Top 10 Secrets for Graceful Aging
The Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest, most comprehensive
examination of aging ever conducted. Since the 1930s, researchers have studied
more than 824 men and women, following them from adolescence into old age,
seeking clues to the behaviors that translate into happy and healthy longevity.
The book "Aging Well", by Harvard Medical School Psychiatrist, George Vaillant
has acquired the results of these studies that track the physical and emotional
well-being of the 824 men and women from every social strata.
The Harvard study found that we are better off becoming preoccupied with the
following factors that turned out to be most predictive of whether we'd move
successfully through middle age and into our 80s.
In my practice and in New York City alone, there are hundreds of patients that
come to me for help and guidance in these issues. These suggestions, when
followed closely, really help to improve our overall quality and outlook on
life. It is not just one situation that makes us age (some quicker than others)
but a culmination of several situations that create rapid aging.
Here are the top 10 secrets for graceful aging:
1. Avoiding cigarettes: Smoking increases dramatically the risk of cancer,
hardening of the arteries, and heart disease. Not smoking is the single most
important factor for staying alive!
2. Keeping a healthy weight : Half the [U.S.] population is overweight, 20% is
obese. Obesity will stop you dead in your tracks. Maintaining a healthy weight
and eating the right foods prevents disease. Get a better handle on eating well!
3. Wear sun screen 15-20 minutes in the sun is essential for Vitamin D. When
your in the sun for prolonged periods of time (for more than 15-20 minutes
without a sunscreen, the inflammation process is heightened. Wear a sunscreen
with at least 15 SPF.
4. Proper diet : Add more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your daily
menu. Most have no fat, cholesterol, or sodium -- and they're low in calories.
What you do get is lots of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins, which
all play a part in keeping you functioning at your best.
5. Exercise regularly : After the age of 30 we tend to lose one-third of a pound
of muscle per year, and our bones become weaker as well if they aren't subjected
to weight-bearing exercise.
6. Develop good adjustment or coping skills : stress is apart of our daily life.
It is unavoidable. The single most important point you can make about stress is
that in most cases it's not what's out there that's the problem, it's how you
react to it. How you react is determined by how you perceive a particular
stress. Learn more on how to cope with stress.
7. Maintaining strong social relationships : Aging successfully, according to
Vaillant, is something like being tickled -- it's best achieved with another
person. Whether your social connections are with a spouse, offspring, siblings,
bridge partners, and/or fellow churchgoers, they're crucial to good health while
Other studies have confirmed the health-promoting power of social connections.
At the UCLA School of Medicine's geriatrics division, Teresa Seeman, PhD,
evaluated adults in their 70s over a seven-year period. She found that those
with satisfying social relationships remained more mentally alert over the
course of the study, with less age-related mental decline than people who were
more isolated. No one is certain exactly how a social network may help you stay
healthy, although some research has shown that men and women who live alone tend
to eat less well, which could jeopardize their physical and mental well-being.
People with social connections also may have stronger disease-fighting immune
At RAND, a policy research "think tank" in Santa Monica, behavioral scientist
Joan Tucker, PhD, says that having people in your life can make you feel loved
and cared for, which can enhance your mental well-being. At the same time, a
spouse or close friend can also remind you to go for walks or take your
medication, which can have benefits for your physical health as well.
8. Reduce anxiety : We have fears and worries but when they begin to dominate
our life and our behavior, and become the focal point in which everything
revolves, that's anxiety. Many factors can contribute; trauma, chemical
sensitivity, caffeine, heredity, drugs, alcohol, lifestyle choices....If you
cannot change the situation that is the focus of anxiety, try to determine a way
of trying to change your way of handling the problem.
9. Laugh : Humor is one of the best medicines! The most psychological predictor
of aging well is learning how to cope, re-channel, diffuse, and dispense of
envy, jealousy, aggression, revenge and anger.
10. Pursuing education : Curiosity and creativity help transform older people
into seemingly younger ones, says Vaillant, even if their joints ache and even
once their days of enjoying free access to the office copying machine are a
distant memory. Individuals who are always learning something new about the
world, maintaining a playful spirit, and finding younger friends as they lose
older ones also are making the most of the aging process.
Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac
Therapies for healing
mind, body, spirit