Tag Archive for: healthy aging

exercise and aging

exercise and aging

Most people know the basics of staying healthy—at least in theory. Eat nutritious foods. Exercise regularly. Sleep enough. But putting these healthy habits into practice is where there’s room for improvement. This is natural. Nobody is perfect, after all, and change can be difficult, especially after years of forming certain lifestyle habits.

Here’s the good news: supporting health at any age is possible no matter how long you’ve been putting off healthy lifestyle changes. It’s never too late to start living your best life.

Many people—especially those in middle age and later—think they’ve passed a point of no return on their health journey. That is, they think it is too late to see the health benefits of certain lifestyle changes. But studies show you can enjoy the benefits of healthy lifestyle changes at any age.

In other words, it’s never too late to start caring about your health and learning how to take care of your body. The first step is learning about the supporting science, and then applying health tips for all ages to support physical and mental health throughout your life.

Neuroplasticity: Habits, Change, and the Aging Brain

Humans are creatures of habit. Daily life is built around routines—meals, work, sleep, and hobbies. And, as you’re probably aware, these habits can be hard to break or change.

There’s a neurological reason for this. As you repeat certain behaviors or activities, the neurons in your brain rewire and adjust the way they fire to code that behavior as a habit. So the behavior literally becomes wired into your brain.

Naturally, these wired habits are difficult to break—difficult, not impossible. Your ability to change habits has, in part, to do with neuroplasticity, which is simply your brain’s ability to change.

From infancy and childhood (even into early adulthood), the brain is incredibly plastic. This means it changes and develops easily. As you age, this process slows so much that scientists used to think neuroplasticity disappeared completely around age 25. In other words, they thought the brain’s wiring was fully set by your mid-twenties.

Recent studies, however, have shown this isn’t the case. Your brain can form new connections, create new neurons, and change its structure at any age. The process might look different as you age, but it is still possible.

So yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks. And, more importantly, you can form new habits to support health at any age.

Out With the Bad: The Benefits of Dropping Unhealthy Habits Today

When people confront lifelong habits—whether it’s smoking, drinking too much, or eating too many processed food—they often ask the same question: how much of a difference could it really make?

The answer is simple. Dropping unhealthy habits as soon as possible can have a huge positive impact on your health.

Take smoking for instance. For a pack-a-day smoker of 20 years, each additional day spent smoking might seem like drops in the river. But the health benefits of quitting smoking, such as decreased risk of heart disease, can be seen after just one day.

Remember, if your goal is to replace unhealthy habits in your lifestyle, you have to start somewhere. Each day that you stick to your goals, you work towards rewiring your brain. So even if you’re not seeing immediate health benefits, you are working to create new neural pathways that will help you maintain a healthier lifestyle going forward.

Making the Change: How to Take Care of Your Body as You Age

The habits you set in early adulthood are factors that will shape your health profile later in life. Depending on your lifestyle, your risk for serious ailments will change. But those statistics aren’t set in stone.

Adults in their sixties, seventies, and beyond can still see the benefits of improving their diet, physical fitness, and mental health. Together, these positive lifestyle changes can set the stage for a happy and healthy life that extends well into old age. Whether you’re a teen, early adult, or pushing past middle age, look at the following tips for supporting health at any age:

  • Incorporate exercise into your routine: Whether it’s a daily walk, weight training, or high-intensity cardio, it’s important to stay active no matter your age. In young adults, high levels of physical activity improve cardiovascular health, respiratory health, and can help you maintain a high level of fitness later in life.
    If you’re middle aged or older, physical activity is just as important, if not more so. Increased levels of physical activity can help support you overall cardiovascular health, and more. And for older adults, physical activity helps keep muscles strong, helping maintain mobility and ensuring you can continue performing day-to-day tasks.
  • Eat nutritious food: Your diet affects nearly every aspect of your life. Food is fuel, and you want to make sure you’re giving the body the nutrients it needs to run effectively throughout life. During childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, your diet provides your body with the fuel it needs to grow and develop.
    As you age, your diet can help you maintain a healthy weight—which looks a little different for everyone—and can help support total body health throughout your life.
    Additionally, healthy eating can just make you feel better. It’s hard to quantify, but people who eat nutritious foods often report feeling more satisfied and energized throughout the day. And this is a benefit you can take advantage of at all ages.
  • Keep your brain engaged: Scenic walks, reading, or learning a new skill are a few activities that can help keep your brain engaged throughout life. The brain loves a challenge—so why not give it one?
    By striving to learn throughout life, you can keep your brain active. This promotes neuroplasticity and your brain’s ability to continue to learn and grow into old age. Staying mentally engaged and challenged can also help optimize mental health throughout life.

Stay Positive with a Growth Mindset to Stay Healthy as Your Age

No matter your age, caring about your health involves adopting a growth mindset. It means believing that your health and lifestyle can change for the better. It’ll just take time and effort.

Remember, these changes don’t have to occur all at once. Start small and work towards your larger goals. It’s natural to slip up, but it’s up to you how you respond to your mistakes. So what are you waiting for? Take the first step towards health—no matter how small.

old vs young

old vs young

Everybody gets older—it’s just a fact of life. At different ages, however, aging can have different connotations. Throughout infancy, childhood, and adolescence, aging means growth—both physical and emotional.

But what does aging entail once you’re an adult? Early adulthood is typically when your body is in peak physical form. Naturally, this doesn’t last forever. So, as you move from early adulthood into middle age and on, you’ll likely notice gradual changes in how your body feels and what it can do.

Unfortunately, there’s no stopping these changes. But there are theories of aging that try to answer that difficult question: why do people age?

The answers you’ll read below can help provide background knowledge you can use to set yourself up to age as comfortably as possible. And a great place to start is the what, why, and how of aging. What should you expect as you age? Why do these changes occur? And how can you deal with them as they come?

Why Do People Age?

Aging is an incredibly complex process that scientists still do not fully understand. As such, there’s no easy answer as to why humans age. Here’s what is known: the cells in the body wear out over time. Their functionality decreases and their structure deteriorates. Scientists attribute this decline to a combination of factors sorted into two categories: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Although it rarely comes up in conversation, the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic aging is something most people are already aware of—they just don’t realize it. A middle-aged smoker might remark that they “have the lungs of an 80-year-old.” People would understand that statement because most are already aware that external—or extrinsic—factors can influence the aging process.

This leads right into two more key terms related to aging: biological age and chronological age.

  • Chronological Age: This is the number you give when someone asks how old you are. In other words, chronological age is the amount of time that has elapsed from your birth to the present. There’s no speeding or slowing the progression of chronological age.
  • Biological Age: Aging occurs as the cells in the body are damaged and deteriorate. This process is inevitable and, in relatively healthy individuals, occurs at roughly the same rate. So if you look at the cells of a healthy, 30-year-old woman, her biological age is probably about 30. If an individual has been exposed to extrinsic factors of aging—say they’re a heavy smoker—their cells will “age” more rapidly. And their biological age might be closer to 50 while their chronological age is 30.

Think back to that first question: why do people age? You now know aging is the gradual breakdown or deterioration of the cells in the body. This process happens naturally but can be sped up through a variety of external factors.

That’s a pretty simple concept, but this explanation does bring up another question, though. Why do the cells in the body naturally deteriorate? It’s not a process that benefits individuals. Most detrimental processes are weeded out through thousands of years of natural selection. So why haven’t humans evolved to have endlessly healthy cells? This is where the different theories of aging come in.

Explaining the Theories of Aging

There’s no scientific consensus around how or why the cells in the human body gradually and inevitably deteriorate. There are factors known to speed the aging process up, but there aren’t any proven methods for slowing the aging process beyond its natural rate.

This leaves a big question: why?

Scientists’ answers to this enigma fall into one of three categories: program, damage, or combined theories of aging. As you read about each theory of aging, remember that they offer possible explanations for humans’ limited lifespan, but no conclusive answer.

