlate strongly with healthy aging.
Kenneth Lin, a family medicine physician and an associate professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine:
Have a complete physical every two years in your 50s, annually after age 60. My other recommendations would be blood pressure measurement (once every year) and screening for colorectal cancer (at variable intervals). Cholesterol screening is important, but frequency depends on risk factors, including blood pressure and tobacco use. Mammogram frequency depends on individual risk, driven by age and family history, so women should consult their doctors. Patients should always ask about the pros and cons of tests; there are always downsides to screening — like false-positive results.
Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York:
At every age, there is strong evidence that you can improve thinking and physical fitness. Baby boomers might be tempted by the lure of brain training, but there are no credible data that practicing brain games transfers to any other cognitive skill other than the game itself. Instead, physical exercise has been shown in numerous studies to enhance memory and performance speed.
Gunnar Peterson, a Los Angeles-based personal trainer:
Focus more on recovery — sleep, water and bodywork — because you are a little more: “seasoned,” but you are by no means limited. Make sure your strength training is comprehensive and “pre-habilitative.” At 65, you should challenge your balance system, keep lifting weights. And have fun — you’ve earned it.