50 Reasons Why You’ll Age Better Than Your Parents
From new medical treatments to smarter nutrition, today's adults have a good shot at living healthier into old age.
Anti-aging breakthroughs you need to know
Thanks to advancements in science, technology, and medicine, there’s a good chance you’ll probably age better than your parents. So if you’re not already aware of or implementing these things in your life, you might want to start.
Getting older doesn’t have to mean becoming frail and disabled. You can have a great quality of life well into your 80s despite getting older. The push for more exercise throughout your life can actually have benefits later on. One Canadian study showed that octogenarian athletes had 30 per cent more motor units in their leg muscle tissue—resembling the muscles of people decades younger on a cellular level—than older people who were sedentary. So, we now realize that a decline in muscular health as we age is not inevitable. “We know the benefit of fitness at every age,” says New Jersey-based dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies.
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Better joint replacements
Joint replacements as we age are increasingly common, due in part to more older people seeking to maintain an active lifestyle. A University of Iowa study found that total knee replacement surgeries have more than doubled in the past 20 years. And thanks to better materials, surgical techniques, and recovery protocols, the rate of success is high. According to the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, 90 per cent of joint replacements will still be working well after 20 years. “Better, more durable implant materials, as well as the ability to achieve ideal implant alignment, combine to improve the function and extend the service life of both hip and knee replacements,” says Dr. Andrew Glassman, MD, chair of the Department of Orthopaedics and chief of adult reconstructive surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
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A new attitude toward growing older
The old adage “age is just a number” turns out to be true: A better attitude toward getting older can actually help your physical health. A Yale study found that older people with more positive self-perceptions of growing old measured up to 23 years earlier than those with less positive self-perceptions. As society as a whole starts recognizing this, a new and better attitude will actually help us extend not only our lifespan but our “health span,” the amount of time we’re healthy. “It’s common sense that if you think about aging as being in crisis and decline, that is what will show up,” says Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, president of the healthcare consulting firm The Aging Experience. “Likewise, if you look at it as another chapter in your life, a quality chapter that brings new experiences and fulfillment, that is what you will attract.”
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Improved cartilage solutions
Even better than joint replacement are the improvements in ways to repair the body’s own cartilage. “Multiple advancements in cartilage restoration are available now in the U.S., and others are in clinical trials with the anticipation of being available in the future,” says David Flanigan, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. One technique, he says, involves harvesting and growing the patient’s own cartilage cells to create a scaffold, then implanting it for new cartilage tissue to grow around. Another uses grafts from donors, which are now able to be kept viable longer, allowing them time to reach the recipient. Plus, “these advanced procedures often allow surgeons to replace the focal damaged cartilage through smaller incisions than the past that can improve patient recovery,” Dr. Flanigan says. “All of these procedures are allowing patients to regain function and quality of life, and hopefully delaying the arthritic process within the knee.”
More plant-based food
Just as our knowledge of the benefits of physical activity has increased, so have we learned more about nutrition. “The two most important things that determine healthy aging are the lifelong diet and exercise programs that people choose to engage in,” says Pinchas Cohen, MD, Dean of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. “A diet richer in fruits and vegetables and lower in animal products and processed foods is critical.” One Harvard study showed that women in their 50s and 60s who ate more plant foods, whole grains, and fish, and fewer red and processed meats, were 40 per cent more likely to live past 70 without chronic illness. “A diet rich in pulses—including lentils, chickpeas, beans and dry peas—has been linked to reduced cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and obesity,” says Palinski-Wade. As our diets shift to more plant-based foods, we’ll live better longer.
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