  • Program Theories of Aging: Scientists in this school of thought believe aging is not an accident. They think humans have evolved to age and eventually die. That makes the whole process a deliberate, programmed part of human genetics.
    From an evolutionary standpoint, this might feel a little bit backwards. Why would human evolution progress in a way that led to a fixed lifespan? The answer is altruism—not deliberate selflessness, but the development of evolutionary traits that benefit the species, not the individual.
    There are finite resources in the world. If humans lived forever, there would be fierce competition for those resources. One explanation for aging is that humans have evolved to die once they reach a post-reproductive age, leaving less competition for the younger generations.
  • Damage Theories of Aging: As mentioned above, it’s widely accepted that certain environmental factors can speed the aging process. Damage theories of aging follow a similar line of logic. These theories of aging pin humans’ eventual death on the gradual accumulation of damage to the cells, not a predetermined or preprogrammed genetic feature. The source of this cellular damage, however, is up for debate.
    One common theory is that natural processes of the body subject cells to small amounts of oxidative stress. That is, some body processes create byproducts that damage cells. Metabolism, for instance, creates reactive oxygen species (ROS) that cause tissue and cell damage over time.
  • Combined Theories of Aging: As the name suggests, combined theories of aging draw from program and damage approaches to create a comprehensive explanation.
    During the 1970s, B.L. Strehler, a scientist who studied old age, introduced four postulates (or assumptions) about aging. First, aging is universal and occurs in all species. Second, aging is intrinsic. Third, aging occurs incrementally. And, finally, factors are only part of the aging process if they hold no evolutionary advantage.
    Most modern combined theories of aging are based on these four postulates. They tend to focus on the specific ways cells deteriorate. (Is it the cell membrane? Or does aging have to do with the ability of cells to generate electricity?) But, again, despite the theories, there is no consensus on the central question: why do people age.

What to Expect as You Move Through the Stages of the Aging

A deep dive into the science of aging, though interesting, can sometimes shift the discussion too far from the effects of aging. Your cells deteriorate each day—that’s what aging is. But what impact does that have on your lived experience?

The effects of aging are perhaps best summed up by a common phrase. When describing an older relative or friend, you might say they are “slowing down.” And there’s a lot of truth in that statement. The aging process causes the body to operate less effectively and efficiently than before. This affects various body systems and processes. Whether it’s bouncing back from an injury, building muscle, or even moving around, everything gradually slows down.

The aging process is often described in five chronological stages or phases:

  • Independence: During this period, most individuals may notice their body slowing down a bit, but everyday tasks are still manageable. This period is mostly a continuation of regular adult life, but it is a good time to start thinking about future plans and needs.
  • Interdependence: This is the stage of life when everyday tasks begin to grow more difficult. Adults in the interdependence stage of old age are often able to live independently, but may require additional help with cooking, driving, and similar tasks. In most instances, a full-time caretaker isn’t necessary.
  • Dependency: As the name suggests, the dependency stage is when adults begin to lose the ability to live on their own. This stage comes at a different time for everyone. Physical and mental health play the biggest role in determining when adults reach the dependency stage. This can be an incredibly difficult and frustrating time, as the transition to having a full-time caretaker (a family member or professional) can be a jarring, unwelcome change.
  • Crisis management: This stage is when an individual requires more care (whether it’s medical or day-to-day assistance) than family members and other loved ones can provide. At this point in life, many individuals may need to relocate to a full-time care facility.
  • End of life: The end result of aging is, naturally, death. This stage looks very different for everyone depending on their needs. Many individuals will reside in a hospital, care facility, or hospice center, while others may live with relatives. The focus should be on providing an individual as much comfort, love, and care as possible during this final stage of life.

How to Deal With Aging

If there’s one fact that you’ll need to get comfortable with, it’s that you’re going to age. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. You can, however, take steps to make aging as comfortable as possible.

To do this, go back to the basics of a healthy lifestyle:

These lifestyle habits will help you continue to maintain normal levels of oxidative stress on your cells. And, in turn, you’ll help keep your biological age in line with your chronological age.

Additionally, consider ways to support your cellular health. Since aging is the deterioration of your cells, taking care of your cells is just about the best way to optimize aging as much as possible.

Beyond practicing healthy lifestyle habits, take the time to be mindful of the present. Each stage of life has its joys and setbacks. Take them as they come and enjoy wherever you happen to find yourself in the aging process!



You’re not getting any younger—though you probably don’t need to be reminded of that fact. Aging can be exciting, scary, sad, and just about every feeling in between. Needless to say, moving through the stages of life is a complex process—emotionally and physically.

As you age, you pass from infancy, adolescence, emerging adulthood, and eventually to middle age and beyond. These stages of life bring their own sets of challenges and rewards. But what exactly sets them apart? What is adolescence? What is adulthood? When do those transitions between stages happen? And when does adulthood become middle age?

Keep reading for the answers to these questions and more. By the end, you’ll have broken down adolescence, adulthood, and middle age. And you’ll be able to explain the characteristics and defining features of the stages of life.

What is Adolescence: It’s More Than Just the Teenage Years

Most people think of adolescents and teenagers as more or less the same group. And while there is a lot of overlap, there are differences. The teenage years begin at 13 and end at 19. Adolescence, on the other hand, starts somewhere around age 10 and continues until your early twenties.

This broadness is necessary because adolescence refers to the transition from childhood to adulthood—physically and mentally. This is a time of drastic physical, emotional, and social development. Because the adolescent stage of life spans over a decade, it is often broken into three phases: early, middle, and late adolescence. And each phase is characterized by its own set of changes and development:

Early adolescence (ages 10-13): This phase of adolescence is responsible for those oh-so-hated middle school years. Growth spurts typically begin during this time (especially for girls), as do other physical changes—like the growth of body hair and development of primary and secondary sex characteristics. These sudden, often drastic, changes can lead pre-teens to feel awkward or uncomfortable in their bodies.
While these physical changes are the scientific markers of early adolescence, there are also many mental changes and developments common in this stage of life. During early adolescence, preteens and teens often begin to develop a stronger sense of self. This often includes testing the limits of their independence and pushing for more privacy and self-determination.

In other words, during early adolescence, most individuals want to make choices for themselves. It could be what they wear, eat, or how their room looks. As early adolescents begin to form opinions, they often exhibit black-and-white thinking.

Middle adolescence (ages 14-17): There’s no clear line between early, middle, and late adolescence because everybody develops on a different timeline. But some developmental patterns hold true generally. Girls, for example, often hit their growth spurts in early adolescence, while many boys don’t have theirs until middle adolescence. And so much of middle adolescence, from a physical-development standpoint, can be described as “more of the same.”

During middle adolescence, teens experience rapid cognitive development. Though the brain won’t be fully developed for several more years, certain brain functions—such as logical reasoning—reach maturity by age 16. This means teens are just as capable of logical reasoning as adults. (Whether their ability to think logically translates into rational behavior or not is another story.)

Middle adolescence is also a time when many teens begin to explore romantic relationships. This often takes the form of dating. And teens may also begin to question and explore their sexuality to create and understand their own sexual identity.

All of these changes go hand-in-hand with teens’ desire for independence that typically grows stronger with age. And for teens in the United States, middle adolescence often brings the keys (pun intended) to that ultimate form of independence: a driver’s license.

Late adolescence (ages 18-21): If you’re surprised to see 21 included under adolescence, don’t worry—you’re probably not the only one! Teens legally become adults at age 18, so people tend to think this is when adolescence ends. In terms of development and growth, however, humans don’t reach adulthood until sometime in their twenties.

By late adolescence, most of your physical growth is out of the way, so the development that occurs during this stage is mostly cognitive. Teens are infamous for taking risks, but as they age, they improve at thinking ahead. This is all thanks to brain development.

The prefrontal cortex, which is the last part of the brain to develop, has just about reached its adult form by late adolescence. And the prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision making, among other key operations. (It’s important to note that the brain is still only mostly developed. It won’t reach full maturity until age 25 or 26.)

In this final stage of adolescence, the beliefs, identity, and values that began to develop in earlier years also become far more stable. They may change with experience, of course, but as you transition into adulthood these aspects of your identity are often what keep you rooted.

