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September is Healthy Aging Month which is something we can all acknowledge since we’re all aging. I like to call it “gaining momentum.” We all gather momentum as we age through the build-up of experiences and insights. Embrace this dynamic process that leads to new abilities and knowledge that can be shared with one another.

There is not one right way to age well or a certain path that we must take. Find what works for you and maintain a positive outlook along the way.

Here are 5 tips to living well at each age and stage:

1. Focus on “nutrient dense” foods. Counting calories is not enough when it comes to smart food choices. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based proteins (beans, peas) provide vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that are essential to healthy aging. Get more bang for your buck by adding more color to your plate and sticking to lean proteins.

2. Laugh more often, it can heal what ails you. Laughter is the equivalent to “internal jogging.” According to William Fry, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University, one minute of laughter is equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine. Laughter not only rejuvenates your mood, it also reduces blood pressure, relaxes muscles, strengthens the immune system and can lower stress in troubled times. Laughing is also contagious so it’s best we spread it around.

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3. Listen to your body and take preventive steps to protect your health. Every day we make hundreds of decisions about how we spend our time and what we choose to eat and drink. Make each decision count and choose foods that nourish and sustain and activities that invigorate. What are some self-care activities you engage in to protect your health? It could be as simple as getting regular health check-ups, putting on sunscreen and eating a balanced diet. Make prevention a priority.

4. Stay active your way. You don’t have to run marathons to reap the benefits of physical activity. Walking, raking the leaves and house chores count toward your daily requirements. The point is to move more and sit less. Find activities you enjoy to keep the momentum going. If you’re able, aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.

5. Stay hydrated. Our bodies are made up of about 60% water but this number decreases as we age and so does our sense of thirst. Is your urine dark-colored or have you been feeling fatigued? These are signs of dehydration so don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water and other fluids. Water is essential for joint lubrication, regulating body temperature and digestion. Proper functioning of these systems will help propel you through the day.

I have always believed that age is just a number and what matters most is how you live your life day-to-day. Choose to be the best version of you today and every day.

"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing!" — George B. Shaw

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Kristin Bogdonas is the nutrition & wellness educator for University of Illinois Extension serving Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Stark Counties. To contact her about health and wellness programs, call 309-756-9978.

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