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Remember when you only cared about what everyone else was doing? As a teenager, you may have let yourself be influenced by the social circles around you, even if that led to poor decision making. Today, you know what really matters most: Your future. You care about your health and happiness and realize that your choices and their consequences can affect the way you feel not only now but in years down the road.

If you establish healthy habits as a young adult, they’ll stick with you as you grow older. There’s no way to change the natural process of aging, but it’s up to you to decide how pleasant you want the experience to be.  

Making Good Habits for Better Health

Here are some ways your body changes as the year’s pass, and how making good decisions now can help.

Keep Your Heart Healthy

As you age, your heart rate becomes slower, and your blood vessels and arteries become stiffer, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood through them. This is why you become more susceptible to high blood pressure (hypertension) and other heart problems. Here’s what you can do now to help:

  • Don’t smoke. Smoking contributes to the hardening of your arteries and increases your blood pressure. If you use any tobacco products now, quit.  
  • Start exercising. Find an activity you enjoy and get moving for 30 minutes a day. Walking, swimming, tennis — any moderate physical activity can strengthen your heart, lower blood pressure and lessen the extent of arterial stiffening.
  • Eat healthier foods. A healthy diet can keep your heart and arteries healthy. Ditch fast food that’s high in saturated fat and sodium which are bad for the heart, and replace it with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean meat.
  • Sleep more. During sleep is when the body heals and repairs all tissue, including your heart and blood vessels. Aim to get 7-8 hours at night and stick with it to enjoy lifelong heart health.

Maintain a Fast Metabolism

In your 30s and 40s, your metabolism slows down due to bone and muscle loss and keeps slowing. This can lead a lot of people at this age to gain weight as they age, especially women who have had babies. Here’s what you need to do now to maintain a faster metabolism in your future:

  • Start building muscle. Re-think the idea that hours of cardio is the only way to burn calories. Muscle mass increases metabolism and helps you burn fat. You can build muscle by lifting weights, but also with exercises using your own body weight, such as push-ups, squats, and lunges. Weight-bearing exercises are also great for keeping bones strong.
  • Eat enough. Not only do you need to start making good decisions about what you eat, but you need to learn how much and when to eat. If you skimp on calories to avoid gaining weight, it could backfire. According to Dan Benardot, Ph.D., RD, an associate professor of nutrition and kinesiology at Georgia State University, when you eat less than you need for basic biological function, your body throws the brakes on your metabolism. It also begins to break down calorie-burning muscle tissue for energy. The average adult male should get 2,500 calories a day while women should aim for 2,000, but those numbers can change based on body size and weight loss goals. To jump-start, your metabolism in the morning, eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol causes you to burn less fat more slowly. Just two alcoholic drinks a day can slow your body’s fat-burning ability by up to 73%. So if you want to maintain a fast metabolism as you age, don’t make alcohol a part of your daily diet.

Learn How to Handle Stress

Adult life can be tough. Having to deal with work responsibilities, raising kids, decision making about elderly parents, and financial concerns can cause huge amounts of stress. Start developing these healthy habits that can help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and heading down a road to depression.

  • Exercise. Exercising helps you clear your head and releases feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins. Make it a part of your daily routine now, and you’ll always use it as a way to release tension.
  • Meditate. Meditation is a form of guided thought. You can meditate by practicing relaxation training, by stretching, or by breathing deeply. Yoga is a great form of exercise that involves meditation, so try to find time to start doing it a couple of times a week.
  • Make sleep a priority. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, adults who sleep less than 8 hours at night are more likely to report symptoms of stress. Since stress is inevitable as you age, start relying on regular sleep now to ease daily worries.

You have a lot to look forward to in your adult years. Making good choices now will make getting older all the more enjoyable.

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