What is Adulthood and How to Tell When Adolescence Officially Ends

Kids and teens want more than anything to be a grown up. This raises a question without an easy answer: what exactly is a grown up? Ask any adult and they probably won’t give you a straight answer. Legally, anyone older than 18 is an adult in the U.S. But, as mentioned above, this cutoff doesn’t make much sense from a developmental standpoint.

So where can we draw the line between the adolescent and adulthood stages of life?

By age 22, the body is almost entirely done growing. Your bones (except for your collarbone, which won’t fully mature until your early-to-mid thirties) are the size they’ll be for the rest of your adult life. Your wisdom teeth have come in. And your brain is finishing up its final prefrontal cortex development.

From this time until middle age, your body operates at its peak physical performance. This doesn’t mean you’ll be in the best shape of your life. But it does mean your heart, lungs, muscles, and other organs will be operating at their most efficient and effective levels.

With these physical developments out of the way, adulthood brings a whole new set of developmental challenges: as a young adult, you will develop the social, emotional, and lifestyle habits that shape the rest of your life. No pressure, right?

Don’t worry, these changes don’t happen overnight. You’re not an adolescent one day and a full-fledged adult the next. It’s a gradual process. For this reason, many scientists have defined a new intermediary stage of life development: early or emerging adulthood.

What is emerging adulthood: Emerging adulthood is a term some researchers use to describe the transitional phase between adolescence and adulthood. It is not a developmental stage, per se, but rather a period of social and emotional exploration and growth. Emerging adulthood is a time when many young adults begin to explore various jobs, establish their first serious romantic relationships, and navigate the new set of challenges “adulthood” brings. (These challenges include living independently, finding a career, and, in some cases, becoming a parent or spouse.)

It is nearly impossible to pin down exact age boundaries for emerging adulthood because this stage varies widely from person to person. Some may settle into adulthood by 25, while others are still struggling to establish their adult identity well into their late twenties. Which is to say, describing adulthood isn’t an exact science.

Consider the question posed at the start of this section again: what exactly is a grown up? Or, in other words, what is adulthood? At this point, you’ve been given two ways to answer this question. You can approach it from a developmental standpoint or from a social and emotional standpoint.

The first provides a much more clear-cut answer: adulthood begins around age 22, when the physical developments that characterize adolescence are complete. But, as outlined above, this approach doesn’t always give a satisfying answer. It seems to only capture part of the picture. Most of all, it doesn’t pin down what adulthood means.

To capture the full picture of adulthood, you also need to consider social factors. Is having a job part of adulthood? Living independently? Having stable romantic relationships? You’ll have to answer those questions for yourself.

So what is adulthood? Sometimes the best answer might be “I know it when I see it.”

Middle Age: It’s Not All Downhill From Here

Emerging adulthood may be a vague, loosely defined stage of life. But middle age has clearer boundaries. It begins at 40 and ends at 65—give or take a few years on either end.

During this period, most people’s lives have stabilized in comparison to their twenties and thirties. By middle age, you’ll likely have settled into a career or career field, become comfortable with your beliefs and values, and are maintaining long-term, stable friendships and relationships. If early adulthood is a time of exploration and discovery, middle age is a time of settling in.

As you approach and move through middle age, you might find yourself frequently thinking, “I’m not as young as I used to be”—especially while exercising. People tend to hit peak physical performance in early adulthood. From there on out, the wear and tear on your body will become more apparent. It’s a natural part of aging.

This manifests itself in several ways. You might find yourself bouncing back from injuries much more slowly or getting winded faster. Additionally, risk for certain health conditions becomes much higher in middle age. Screening for these conditions can help detect them early—and early detection is a crucial part of treatment. After the age of 40, you should start screening for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. You may also screen for breast and cervical cancer if you are a woman, and prostate cancer if you are a man.

This might sound like a drag, but life is not all downhill from here! Studies show that happiness and life satisfaction bottoms out somewhere between ages 45 and 50—right as you are hitting middle age. From there on out, the older you get, the happier and more satisfied you will probably be.

Take Care of Your Health at Every Stage of Life

Every stage of life comes with unique challenges and rewards. So whether you’re a teen eager to grow up or an adult wishing you could turn back the clock, remember to focus on the present. Take care of your health no matter your age. It’s never too early or too late to make your lifestyle a little bit healthier. And take time to appreciate the joys each stage of life has to offer!

puzzle solving

puzzle solving

Aging is inevitable. Worrying about your brain health as the years start adding up doesn’t have to be.

It is true that getting older impacts your brain. Aging has some minor impact on memory as your brain and body change. But you have the power to protect your brain health as the years add up. The solution: developing healthy behaviors now to keep yourself mentally sharp and cementing good brain habits for the future.

Brain Health Behavior 1: Target the Right Food for Brain Health

When people hear “healthy nutrition,” fats are the last macronutrient many might think about. However, the right kind of fats are critical for your brain health! In fact, more than half your brain is made up of fat.

Healthy fats (those coming from plants and certain fish) are vital for the structure and function of your brain and its cells. The best source of these essential fats are omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like nuts, seeds, and fatty, oily fish—like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines.

In addition to the right fats, a brain-healthy diet also includes plenty green leafy vegetables (like spinach), veggies like broccoli, and berries.

A simple trick for supporting brain health is swapping foods like bread or mashed potatoes for healthier alternatives. A side of green vegetables or mashed cauliflower are good options. Also switch out your snacks by reaching for nuts and seeds instead of chips and cookies. Another tip when meal planning is to aim for two or three servings of fish for healthy proteins and the fats you read about above.

Brain Health Behavior 2: Exercise!

Your brain uses up more energy than any other organ in the body. To get that energy in the right place, your heart supplies your brain with nutrients and oxygen through lots of blood.

Protecting your heart and blood vessels is one key way you can make sure your brain has the energy it needs. And exercise is one healthy behavior proven to maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels. When you exercise, your body pumps more blood throughout the body, including to the brain.

When you exercise, vary the type of physical activity and your routine from day to day. A combination of different types of exercises can help keep you interested and mentally stimulated.

For example, you could do aerobic exercises like jump rope, swimming, or walking one day. Then resistance training exercises—like weightlifting—are tackled another day. You can even switch it up within the same routine. Whatever gets your body moving and keeps your mind engaged!

Brain Health Behavior 3: Seek Quality Sleep

One of the best ways to support your brain health as you age is tucking in for six to eight hours of uninterrupted quality sleep every night. This healthy slumber gives your brain enough time to process the experiences of your day and perform natural repair functions.

Think of it like required daily maintenance for a sensitive and powerful machine. If you skip out on maintenance, you risk damaging the machine’s parts. Eventually, that means having a device that doesn’t work as well as it should.

Regularly skimping on quality sleep can have serious consequences later in life. One study found that people who consistently slept six hours or less every night were at a 30% higher chance of developing cognitive issues.

If you find yourself having trouble with sleep, your environment might be the culprit. Put away phones and other screens an hour or two before bed. The light from these devices can make it difficult for you to fall asleep.

Other factors in your environment can impact your ability to get some shut eye: the temperature, ambient light, sounds, or pets. You should also avoid using your bed for activities that don’t need to happen in a bed (like working from home), so your brain won’t associate being in bed with performing other tasks.

Your behaviors before bed can also affect your sleep cycle. Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages in the evening and stick as close as possible to the same sleep-wake schedule every day.

Brain Health Behavior 4: Stimulate Your Mind Every Day

Your brain is always growing and adapting to every experience you go through. To keep your brain healthy, you must encourage it to continue learning and growing.

There are many activities that can be counted as brain-health exercises to stimulate your mind and keep your brain healthy and adaptable. For example, try something new! Pick up some knitting needles, a paint brush, a new food recipe, a musical instrument, or a pen and paper. It doesn’t matter if you’re any good at the skill; it only matters that you do it and let yourself enjoy it.

Brain Health Behavior 5: Spend Time in Nature

Urban life is incredibly busy. There’s traffic, other people, loud sounds, and myriad of sources of information for your brain to process nonstop.

While mental stimulation can be great, your brain needs breaks to process and relax. Besides adequate sleep, one of the best ways to give your brain a chance to breathe and optimize your mental performance is to spend time in nature. Whether you take a hike or just take time to smell the flowers around the neighborhood, nature can help maintain brain health.

