Healthy aging: Never too early—or too late

Advice based on your current decade of life

Aging begins at birth. Not a shocking statement, but this little reminder can help you be more aware of ways to prepare for healthy aging during each decade of your life.

”Surveys about aging consistently reveal that people want more than simply living a long life,” says Eric B. Larson, MD, MPH, Group Health’s vice president for research and executive director of Group Health Research Institute. “They want to maintain function and independence so their quality of life remains good as they grow old.”

But you shouldn’t wait until retirement age to start setting goals for healthy aging, he advises. Distinct activities during each decade of your life can set you on a path toward better aging.  

What is important in your teens and twenties may be less so for you when you’re in your fifties or sixties. Health goals for when you’re in your forties, like learning about menopause, well, that can wait a bit if you’re still in your twenties.

With that in mind, we’ve come up with a handy series of health tips by the decades of a typical life. Check them out in our Healthy Findings blog, starting with your own current decade of life. Then, take a look ahead at what you may need to focus on in your next decade of healthy living.

Check out your decade in the column on the right.

You can even look back at previous decades and see if you might have missed anything while you were busy living. Remember, it’s never too late to start living healthy!

What is healthy aging?

To maintain your health into old age, it helps to know:

  • What kinds of changes are usual as people age?
  • What kinds of decline are unusual?
  • How can we prevent or delay the onset of chronic diseases or conditions?
  • How can we successfully adapt to chronic conditions if they do occur?

Common aging conditions

When people live to be elderly, the conditions that commonly affect function and independence include:

  • Bone and joint disease.
  • Heart and vascular disease.
  • Cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Hearing problems.
  • Vision problems.
  • Depression.
  • Lung problems.
  • Skin problems.

Maintaining the best you possible

Of course, the best way to stay healthy is to avoid common health traps (risky behaviors, bad habits) and to adopt a healthy lifestyle (proper diet, exercise, and social connections). Naturally, making your health a priority earlier in life is better. From age 20 to 40, the most benefit comes from habits such as:

  • Avoiding tobacco use.
  • Avoiding alcohol abuse.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Developing an adaptive coping style, which includes optimism, a supportive social network, and a strong spiritual life.

These issues become even more important after age 40, along with the ability to manage chronic illness and other health problems that may arise.

Many of our research-based healthy aging tips would be useful at any age. But let’s be honest: Nobody can do it all, all of the time. Start by taking a look at your decade of life and do a little self-check. Check out our list in the right column to find your decade. See something you can work on? Talk to your doctor or a member of your health team and make a plan to get on track. Your future self will be glad you did.

 

by Joan DeClaire