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Healthy aging through healthy lifestyles

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Healthy aging is a lifelong process of optimizing opportunities for improving and preserving all aspects of one’s health, as well as one’s physical, social and mental wellness. By doing so, we can delay or minimize the severity of chronic diseases and disabilities later in life, thus saving health-care costs and reducing long-term care needs.

It’s true that how long we live and how long we remain active is partially due to genetics. But other factors – such as clean water, access to quality health care and immunization – can play a huge role, as well.

Rising standards of living have an effect on health. Better education helps predict future good health and healthy habits. Better nutrition and healthier lifestyles also have a positive impact. We are incredibly privileged in this country to have the ability to make such meaningful choices.

So how is your health? How would you rate your quality of life? Some of the factors we need to look at include body mass index, which tells people the appropriate weight they should be for their height. Our generation and those coming after us are at risk of becoming obese due to inactivity. Our children are more likely to be in front of a screen than in a park.

People who are active enough will be able to walk and run, have a strong grip and the ability to squat. The ability to squat is a good predictor of good health because it speaks to one’s flexibility and strength. It also measures balance, which is important for preventing falls. And we know that as we age, falls become more and more dangerous, and may even be life-threatening.

The Canadian government published a paper in 2006 looking at issues surrounding healthy aging. Not surprisingly, social connectedness was paramount. The other important factors included physical activity, healthy eating, fall prevention and tobacco control. Those are all major things that we have control over.

As the warm weather has finally come to our land, let’s get outside and, at a minimum, walk 30–45 minutes each day. Let’s get moving with whatever activity we can. Take a walk, enjoy some fresh fruits and vegetables. Go for a picnic or walk in the park, knowing that you are making good choices and moving in the right direction. Take a dance class, learn to row or swim, join a walking or running group.

Don’t just meet friends for coffee.

Get that cup of coffee a few kilometres from home. And, as for tobacco, there’s
nothing to say, nothing to negotiate: no amount is safe; it is off the table – period.