If all you have is 10 minutes a day to take a walk, find somewhere to immerse yourself in nature. This could be a park or a pathway by your work or home. On days you can’t make it outside, listening to nature sounds can also optimize your mental function and stress responses.

Brain Health Behavior 6: Manage Stress in Healthy Ways

Stress is normal in life. A little bit keeps you alive and protected from potential threats.

However, too much stress can have many negative effects on your health—including your brain health. That’s why you need to find healthy coping techniques to manage stress in your life.

Have multiple coping techniques in your arsenal in case you need them. Since everyone’s situation is different, it’ll take trial and error to find the right techniques that work for you.

Some healthy coping techniques for stress are the same healthy behaviors to support your brain health! For example, activities and skills you participate in to stimulate your mind can be great ways to relieve stress, and spending time in nature can give your mind time to reset and relax away from stressors.

You can also practice mindfulness techniques. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or guided meditations are great options. Whatever techniques you choose, practice the techniques often, so you can stay on top stress management and make sure your coping methods of choice are available when you need them.

Healthy Behavior 7: Maintain Your Relationships

Humans are social creatures by nature. Societies are built on the foundation of communities—groups of people working together to survive and thrive.

With the need for other people so ingrained into human existence, it isn’t a surprise that relationships with others became important for your health. As social beings, human brains are programmed to thrive from activities that stimulate the mind—including being social.

Maintaining strong relationships with your friends, family, coworkers, or others around you supports brain health as you age. Regular social activities are an excellent method to stimulate your mind, and the support from relationships can help you find relief in times of stress.

To help maintain your relationships, set time every day to connect with others. This could be chatting briefly with someone at the grocery store or scheduling a time every day to eat a meal with your friends or family.

Healthy Aging Begins Now

Regardless of your age, healthy aging deserves your attention today. Healthy habits take time to develop and choosing to support your brain health now will prepare you to maintain its normal functioning as you age. You’re never too old—and it’s never too late—to take charge of your health!

Good nutrition is the backbone of any healthy lifestyle. Without satisfying necessary caloric and nutritional needs, your body can’t keep you thriving. This includes everything from basic functions—like breaking down and removing waste and protecting itself against toxins—to growth, development, and maintaining energy levels. But what exactly is “good nutrition”?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. As your body grows, changes, and develops, so do your nutritional needs. Though the basics of nutrition stay the same throughout life, your nutritional needs will vary depending on your physical activity levels, lifestyle habits, and age. This article will focus on that last one: nutrition by age.

As your body changes from infancy to adulthood—and everything in between—it requires slightly different nutrients to optimize growth, development, and function. And some of these nutrients might not be what you’d expect! So take a closer look at some of the surprising nutritional needs for each age group.

Newborn Nutrition: 0-12 Months

Whether you decide to feed your newborn breastmilk, formula, or a combination of the two, your baby’s nutritional needs should be a top priority. In their first year of life, most babies more than double their weight. That’s a lot of growth—not to mention the brain development that occurs during this time period. All these changes in babies’ bodies require the proper fuel.

From birth until about six months, it’s recommended to feed your baby exclusively breast milk or newborn formula. This will help them acquire the fats, proteins, and other nutrients they need. If your infant is breastfeeding, their nutrients come from the person feeding them. For this reason, it’s important for that individual to stay on top of their own nutrition and supplement their diet with the nutrients their baby needs. So what exactly are those nutrients?

You’re probably familiar with the more common staples of infant nutrition—calcium to support bone strength and growth, for example—but let’s take a look at some of the less talked about nutritional needs of infants.

  • Folate: The less-known vitamins and minerals are an often-overlooked aspect of nutrition. This is the case with folate, aka vitamin B9, which plays a vital role in cell division. And that’s one of the key processes behind infant growth and development.
    To ensure your infant has appropriate amounts of folate in their diet, check their formula for the levels of vitamin B9. Or, if you’re breastfeeding your child, eat plenty of folate-rich foods, such as leafy greens and legumes.
  • Zinc: No single nutrient is more important than the rest. That being said, if you were asked to name a nutrient as MVP of your diet, zinc would be a strong contender. The mineral helps maintain a healthy immune system, supports cellular growth and repair, and helps optimize DNA creation—all of which are important at any stage of life, but are especially vital for infants.
    Babies born prematurely often have zinc deficiencies, which is a problem because they need zinc to catch up on their growth. When breastfeeding, be sure to stock up on zinc rich foods—nuts are a great, calorie-dense option!

Early Childhood: From Toddlers to Preteens

Growth and development don’t stop after infancy. From the terrible twos up through adolescence, the body continues to undergo rapid changes. It’s a formative time, and not just for an individual’s personality. Proper nutrition during these periods of change set the stage for a healthy adulthood. So what are some key nutritional needs for children and preteens?

  • Fats: Pop nutrition has given fats a bad reputation. But not all fats are bad. In fact, some fats are a crucial part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. This is especially true when it comes to children’s nutrition.
    When people talk about fat in food, they typically mean: saturated fats or trans fats. Children should eat saturated fats, or fats that come from meat, dairy, and eggs, in moderation. And trans fats, which are created when some foods are processed, should be avoided as much as possible.
    But what about the good fats—the ones that can provide children with energy, support overall health, and help them process other nutrients? These fats are found in foods like olives, nuts, and seafood. And these beneficial forms should make up most of the fat in a child’s diet.
  • Sodium: When it comes to sodium, the problem most children face is not too little of it in their diet, but far too much. Fast food is a frequent meal in many households. And understandably so: it’s quick, affordable, and picky eaters may actually eat it. But these foods also contain lots of sodium.
    The recommended daily value for sodium changes with age. Young children—up until age four—only need about 1,500 mg of sodium per day, while preteens should take in up to 2,200 mg. According to a 2011 survey, 90% of children in the U.S. exceeded the recommended daily value for sodium, with average daily intake coming in at a whopping 3,256 mg per day. That’s more than 1,000 mg higher than the recommended value.
    So what’s the big deal? In moderation, sodium is a vital part of a healthy diet. It helps nerves function, plays a role in muscle function, and helps the body maintain proper fluid balances. Too much sodium, however, can lead to blood pressure issues.

Adolescence: Nutrition During the Teenage Years

Parenting teenagers can be a challenge (to say the least). It’s a period marked by mental, emotional, and physical changes—all of which can be difficult to handle individually. Put these changes together, and you have the perfect storm. If there’s one thing teenagers need, though, it’s the space to exercise and explore their independence. And this might include choosing more of the foods they eat.

That being said, good nutrition should still be a priority. Adolescence is, after all, a period of change. And when the body changes, it requires fuel. Teens are likely familiar with the basics of their nutritional needs but might need some additional guidance when it comes to specific nutrients. The list below outlines a few of the unsung heroes of teen nutrition.

  • Iron: You’ve maybe heard that iron-deficiency can lead to anemia—a condition that can lead to extreme fatigue. But maintaining energy levels isn’t all iron is good for. High iron intake is also crucial during periods of rapid growth—teenage growth spurts, for instance.
    Monitoring your iron intake as a teen is especially important if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Meat, poultry, and fish are some of the most common sources of iron—if you don’t eat any of these foods, you’ll need to be extra diligent about eating other high-iron foods, such as beans, broccoli, and spinach.
  • Sleep: This one is, admittedly, not a nutrient. But it is an often overlooked element of teen health. When it comes to adolescent growth and development, a well-balanced diet is only one piece of the puzzle—and sleep is the other. Sleep can help your immune system stay strong, helps support your brain and body to grow and develop, and can optimize mood and emotion regulation. As a teenager, you should sleep 8-10 hours a night. It might seem like a lot, but it’s worth it!
    Getting enough sleep isn’t simply a matter of getting in bed at a reasonable time. A variety of other factors affect sleep including ambient noise, blue light exposure, and even diet. While there is no single nutrient that will solve your sleep problems, a well-balanced diet has been shown to support quality sleep. In this case, well balanced means supplying your body with enough magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. (Not sure where to find these nutrients? Take a look at this vitamin guide and essential mineral overview for a quick crash course!)

