Are These Habits Aging You?

There’s no denying it: we’re all getting older. Aging is not something that any of us can avoid – and hey, it’s not so bad, considering the alternative! But that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to age well. Whether you’re thinking about looking your best, feeling your best, or both, there are certain lifestyle habits that could be keeping you from living your best life, now and later on. Know what they are so you can make the healthiest choices possible, and consider adding in some positive habits, so you can shine on for years to come!

1. Not Getting in Your Zzzz’s

young caucasian woman sitting down in front of a computer at night with coffee in her hand.
Not getting the proper amount of sleep, whether due to working late or being a night owl, is not good for you.

Your later years are certainly not the time to skip out on your beauty sleep. You might think that you need less sleep as you age, but that’s actually not true. Your sleep patterns might change, but you still need to shoot for a good 7 or 8 hours a night. Not getting enough sleep can keep you from being at your best during the day, can cause unnecessary stress and begin to affect your mental and physical health. 

To get more sleep, first rule out any medical concerns with your doctor. Then, try solutions like sticking to a bedtime schedule, limiting naps, getting more exercise, and keeping screens out of your bedroom.

2. Stressing Out

Stress is everyone’s enemy, young and old. But did you know that studies show stress can actually change your brain function? These studies suggest that letting go of stress can help you avoid cognitive impairment and keep your mind younger and fresher for longer. How to lighten some of the load? Try some simple relaxation techniques, including listening to music, doing a few easy yoga poses, journaling, talking to a friend, practicing mindful meditation (not sure how? Try an app like Headspace or Calm), or even just sitting quietly and closing your eyes (add in a stress ball or fidget spinner if you like!). 

3. Forgetting to Forgive

caucasian woman standing with her back to the young african american woman sitting on the floor looking away from her with her hands crossed.
Holding a grudge can affect your overall health, including giving you high blood pressure and heart issues.

It may surprise you to know that studies have actually been done on how the ability to forgive others affects us physically, as well as psychologically. And the results are in: the benefits of forgiveness include lower blood pressure, less depression, less stress, and less anxiety. Forgiving can also help you let go of unhealthy anger, which can contribute to muscle tension, heart problems, and decreased immune function. Not only that, but when you let bygones be bygones, you can go back to living a more productive life – and you’ll probably end up with fewer frown lines!

Where do you start with forgiveness? Well, start by forgiving the small things. Then, when it comes to the bigger hurts, talk them through with someone, and try to find ways to look on the bright side. Instead of stewing with resentment, work towards your own happiness and focus on the good in your life. 

4. Passing on Fruits and Veggies

You might need fewer calories as you age, but where you get those calories still matters! Being a junk food addict or a strictly meat and potatoes person is not going to cut it when it comes to keeping you looking and feeling your best. Want a healthy glow as you age, as well as a healthy gut and heart? Remember to eat your rainbow (lots of colorful fruits and veggies), as well as heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and fiber-rich whole grains. 

5. Sneaking Out for a Smoke

This one might be both the easiest and hardest habit on the list – the easiest to identify as extremely unhealthy, but the hardest to quit. But there are plenty of reasons to look for a way to kick the butts, both for health reasons and aesthetic reasons. Studies show that in addition to shortening your life by increasing your risk for heart and lung disease, as well as cancer, smoking can activate enzymes that break down the elasticity of your skin, giving you a more wrinkled and pasty appearance. Hey, we won’t judge: whatever reason motivates you to quit is a good one! Remember, quitting can be very difficult, and might take a few tries. Talk to your doctor, try nicotine gum or patches, go to a support group – just don’t give up.

6. Hitting the Bottle Too Hard

caucasian woman with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.
Smoking and drinking too much can lead to health issues such as cognitive decline and loss of elasticity of your skin.

This is a tough one. We’re often told conflicting things, like “drink at least one glass of red wine a day” and “stay away from alcohol completely for optimum health.” A moderate amount of alcohol (especially red wine) might have some benefits in moderation, but the real issue is that what is “moderate” changes as you age. According to the American Geriatrics Society, more than one drink a day for an older man and half of one for an older woman can be too much. Drinking too much can lead to cognitive decline, and could contribute to dangerous falls. Remember also that alcohol can interfere with certain medications, so be sure to talk to your doctor about whether it’s ok for you to indulge now and again.

7. Settling into That Groove in Your Couch

Listen up, couch potatoes! Think you should slow down as you age to prevent injury and accidents? Definitely not – in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. According to the Centers for Disease Control, physical activity can help control arthritis and maintain healthy bones, stamina, and muscle strength, all of which help prevent falls. It also reduces the risk of dying from heart disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Not only that, but, according to a study by the National Institute on Aging, exercise might even improve your memory. How much more could you ask for as you age than staying healthy, mobile, independent and sharp?

