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You’ve had a pretty amazing life so far, haven’t you? Whether you’ve enjoyed many years with the love of your life, accomplished a successful career, or raised an awesome kid or two, you have a lot to be thankful for. As you’ve focused on work or your family, there’s one thing you may have lost sight of through the years: Your health. It’s okay though. Many middle-aged men and women put their health on the back burner. What’s important now is to make it a priority so you can be the best you can for your family now.

Your Go-to Guide for Healthy Aging

Let’s talk about why your health has slid off course. Healthy aging is still possible by making some smart changes.

You’ve Gained Weight

We won’t talk about how much. With many hours spent sitting at work or in the car running kids to activities, it’s been hard to stay active. Running through the drive through seems a lot easier than getting home from work cooking. But being overweight causes health problems on many levels. It places extra pressure on your joints, makes your heart work harder, causes diabetes, and causes snoring. The good thing is that over 55 living is when it gets easier to carve out time to start better habits like this:

Start exercising.

Whether you can make time in the morning or in the evening, schedule 30 minutes a day to get active. Walk, ride your bike, or try a new exercise class. If you have trouble with joint pain, take up swimming for a great non-impact workout. Be sure to add weight-bearing exercises to build muscle which boosts your metabolism and strengthens your bones. You’ll be amazed at how great you start to feel after just a few workouts – and you might even lose a few pounds.

Get back to fresh foods.

If you’ve been living on saturated fats, your body is begging you for a vegetable! Ask friends for some recipes that include lean poultry and vegetables. If you’re really feeling ambitious, take a cooking class to learn how to make healthy foods. Switch from white bread to whole grains to add fat-burning fiber to your diet, and stock up on snacks like fruit and nuts to eat while watching TV. You won’t regret taking the time put whole foods back in your body, and the numbers on your scale will thank you for it.  

You’ve Let Stress Rule Your Life

Yes, you’ve had good times. But balancing a career and marriage while raising teenagers definitely, has had its stressful moments. You may have found ways to cope with stress, but if you want to take a step toward healthy aging, you need to work on eliminating or reducing it as much as possible. Excessive stress levels have been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and weakened immune function. What’s worse, middle-aged women and men tend to produce larger amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. A recent report from the University of California at Irvine found that extra cortisol over the years can damage the hippocampus, a part of the brain that’s crucial for storing and retrieving memories. Years of distress may even increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are some tips to help you reduce or cope with midlife stress:

Cut down on alcohol.

For years you’ve used alcohol to unwind after a tough day at work or to help take your cares away after a battle with your spouse. But while it may be able to help you initially relax, alcohol can lead to liver damage and also interferes with neurotransmitters in the brain that are needed for good mental health. As a result, alcohol can actually contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression, making stress harder to deal with. If you have trouble cutting down on alcohol yourself and recognize symptoms of dependence, see a professional for help.

Just say no.

If you’ve always agreed to run the school fundraiser or said yes to other volunteering requests just because you felt bad saying no, stop now. The world will work without you. Use whatever extra time you have to focus on you – even if that time means doing nothing at all!

Make time for the things you enjoy.

Start reading books again, go to the park to walk the dog, shop for yourself instead of others. Do the things that brought you joy before you stopped putting yourself first.

You’ve Lost Many, Many Hours of Sleep

Whether it was a baby crying, a preschooler with a nightmare, or a teenager out past curfew, you’ve probably had countless sleepless nights. Now that you’re older, you may have work concerns that keep you awake. If you’re a middle-aged woman, you may be dealing with sleep difficulties brought on by menopause. You need at least 7 hours of sleep to let your brain recharge and to build up your immune system. Your immune system tends to decline after 50. Focus now on improving your sleep habits to improve your mental well-being, get more energized and live a longer, healthy life.

Avoid screen time before bed.

Don’t watch TV or look at your phone or tablet at least an hour before bedtime. The blue light can keep you from falling asleep.

Eat natural sleep-inducing foods.

Instead of relying on sleeping pills, eat a bedtime snack that can help you sleep. Dairy products have calcium which produces melatonin, and whole grains are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid which produces serotonin. So try a bowl of cereal before bed and see if that helps you sleep!

Wear earplugs or use a sound machine to drown out snoring.

If your partner snores, it can interrupt your sleep. Try to drown out the sound. If that doesn’t help, sleep in another room or discuss seeing a doctor to help the issue.

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