Nutrition Later in Life

If there’s one guarantee in life, it’s that you’re not getting any younger. And as you age, you might notice your body experiencing a little wear and tear. To a certain extent, this is inevitable. With the right diet and healthy lifestyle choices, however, you can help keep your body running smoothly well past 60.

They say that prevention is the best medicine—and by paying attention to your nutritional needs as you age, you can help keep yourself feeling good. You’ve probably heard that calcium is crucial for maintaining bone strength later in life, but that’s not all is needed at this stage of life. So let’s take a look at some of the less talked about nutrients.

  • Magnesium: Calcium gets all the credit when it comes to supporting bone strength, but magnesium also plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy, strong bones. Additionally, it helps both the heart and immune system continue to function properly.
    As you get older, your body absorbs magnesium less efficiently. This means you need more of this important in your diet to actually get the necessary amount. What’s more, many medications also affect magnesium absorption—so be sure to ask your doctor about any side effects!
  • Water: Everybody needs to drink water. That never changes because healthy hydration is an important aspect of nutrition and a healthy life. However, some studies indicate that your body requires more water as you age. The effects of dehydration can also lead to more serious health consequences for older individuals. Fortunately, the remedy for dehydration is simple: just drink more water.
    To ensure you are staying properly hydrated, look at your urine. It might not be the most pleasant part of your day, but it’s a simple way to check your hydration levels. If your urine is dark and cloudy or bright yellow, you likely aren’t drinking enough water. (There is an exception to remember with urine color. Even well hydrated individuals taking high dosages of vitamin C and B vitamins can have very bright yellow urine.) Typically, your urine should be somewhere between pale yellow to clear.

Nutrition by Age

As you age, your body grows, develops, and changes in countless ways. This probably isn’t news to you. Navigating these changes can be tough but properly satisfying your body’s nutritional needs at each stage of life can help optimize the aging process. And no matter your age, it’s never too late to start caring about nutrition. So, with what your read above as a guide, take charge of your health one nutrient at a time!

family with children

family with children

Childhood and adolescence are among the most important stages of any person’s life. And while this probably isn’t news to you, it bears repeating. The amount of growth and development the body experiences during these periods of time are astounding. Simply put, the body changes during childhood and adolescence—a lot.

During childhood and adolescence, it can even seem like the body is constantly in flux. The changes come so rapidly that it may be difficult to monitor your child’s health—both physical and mental. Whether you’re a parent searching for facts and tips about your child’s health or a teen looking to read up on your health, you’ve come to the right place! After all, what better place to start than the basics?

The list below breaks down some of the most important (and interesting) facts about childhood and adolescent health.

1. A fast metabolism doesn’t mean you can forget about nutrition:

Adults often bemoan the fact that metabolism slows with age. That is, the body becomes less quick and efficient at breaking food down and turning it into energy the older it gets. So while children and teens can—and often do—scarf down four bowls of pasta without immediate consequences, that same amount of food might have lasting effects on an adult (and their waistline).

This fact leads many people to believe children, especially teenagers, can eat just about anything while maintaining their health. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly true. Children and teenagers can eat a lot of food, but that’s because the body is doing a lot of growing. That means it requires a lot of energy. And to provide it with the energy it needs, good nutrition is key.

The fundamentals of good nutrition stay the same from childhood to adulthood: you should strive to eat a well-balanced diet that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plant-based fats, and quality, lean protein.

2. Teens and children should steer clear of adult beverages—and not just alcohol:

It goes without saying, children and teens shouldn’t drink alcohol. While the brain is still developing, alcohol consumption can have lasting, negative consequences. That being said, alcoholic beverages aren’t the only drinks to keep away from teens.

As of 2014, the CDC reported that 73 percent of children consume caffeine daily. While children under the age of 12 should avoid consuming caffeine altogether, teens can drink small amounts of caffeine without impacting their health. Here’s the problem: the amount of caffeine teens take in depends on what they’re drinking. And energy drinks are popular among teenagers.

Teens 14-17 years old are advised to consume no more than 100 milligrams (mg) of caffeine each day—roughly one strong cup of coffee. Some energy drinks contain triple that amount of caffeine in one can. And many teens are drinking multiple energy drinks a day. You don’t have to be good at math to know that is way, way over the recommended limit.

So why does this matter? Children and teens are physically smaller than adults, so they feel the effects of caffeine much more strongly than, say, most people working office jobs. What’s more, teens’ brains are still developing and maturing. Caffeine can also disrupt teenagers’ sleep cycles—and sleep is a crucial time for brain development. In extreme cases, excessive caffeine intake can even put teens’ hearts at risk.

3. Sleep is a vital aspect of teen health and wellness:

Ask nearly anyone how much sleep you should get, and they’ll likely give you the same answer: eight hours. And while eight hours is a good guideline for adults, the recommended amount of sleep for healthy teenagers is between eight and 10 hours.

Between the demands of school, work, friendships, and other relationships, it can be hard for teenagers to prioritize sleep. But here’s why it’s important: Sleep plays an important role in pretty much every neurological process and function—memory, risk assessment, processing sensory input, you name it. And as a teen, your brain is still developing and making neural connections. Sleeping enough is crucial to allow those connections to be made.

4. Sunscreen is no joke:

While sunburns may seem like no big deal in the moment, they can have lasting impacts on your health. Excessive sun exposure—whether it’s frequent sunburns, extreme sunburns, or even too much tanning—can lead to premature aging of the skin. This means seeing wrinkles younger in life, and, in some cases, increased risk for skin issues.

This doesn’t mean staying out of the sun entirely. You can still go to the beach, swimming pool, or take a long walk on a sunny day—just be sure to wear sunscreen. And not just any sunscreen. The higher the SPF rating, the better.

As a guideline, 15 SPF is appropriate for daily wear, but for extended periods of sun exposure, you should aim to wear 30 SPF sunscreen or higher. And don’t forget to reapply every two hours, as needed!

5. Take care of your ears:

No, seriously. Ear health may seem like a strange topic to talk about, but it’s no joke. And it’s one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of adolescent health. With the proliferation of affordable smartphones, earbuds, mp3 players, and headphones, virtually everyone can listen to music anywhere.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But here’s the problem: teens and children (and even adults) often don’t understand the risks of listening to loud music for prolonged periods of time. And, as a result, many teens listen to music at dangerously high volumes. Blasting music through your headphones or earbuds will damage the cells in your cochlea, increasing your risk for hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). So take care of your ears while you’re young—future you will be grateful!

6. Teens should exercise regularly:

When it comes to adult health, consistent exercise is one of the most oft-cited aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Similarly, exercise is a vital element of teen health.

You’ve probably come across a variety of suggestions for how much exercise teens should do: 30 minutes daily, 30 minutes six times a week, 60 minutes three times a week—you get the idea. If you average out these various suggestions, here’s the bottom line: teens should get somewhere between 180 and 210 minutes of exercise each week. This could be swimming, cycling, going to dance practice, walking the dog—it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are revving your heart rate up.

While regular exercise will help keep your body healthy, the benefits aren’t purely physical. Regular exercise can help teens with mood regulation, alleviate stress, and get better sleep. All good important aspects of adolescent health.

7. Dental health is health, too:

As a teen, it’s easy to feel invincible. Your body bounces back from most injuries and your brain hasn’t fully developed its risk-assessment abilities. This combo can lead teens to make some, well, rash decisions. It can be hard to see the big picture.

When it comes to dental health, however, it’s all about the big picture. Once your baby teeth fall out, you have one set to last the rest of your life— so it’s important to take care of them. Ask adults what they wish they’d done differently in their teens and twenties, and many will give the same answer: they wish they’d taken better care of their teeth.

Dental health doesn’t have to be complicated, but it requires consistency. Be sure to brush and floss at least every night and you’ll keep your oral health thriving for the years to come.

8. It’s never too early to prioritize mental health:

One of the most common misconceptions about mental health is that only adults suffer from these kinds of issues. While early adulthood is a very common time for many mental health challenges to emerge, anyone, no matter their age, can experience change in mental health. In fact, one in about five teens has a diagnosed mental health disorder.