It’s easy to add more movement into your day. The CDC recommends fitting in 150 hours a week, which you can break down into 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week, or you can try “fitness snacking,” which means scattering a few minutes of exercise throughout the day. The most important thing is to find something you enjoy: try strolling with a friend, going for a swim, taking a leisurely bike ride, or following along with an online yoga class. Even a session of dancing around the house with your sweetie counts!

Aging happens to the best of us. We can’t turn back time, and our bodies and brains are going to inevitably change – we can’t control that. But what we can control is how we approach aging, and how we treat our bodies as we get older. With a little tweaking of our daily habits, we can continue on a path to a long and healthy life. 

Go With Your Gut: The Connection Between Our Gut & Our Overall Health

Most of us are looking for ways to make our bodies healthier. In fact, over 80% of us take vitamins and supplements every day. But the secret to health might not be in a pill, it might be in the foods we consume. We’ve all been taught about the “food pyramid” and the importance of eating healthy, but we may not think about how important our digestive system actually is. Feeding your “gut” properly can make all the difference to your overall health. Here’s why, and what you can do to keep you and your gut healthy. 

It Takes Guts diagram of intestine labeled

We used to believe that our digestive system was a simple, one-track tube for food to pass through. Now we know it’s much more than that. Your “gut” is not just a pit in your stomach where food goes, it is a whole microbiome, which is home to 300 species of bacteria and trillions of other microorganisms. We rely on these microorganisms, microbiota or “good bacteria”, to help break down food and extract nutrients, support our immune systems to fight off the “bad bacteria”, and more. 

When your gut is healthy and balanced it supports digestion, reduces the risk of autoimmune diseases, contributes to a positive mood and mental health, and improves the quality of your skin, hair and nails. Gut health is impacted by the food we eat, as well as by stress levels, sleep quality, and antibiotics. 

The Secret To A Healthy Gut

How do we support this important part of our body? Experts suggest these five steps for a healthier gut.

caucasian woman sitting down pushing donuts away and has a salad in front of her.
Eliminate junk food to get a healthier gut.
  1. Eliminate the junk! Over-processed, sugary foods are hard to digest and over-work the microbiota in your gut. Eliminating these foods makes their job easier. 
  2. Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods are great sources of probiotics, which contain live bacteria cultures that can support the bacteria in your gut. Try unprocessed yogurt, kefir (a yogurt drink), kombucha (fermented black tea), or vegetables like sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), kimchi (Korean-style fermented cabbage and other vegetables), or miso (fermented soybeans). 
  3. Feed your good bacteria with prebiotics. Probiotics feed on prebiotics. Prebiotics are found in fruits, veggies, and whole grains. There are particularly high levels in green (under-ripe) bananas, onions, artichokes, garlic, and sprouted beans or legumes. 
  4. Reduce stress. For many people, stress brings on gastrointestinal issues: stomachaches, irritable bowel syndrome, or loss of an appetite. Other people might turn to comfort foods when stressed out. Neither of these are good for your gut microbiome! Take time to relax each day. Try venting to a friend or partner, writing gratitude lists, or indulging in self care. Staying ahead of your stress levels helps your gut stay healthy.

    caucasian woman with black hair in a white bed sleeping.
    Sleep is important for your gut and overall health.
  5. Get more (and better!) sleep. Getting plenty of high quality sleep allows you to fully digest your food, so your healthy microbiota can do its job!

By making some of these easy changes and trying new, fermented foods, you can improve your gut health in just a short time. People who follow a gut-friendly diet say their hair is shinier, skin is clearer, and even report more energy and focus. Pay attention to what goes into your body and see what changes – maybe you’ll find relief from a symptom you weren’t even aware of!

Is The Mediterranean Diet The Secret To Living Forever?

Most people would love the opportunity to live forever, while science hasn’t found a way to live eternally yet,  studies are showing there are ways to make sure you live as long as possible with simple diet changes. Olive oil, olives, fish, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, these foods are just some found in the Mediterranean diet. This diet is considered a super diet. Not only is it delicious, but it saves lives. Well, in a way. The Mediterranean diet has been

A study conducted in Italy showed that those who ate the Mediterranean diet, reduced their risk of death from all causes by 20%.
A study conducted in Italy showed that those who ate the Mediterranean diet, reduced their risk of death from all causes by 20%.

found to help you live longer, no matter what age you begin the diet. The program reduces the risk of death from all causes by 20%! Of course, in order to reduce the risk of death in your life, you have to stick to the diet. So how does this diet work exactly? Well, the foods carry so many vitamins and more that your body needs for healing and better functioning.

The Study

A study conducted by Harvard University and published in the British Journal of Nutrition focused on the health and dietary regimen of over 5,000 individuals aged 65 and older living in Italy. The researchers had participants complete a food questionnaire on their daily diet, with a point system of 0-9 depending on how close their diet was to the Mediterranean diet. Nine meant the person was eating a Mediterranean diet (or very close to it), while 0 meant they were far from the diet.

