If you’re like many women who are going through the menopausal transition, it may be dawning on you that the window of time that you’ll be alive is starting to close. Therefore, you may be asking yourself how do make the most of the time left.
That brings me to a big question - How old do you feel? Nope I don’t mean your chronological age. I mean the age that you actually perceive yourself as being. That age may be a better predictor of how long you’ll live.
A new study out of University College in London focused on people’s perception of their age since it is believed that people who feel younger than their actual age live longer. The researchers analyzed data from 6,489 individuals who participated in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. The actual average age of the group was 65.8 years of age. The study also looked at the participants’ perceived age in relation to existing health issues, physical function, depression, social isolation, cognitive impairment and health behaviors.
The researchers’ analysis found that almost 70 percent of the participants felt three or more years younger than they actually were. About 25 percent felt they had a self-perceived age that closely mirrored their actual age whereas almost 5 percent reported feeling more than a year older than their actual chronological age.
At the eight-year mark in the study, the researchers found that 14.3 percent of participants who felt younger had died as compared to 18.5 percent of those who felt about their actual age and 24.6 percent who felt older than their real age. Their analysis also found that there was a strong relationship between self-perceived age and death from cardiovascular disease. However, there wasn’t an association between self-perceived age and cancer mortality.
So what can you do to feel younger? Here are some suggestions to add to your New Year’s resolution list as get ready for 2015:
- Embrace self-care. Life coach Cheryl Richardson encourages practicing self-care, which is as important as caring for others. She offers four examples – taking care of your body, your heart, your mind and your financial health.
- Eat a healthy diet. A diet full of fast food and processed food ages your body. The best bet to feel younger is to try to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, good oils, legumes, nuts, and lean protein. I’m a big proponent of the Mediterranean diet (which is actually more of a lifestyle decision than a traditional diet) since researchers continue to find that this type of eating plan offers many health benefits.
- Lower your stress level. Stress is a big-time ager. Therefore, try to remove major stressors from your life. That might involve decluttering your living space using tips from The Minimalists, changing your situation so you don’t spend time with people who donâ�™t nurture and support you, or regularly renting a comedy so you get a good laugh. Meditation also can help you lower your stress level.
- Exercise. Exercise releases endorphins that help you feel better and also can counteract some of the physical challenges of aging. Therefore, making time to be physically active - whether it’s taking the dog for a walk, taking a spinning class, running a half-marathon, raking leaves, or doing some yoga poses - will help you feel younger.
- Drink lots of water. I used to be a diet soda fiend, but stopped about 10 years ago when a friend and I challenged each other to drink more water. It is one of the best moves I’ve ever made because it has made me feel much better. These days I drink primarily water or unsweetened ice tea. And it turns out that researchers agree. A 2014 study found that people who drank more sugary soda tend to have shorter telomeres, which are the protective caps on the ends of cell chromosomes.
- Try something new. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut doing the same things over and over again. However, trying something new can bring back the sense of wonder and excitement that you might have thought you had lost. If you are feeling stymied, trying cook something just a little out of your comfort zone. For instance, a friend and I signed up for a cooking class on 1-pot Indian meals. Whether it’s going to a new museum, trying rock-climbing or planting your first garden, new experiences abound to help you feel younger.
- Bring your younger years into your present years. Another option is to bring some of what you loved earlier in your life into your present day. A study out of Harvard found that people who were placed in an environment that had the movies, music and memorabilia from their youth actually experienced improvements in their memory, overall health, vision and happiness.
As we enter 2015, let’s all resolve to focus not only on aging gracefully, but also to feel younger than our years. Here’s to a long and full life_Primary Sources for This Sharepost:_
Cheryl Richardson. (2011). Week 51 - A happy new year: Practice small act s of self-care.
Health.com. (ND). 7 steps to defy your age inside and out: Step back in time.
Medical News Today. (2014). Sugary soda drinks linked to cell aging.
Rippon, I. & Steptoe, A. (2014). Feeling old vs. being old: Associations between self-perceived age and mortality.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.