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Healthy Secrets: Avoiding the Ravages of Age

The process of aging is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Although your genes seem to be the most important influence, there are some changes you can make that can help you age in a healthy way.

The following strategies can help you avoid the aging fast track.

Eat less red meat

Red meat contains saturated fat, which increases the LDL ("bad") cholesterol and total cholesterol levels in your blood, two factors associated with an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

Getting your protein from chicken, fish, low-fat or fat-free dairy, and beans, and fortifying your diet with plenty of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, including whole-grain breads and cereals, promotes good health.

Downsize stress

Psychological and social variables such as anxiety, chronic duress, and depression can affect your physical and mental well-being.

Cortisol, a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands, can save your life by helping you react to dangerous situations. But if you're under stress and in survival mode all the time, it can wear you out mentally and physically.

To find an outlet for stress, consider meditation, yoga, biofeedback, tai chi, and regular exercise. At the very least, allow yourself several 10-minute segments of down-time daily so you're not on the go constantly.

Challenge your mind

To fight the aging process, experts advise stimulating your brain throughout your entire life. Besides challenging your mind intellectually, you should learn new motor skills. Activities like ballroom dancing, swing dancing, or salsa are all good for coordination, balance, and socialization.

Stay active

Regular exercise decreases the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes, weak muscles and bones, stress disorders, anxiety, depression, and many other medical and psychological maladies.

Current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines recommend two hours and 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise per week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week. The guidelines also recommend muscle strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups at least two days per week.