So what does this mean for you? Whether you experience mental health challenges or not, it’s never too early to prioritize your mental health. For teens, this might mean taking a break from social media, seeing a therapist, and, in some cases, taking medication prescribed by your healthcare provider. It’s all about finding what works for you and not waiting until adulthood hits to address any issues.

Growing older is a natural phase of life. It follows then that as you age, your cells age, too. And in fact, cellular aging is a simple fact of biology, but one that needn’t be shrouded in mystery.

Cellular aging mechanisms are in place from the day you are born. As cells divide, multiply, and perform their designated functions, they age. And as they age, your body has in place remarkable ways to take care of aging cells and replenish them with new ones.

So, what causes cell aging anyway? Here are some of the most common triggers of cell aging:

  • DNA damage
  • Oxidative stress (from internal and external sources)
  • Decline in autophagy

It’s important to remember that your aging body and older cells aren’t something to shy away from. You aren’t only getting older; your body is signaling to the world what a wonderful life you have lived.

And as for your cells—aging is just another period in their much more microscopic lifecycle. Show your older cells some deference and learn more about their unique aging process.

Cellular Aging—Definitions and Mechanisms

In scientific literature, aging is referred to as senescence. Cellular senescence, specifically, is the process of cellular aging. A senescent cell is generally larger than its non-senescent counterparts. Senescent cells no longer divide in an effort to protect themselves and the tissue surrounding them from inaccurate or harmful replication errors. The process by which a replicating cell transforms into a non-dividing senescent cell takes about six weeks to complete.

DNA replication is at the heart of cellular senescence. In order to maintain healthy, functional tissues and organs, the cells involved need to replicate without error. Your body has natural triggers in place to manage when older cells become senescent and no longer replicate. Aging triggers come from within the senescent cell and the environment around them.

You already read about the three common causes of cell aging, now it’s time to dive deeper into each one.

DNA Damage

New cells don’t need to worry too much about damage to their DNA. The chromosomes that store all your unique genetic information are capped with sections of repeating genetic code that signifies the end of a chromosome. These chromosome caps are called telomeres and they help maintain reliabil and accuracy during DNA replication.

But with each cycle of replication—every time a cell divides, and as the cell ages—a small percentage of the genetic code is lost, and the telomere caps shorten. As the cell ages and telomeres shorten, the cell is more likely to experience damage to its DNA or incorrect replication.

To preserve the integrity of your genetic code the telomeres at the ends of each chromosome signal when it’s time for the cell to stop replicating. Without the telomere caps, gene transcription and cell division would continue indefinitely—leading to a potentially dangerous accumulation of poorly made cells. Your cells rely on telomeres to know when it’s time to retire.

Oxidative Stress

This is another event that triggers cell aging. And oxidative stress can also halt cell replication. Reactive oxygen species in the cell’s environment are fodder for DNA replication mishaps. They can lead to mutations in cell’s genetic code that may affect the function and health of the cell over time.

When reactive oxygen species are detected in the cell’s environment, replication stops in order to preserve the integrity of the cell’s DNA. Aging cells that stop replicating in the presence of reactive oxygen species are protecting your body from incorrect cell proliferation and mistakes in gene transcription.

Decline in Autophagy

Kudos to you if you can recall the definition of this scientific term. Autophagy literally means “self-eat.” And this simple phrase perfectly describes how autophagy is used by cells. As cells age, their organelles (cell parts) and cellular equipment begin to fail. Waste can build up, and it needs to be cleared away. Autophagy is the cell’s way of destroying used and broken parts through a process of self-digestion.

Specialized organelles inside your cells collect damaged cellular material and break it down. These organelles are called lysosomes. They are full of digestive enzymes that eliminate the junk that can build up in your cells.

A cell’s ability to perform autophagy dwindles with age, creating a struggle to clean house when broken-down organelles and waste pile up. This can lead to an accumulation of proteins within the aging cell and may trigger problems with DNA replication down the line.

When a cell can no longer manage the buildup of waste within its cell membrane, it stops dividing and triggers senescence.

Apoptosis vs Cellular Senescence

If you research cell aging long enough, you’ll likely come across a phenomenon called apoptosis. This cellular process is easily confused with senescence, so let’s clear the air on the circumstances that lead to each.

Like you’ve read above, cellular senescence is the end of cell division for the aging cell. A senescent cell continues to perform its original function, but it no longer replicates—to avoid mistakes in genetic transcription. Aging cells aren’t dead cells, but they are less productive and efficient than younger, replicating cells.

Apoptosis is essentially programmed cell death. Sometimes during DNA replication, a cell can stray far from its prescribed course. Uncontrollable replication can lead to abnormal cell growth, a potentially harmful buildup of poorly manufactured cell copies. To stop this overgrowth dead in its tracks, cells have a special self-destruct protocol they can follow.

Older cells are more likely to apoptose, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all senescent cells are headed for immediate self-destruction. When apoptosis is triggered, the cell releases proteins that neatly pack up all the inner workings of the cell and cause it to lyse (pop). Apoptosis isn’t messy, and cells undergoing apoptosis don’t harm their neighboring healthy cells.

In summary, cellular senescence stops cell division and apoptosis occurs when an aging cell can’t stop dividing. Hopefully this interlude clears up some of the confusion surrounding the topic of cell aging.

Healthy Living and Cellular Aging

Aging cells are a fact of life. As your cells age, your body replaces them with young, high-performing cells to take over when older cells retire. No matter the stage of your life or your cell’s lifecycle, you can promote cellular and whole-body wellness with healthy living.

Cellular senescence is unavoidable, but you can protect healthy cells from entering retirement too early. Some activities can shorten telomeres and trigger premature cell aging. Do your best to avoid these:

These habits have been shown to elevate oxidative stress from reactive oxygen species—especially tanning and sunburn. And as you know, reactive oxygen species are one of the triggers of cellular senescence.

One way to protect your cells and support them as they age is by maintaining good cellular health habits. You know how much healthy habits help you feel your best. There are lifestyle and diet choices that can optimize cellular your health, too. Take a minute to review four key habits and learn how to keep your cells healthy.

And remember, aging bodies and aging cells are natural. This latter period of life is meant to be enjoyed. So celebrate aging bodies and aging cells with gratitude and respect for all they’ve accomplished. Pay respect to your body as you and your cells age by avoiding the triggers of cellular aging and supporting healthy cells with a diet rich in antioxidants and other cell-supporting habits.

When it comes to health and nutrition, most people focus on visible, tangible results. How many inches or centimeters did you drop from your waistband? How many reps could you bench press?

These types of external milestones can be valuable motivators. But they aren’t the end-all be-all indicators of health. For a more holistic approach to health, you have to look inside and ask: How healthy are my cells?

Every living organism is made up of cells, and the human body is no exception. Your body—and everyone else’s—contains roughly 37.2 trillion cells. And just like your body as a whole, these cells can be healthy or, well, less healthy.

Fortunately, you don’t need a degree in human biology to take charge of your body’s cellular health. Keep reading to learn why telomere length helps you measure health and how to keep your cells healthy with four lifestyle habits that support cellular health.

How Do You Even Measure Cellular Health?

Before diving into the rest of this article, let’s take a quick, crash course in cell anatomy. Each cell in the human body has, at its center, a nucleus. The nucleus contains 23 chromosome pairs (for a total of 46 chromosomes).

At either end of each chromosome is a DNA structure called a telomere. As cells age and divide, telomere length becomes shorter and shorter until the cell eventually dies. It’s a natural and inevitable process. So what do telomeres have to do with cellular health?

Well, telomeres don’t shorten at a fixed rate. They get smaller each time a cell divides, sure, but certain lifestyle decisions can shorten telomere length more rapidly. In other words, your diet, exercise habits, and other activities can prematurely age your cells.

And remember, cells are the building blocks of your body. If they prematurely age, so will you. For this reason, many studies exploring cellular health use telomere length as one way of measuring a cell’s health.

Enough about unhealthy cells, let’s talk about prevention. After all, you’re not here for a science lesson—you’re here to learn how to keep your cells healthy.