The Results

After all the data was collected from the participants, it appeared that those whose diet was closest to the Mediterranean had fewer signs of heart disease, and reduced mortality from other causes. The closer a person was to the Mediterranean diet, the lower risk of premature death. Every point counts, which means that even something as small as a greek salad at

The Mediterranean diet has been found to help you live longer, thanks to all the vitamins and antioxidants it offers.
The Mediterranean diet has been found to help you live longer, thanks to all the vitamins and antioxidants it offers.

dinner helps. Every point that a person received meant that their risk of premature death decreased by 5%.

While there is no exact reason why the dietary program prolongs life, there is one main ingredient the diet has that helps- monounsaturated fats. These fats are good fats which are associated with a longer life, decreased risks of heart disease, chronic disease, lower blood pressure, and improved brain function. These good fats are found in virgin olive oil, and olives- which are staples in the Mediterranean diet. Olives also contain a variety of nutrients such as vitamins A, E, iron, and fiber.

“We all know that the Mediterranean diet is good for health, but there are few studies focusing on the elderly,” stated Marialaura Bonaccio, an epidemiologist at the Mediterranean Neurological Institute, IRCCS Neuromed, and first author of the study. “If you start a good healthy lifestyle when you are young, probably your benefit will be even greater,” said Bonaccio, “But even if you are old and you start having a healthy lifestyle including diet you can (live longer).”

Not only is the Mediterranean diet delicious and super easy to stick to, it also helps you live longer. It doesn’t matter what age you start the diet, as soon as you bring it and keep it up, then you immediately receive the benefits that come with it. It is like a magical diet that can reduce serious health issues. Honestly, it is that easy. Eating healthy can be done, as long as you put in the time. You can start slow by incorporating olive oil when you cook, and then add fresh fish, lean meats, feta cheese (yum), olives, yogurt, nuts, whole grains, and of course vegetables.

The Importance of Family Mealtimes

When was the last time you sat down with your family and ate dinner? Is the answer not in a while? Between going to work, taking kids to after-school activities, and making sure their homework is done, there is no time for a sit down meal. Most of the time, a dinner together is the only time of the day to reconnect with your children and spouse. Family dinner is the best time to laugh, talk about your ups and downs of the day, and take the time to listen to each other.

Having dinner together as a family strengthens a family's relationship.
Having dinner together as a family strengthens a family’s relationship. It is a time to unwind, talk, and listen to each other.

Stronger Relationship

It goes without saying that an open line of communication is what makes a relationship successful. This goes the same for relationships with your kids.

Something as simple as sitting at the table together and enjoying each other will build a kid’s self esteem. It also builds their sense of belonging, which in turn helps them with their friends and finding out who they are in school. Kids will less likely fall into peer pressure due to not only their high self-esteem, but the ability to come talk with their parents. And as for those who were bullied? Studies show they bounce back quicker. That strong bond between your children you build with them at the dinner table, will follow them through life.

Produces Productivity

Dinner conversation has great benefits on a young child’s language skills. Studies have shown that when young kids sit at the table for dinner, they learn more words than when being read to aloud. These kids learned approximately 1,000 words more than kids who did not sit at the dinner table with the family. Dinner together also teaches kids manners and social skills.

Family dinners increase productivity and better grades in school.
Family dinners increase productivity and better grades in school.

Older kids also benefit from sitting at the dinner table. Studies provided that young aged school kids and teens who ate at the table 5 to 7 days a week, were twice as likely to get A’s and B’s. These kids were also less likely to be depressed, and less likely to use drugs.

Save Money

Do you want to save money? If the answer is yes, then eat at home more! Eating a meal at the dinner table with your family is cheaper than eating out. Let’s do the math for a week of eating out versus eating at home. A meal for a person is about $10. A family of four’s check will be about $40 for the night. Doing this for 5 days a week will cost about $200. However, if you cook a meal at home, it will cost about $20 of groceries to make a meal for 4. This will cost you about $100 for 5 days. You save $100. Win!

Better Eating Habits

Getting kids to eat healthy food, such as vegetables and fruits, is a struggle. It is sometimes such a fight that even I want to just give up, and consider it a loss. But, studies show that kids who sit down and eat with their family are more likely to make healthier choices growing up. Kids will have a lower body-mass index and more controlled weight. This is because home cooked meals are just healthier than restaurants and fast food. I mean do we really need that double cheese gordita crunch wrap supreme? No, it is extremely unhealthy and lacks the nutrients your

child’s growing body needs.

Having dinner with your family helps you all to escape the drama from the day. Home is a safe place for you and your family, and the dinner table is where you can let loose and relax with them. Make a rule to unplug and put away the technology at the table, and plug into each other.  If it may seem like it is too hectic to fit in, try to plan ahead meals, and have your kids help you cook. It can be a fun bonding experience.