How to Keep Your Cells Healthy: 4 Cellular Health Habits

There’s a lot of conventional wisdom surrounding healthy living: Drink plenty of water, exercise for 30 minutes each day, wear sunscreen, etc. And a lot of that advice is great. What you may not know, however, is that many of those same lifestyle tips apply to cellular health.

It turns out, a lot of health-promoting activities and habits are healthy because they support health on a cellular level. Makes sense, right? When your cells feel good, you feel good.

Let’s dive into four cellular health habits that will help keep your cells thriving.

  1. Maintain a Healthy Diet

“Healthy diet” is a vague term that gets thrown around a lot without explanation. And most people only have a vague idea of what constitutes a healthy diet. Fortunately, when it comes to your cells, eating right is pretty straightforward.

In one study, researchers explored the correlation between telomere length and an individual’s adherence to the Mediterranean Diet and other similar diets. These approaches encourage eating primarily whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. On the flip side, individuals following these diets tend to avoid high-sodium foods, sugars (especially processed sugars), and red meat.

The findings speak for themselves—for women, at least. The dietary habits mentioned above were linked to longer telomere lengths in women, but not men. This doesn’t mean men are off the hook, however. In the sample population used in the study, men tended to have worse diets in general and consumed more red meat—the adverse effects of those dietary choices likely “cancelled out” the benefits of healthy eating.

At this point, it’s established that dietary choices can impact cellular health. So, let’s take a look at why.

There are two factors at play: free radicals and antioxidants. There’s a lot to be said about both, but here’s the gist of it. Free radicals are substances that can damage and deteriorate cells. And antioxidants are the substances that protect the body from free radicals.

So where does the Mediterranean Diet come in? As the fat in red meat cooks, it oxidizes which can then introduce free radicals into the body. By reducing your red meat intake, you can help prevent damage to your cells. And when prevention doesn’t work, go for antioxidant support. Fresh fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants. By eating plenty of produce, you can help maintain optimal cellular health.

  1. Exercise Regularly—And Yes, This Means Cardio

Sometimes even the most avid gym-goers avoid cardio. They’ll happily crank out set after set of curls, squats, and flies. But 30 minutes on the treadmill? Forget about it.

Resistance training (think traditional weight training) is a great way to improve strength and muscle definition, but it doesn’t do a whole lot to support telomere length. To reap the benefits of exercise on a cellular level, you have to include cardio in your workouts. It doesn’t matter if it’s endurance training (jogging, cycling, etc.) or high intensity interval training, just shoot for at least 30 minutes.

If you’re a cardio-phobe, don’t worry—you don’t even have to do it every day to see the benefits. In one study, participants did 45 minutes of cardio three times a week. After only six months, researchers observed longer average telomere lengths in that set of individuals than in subjects doing only resistance training or no exercise at all. That’s right! You can go for a run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, take a nice, relaxing weekend, and still support your cellular health.

  1. Don’t Underestimate Sleep

If you ask a random passerby how much sleep is the “right” amount, they’ll probably tell you eight hours per night. And, according to most guidelines, they’d be correct. The amount of sleep a person needs varies, but for most people 7-9 hours a night is sufficient.

But what happens if you sleep less than that? You’ll probably feel pretty lousy—for starters—but consistently sleeping too little can also impact your health on a cellular level.

If you’re sleeping five hours or fewer a night, there’s a good chance your cells are being adversely affected—especially if you’re a man. In one study, the duration of sleep for men was linearly linked to telomere length. Put simply, the less sleep men get, the shorter their average telomere length. And, as mentioned above, shorter telomeres can mean prematurely aged cells.

While the effect of sleep on telomere length in women is less clear cut, it’s still a good idea to tuck in for plenty of sleep each night regardless of gender!

  1. Practice Mindfulness

Nobody likes being stressed out. It’s frustrating, exhausting, and, as it turns out, bad for your cells. At this point, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that excessive stress has been linked to shorter telomere lengths in adults.

But the effect of your mind on cellular health goes a step further. Not just stress, but a wandering mind—as opposed to being present in the moment—can have a negative effect on your cells, one study suggests. This, of course, can be difficult to measure. In the study, participants self-reported the degree and type of their day-to-day mind wandering. Those who reported more negative wandering—anxious, racing, and defensive thoughts—were found to have shorter telomeres.

If mind wandering is detrimental to cellular health, this raises another question: What can you do to counteract a wandering mind and maintain cellular health?

Let’s say mind wandering is one end of the spectrum—what’s at the other end? Presence of mind. Or, in other words, being present in the moment. There are a number of meditative practices that can help stave off mind wandering and ground you in the present moment, but one of the most popular is mindfulness.

Practicing mindfulness can help you stay present and reduce your stress, protecting your cells on two fronts! A win-win for your mental state and your cellular health.

Take Charge of Your Cellular Health

A healthy body starts with healthy cells. Fortunately for you, taking charge of your cellular health isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Now that you know how to keep your cells healthy, give these lifestyle practices a try. Start implementing one (or all) of the above tips in your life to keep your cells healthy and thriving.

The world can swirl with chaos, anxiety, and stress that leaves you with one white-knuckled fist latched precariously to sanity. Finding time for yourself—for your health, for a deep breath—can be hard. But you can start a self-care routine to seek shelter from your personal hurricane of busyness and responsibility.

There’s nothing selfish about escaping into a self-care checklist to seek your center. Everyone needs a chance to exist solely for themselves and their health sometimes. And it’s not a complex process.

Caring for yourself is what it sounds like—committing the time and space to melt away your daily stresses and focus on you. Standing up for your needs can help you experience self-care benefits—from bolstered mental, emotional, and physical health to improved mood, energy, and resilience.

Taking the first step and starting a self-care routine can be the hardest part. Even the best intentions can land you neck-deep in an avalanche of appointments and to-dos. That’s why you need a plan and patience with yourself—because self-care is bigger than booking a single spa session.

Developing your self-care checklist is an individual process of assessing needs and seeking solutions. Peruse the following options to help you start a self-care routine that works for you. Pick and choose what helps achieve your goals, and—since self-care shouldn’t feel like a burden—focus on what you’ll find enjoyable. Most importantly, commit to carving out the time to put these self-care tips into practice.

Sound Sleep is a Solid Way to Start a Self-Care Routine

You hear over and over how much of your life is spent asleep. A third of your time may still not feel like enough, though. That’s because sleep is essential to build many of the pillars of wellness.

Set your bedtime alarm for a noisy reminder to cut the world off and prepare for the most me-centric activity you do. Make sure to practice good sleep habits:

  • avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
  • wind down with music, meditation, or stretching
  • turn off the screens
  • set a comfortable temperature
  • tuck in for at least seven hours

Your Self-Care Checklist Must Include Clearing Your Schedule

The world doesn’t care about your plans. It can steamroll your dinner reservation, interrupt evening me-time, or destroy a whole vacation. But the best way to keep your daily to-do’s from derailing a much-needed trip down your self-care checklist is to schedule time for yourself.

Block out your calendar—that means turning off the ringer on your phone, too—so you can dedicate time and energy to practicing the self-care tips that speak to you.

Claim Your Space and Maximize Its Calming Properties

Setting aside your own calming corner of the world can put you in the right physical and mental space for starting a self-care routine. But even the most soothing color scheme can’t overcome clutter and chaos in a room. Decluttering your life and spaces can help you find your center in a stressful world.

Some people like organizing and cleaning because it’s calming. Even if that’s not for you, creating a space that’s free of reminders of your daily stresses is a good idea. Meditation among the laundry landmines, toy traps, or—worst of all—stacks of work isn’t as calming as it could be.

Soothe with Sensory Experiences

Stress is a reaction to troublesome sensory information. So the self-care solution is to feed your body a buffet of soothing sensations.

Wrap yourself in soft, comfortable material—a robe or loungewear works. Refresh your mind with calming scents. Flip off the harsh blue lights that dominate your life and try soft candlelight instead. Fill the room with your favorite songs or the calming soundtrack of nature.

Run your favorite stress-fighting bath or dedicate an afternoon each week to fully embracing the hygge lifestyle. Head to the hammock in the backyard with a book. Hike a picturesque trail. Whatever comforting option you choose, stimulate your senses in a pleasing instead of punishing way.

Eat Up Healthy Dietary Options

Emotional eating is easily confused with self-care. But you don’t want to lose sight of the care part of self-care in your search for comfort.

Eating healthy foods isn’t a punishment. Quite the opposite. It’s a caring gesture key to feeling good. And it can be delicious, too. Feed your body nutritious meals and snacks that pack the vitamins and minerals needed to help you feel your best.

Opt for a plant-heavy approach with easy-to-digest foods that are also good for your gut. That way you can spend your self-care time feeling light and energetic instead of sluggish and slumped over from overdoing it on traditional comfort foods.

Attempt to Achieve Serenity Your Way

Serenity is the ultimate goal of any self-care routine. So stressing about finding the most relaxing and serene experiences is positively counterproductive.

Some people turn to meditation. And there’s evidence showing meditation benefits the brain and your stress levels. But that’s only if mediation works for you. It takes practice to perfect, so give yourself room for mediation to be a work-in-progress.

Yoga is great. It has a long history of peaceful practice. But if you are frustrated by yoga—because you are a beginner or your body simply doesn’t bend that way yet—skip it or find a form that works for you.

Your path to peace and serenity may not look like everybody else’s. And that’s OK. Try different approaches and stick with what feels right.

Stimulate Your Mind

Starting a self-care routine doesn’t mean putting yourself in a stimulation-free bubble. Using your brain for your enjoyment—not for work or figuring out other people’s problems—is a powerful way to care for yourself.

Stop if your mental activities start to feel like work. There are plenty of good options to engage your intellect in service of self-care:

  • read a book, short story, or magazine
  • play word, trivia, or brain games
  • have an enlightening conversation
  • critically think through a piece of pop culture you enjoy
  • write a story or journal entry
  • play a piece of music on your instrument of choice—or just jam without a structure

Experience the Calming Powers of the Outdoors

Nature can nurture your soul and buoy your mood. Study after study has shown why being outside is important for stress relief, focus, and calm.

Step out your door to take deep breathes of fresh air. Visit a nearby natural escape to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest, beach, or park.

Social Support Reinforces Your Self-Care Efforts

Self-care doesn’t require isolation. Humans are social creatures who can benefit from contact with others. Keeping the interactions playful, fun, and easy-going will help you experience the mental and emotional benefits of maintaining your social health.

If you’re an introvert, don’t worry. Interact on your own terms to avoid being overwhelmed by interactions meant to help your mental state.

And if you just can’t deal with another person, there’s a solution. Snuggling up, playing with, or just soaking up love from your favorite furry friend is a great source of self-care support. Pets, after all, can help with mood, stability, and overall happiness.

Slay Negativity with Self-Compassion

You might not be able to tell from some people’s social feeds, but nobody is perfect at self-care. Learning to care for yourself is a process.

Starting the self-care routine you need and deserve might not be as effective as you’d hoped the first time. Maybe you lose focus during mediation, a bug bites you on your peaceful nature walk, or the dog jumps into your bath.

Give yourself a break by practicing self-compassion and building in flexibility. Even imperfect self-care is a step in the right direction—toward a healthier, happier, less-stressed you.

Your body is a complex, hardworking machine. It works best when all systems and internal mechanisms operate in concert to keep your body running at its peak—from your skin and skeletal structure to your cardiovascular and central nervous systems. But, like any machine, your body’s natural aging process will begin to affect many of these systems.

As your body’s natural defense, there is no one system that affects your entire body through natural decline more than an aging immune system. Over time, your immune system naturally deteriorates through a process called immunosenescence. While defined as the impact of age on immune function, it is a process that, like your immune system, is brought about by the workings—or lack thereof—of many smaller parts.

To make sense of what happens to immune health as you age, it might be important to have a quick summary of your immune system.

Innate vs Adaptive Immunity

Your immune system is made up of white blood cells, tissues, and organs that combine forces to defend the body against internal and external stressors. General immune system response is often broken down into two parts: innate and adaptive immunity.

The innate immune system (or non-specific immune system) is exactly what you’d think it is based on the name—this is what you are born with. Your innate immunity is developed with the help of your parents and genetically passed along to your offspring. It is made of physical and chemical immunity barriers, like your cough reflex, skin, mucous membranes, and stomach acid.

Your innate immune system is not as powerful as other parts of your overall system, but it is your first line of defense and rapidly attacks any and all foreign substances, called antigens. Any antigens that break through these defenses then go against your adaptive immunity.

Your adaptive immunity is individual to you and continually changing. As you are exposed to various antigens throughout your life, your immune system builds and catalogs a defense against those particular antigens. When your body is bombarded, B and T lymphocytes (B and T cells) are released from your thymus gland. B Cells produce antibodies and T cells directly attack the antigens. Together, these white blood cells work toward protecting your body from harm, including threats from viruses and infections, and remembers how to fight what you’ve already been exposed to.

Immunity and Age

As you naturally age, there are a few things that happen in your body as immunosenescence takes place. Your thymus—which is biggest in size throughout puberty—shrinks, limiting T-cell production. The number of T cells you have does not decrease as you age, but their function does. Because these cells are part of the team tasked with directly attacking antigens, the risk of becoming ill increases. They still remember how to fight what they’ve seen in the past, but you need new ones to fight new exposures—or even mutated types your body has already adapted to, like a new strain of influenza.

Not only are there fewer new cells created, but they are also slower to react to new threats. As a result, it takes longer for your body to figure out a plan of attack to deal with threats once they are detected. This is why infections and illnesses are more frequent and severe as you age than they were when you—and your immune system—were young.

But it isn’t just the adaptive immunity that slows down. Similarly, the innate system is slower to respond and react to internal and external frontline issues. Take, for example, a surface-level cut. When you’re young, white blood cells are quickly deployed to clot, scab, and remodel the skin. But, as you age, this process naturally slows, leaving some prone to inflammation and infections—two of the main factors in a weakened immune system.

Support an Aging Immune System

Although a slowed immune system is a natural part of aging, it doesn’t mean deterioration is inevitable. In fact, depending on certain factors, your body may be biologically younger than your calendar age.

While your chronological age is measured by counting the years since birth, biological age—or how you age—is a measure of your overall health when factors like lifestyle, diet, genetic risk of developing age-related ailments, and more, are all taken into account. This is why two people born on the same day may appear to age differently.

There are certain aspects you can’t control about how aging may naturally affect your immune system due to genetic factors, but you can add (or take away) some key lifestyle habits to support to your entire body system.

Eat a Well-Balanced Diet

A diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean meats can help your immune system keep running strong. A variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains also provide necessary dietary fiber to support a healthy gastrointestinal tract. This is especially important in establishing a strong immune response to outside stressors. That’s because it’s directly impacted by pathogens and anything foodborne. Many of the foods most closely associated with the Mediterranean diet have been shown to help maintain your immune system.

Get Enough Sleep

A lack of adequate sleep means your body doesn’t produce as many infection- and inflammation-targeting proteins that help bolster and restore immune responses.


Being consistently active is one of the best ways to help your overall health. It is recommended adults complete about 150 combined minutes of moderate exercise each week. This is enough to aid blood flow and help immune cells migrate throughout your body.

Practice Good Hygiene

One of the easiest ways you can help your body fight against external stressors is to practice proper hygiene habits. Proper handwashing and other cleanliness habits help limit exposure to germs that could test your immunity.


Unchecked stress can impact your weight, sleep, and overall well-being, and it can also put added pressure on your immune system. Developing some simple stress management techniques can help you momentarily step away from stressful situations and reset.

Don’t Smoke

Smoking kills antibodies and antioxidants in your blood. It inflames your lungs, causing cells to divert from other uses.

Drink Alcohol in Moderation

Excessive drinking lowers your white blood cells’ ability to kill antigens and fight infection.

The bottom line is a healthy immune system and an overall healthy lifestyle go hand-in-hand. Preparing for the impact of age on immune function is a whole-body effort, and maintaining it takes a holistic approach.

For more, take an in-depth look at ways to further support your immune system, no matter your age.