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How to Reduce the Effects of Aging

No need to search for a secret formula to erase the effects of getting older. You already have the power to keep yourself feeling young for years.

Keep moving

Inactivity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and other conditions, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Regular exercise also helps with weight control and keeps your bones, muscles and joints healthy. People who exercise regularly require fewer visits to their doctor and fewer medications than people who are sedentary.

To help peel off the years, participate in activities that provide the following benefits. Be sure to talk with your health care provider before beginning any exercise program. Once you get clearance to begin, remember to start gradually and build to a level that challenges without hurting you.

Exercise needs

  • Cardiovascular capacity. Thirty to sixty minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise such as brisk walking most days of the week keeps heart and lungs working vigorously. Other activities to try: swimming and bicycling.

  • Muscle strength. Weight training restores and preserves lean body muscle mass, fights fat and keeps muscles from becoming weak and frail. You can also build muscle strength by taking the stairs.

  • Bone strength. Walking and other weight-bearing exercises help prevent osteoporosis.

  • Flexibility. A regular stretching routine can keep muscles and tendons supple.

  • Balance. Simple exercises, such as standing on one foot with your eyes closed, can help you maintain stability and avoid falls.

Eat smart

A healthful diet gives you energy and helps protect against disease. For maximum benefit:

  • Limit fat to 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories. Limit saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of daily calories and keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible, recommends the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • For a 2,000 calorie diet, eat at least four and one-half cups (nine servings) of fruit and vegetables each day. A diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk for cancer and other chronic diseases. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables, and be sure to include dark green, leafy vegetables and orange vegetables.

Take care of yourself

Bad habits can rob you of confidence and vitality. To keep your mind and body at their peak, the CDC suggests that you:

  • Quit smoking. Smoking is linked to a host of diseases, including cancer, heart disease and stroke. It takes years from your life and adds wrinkles to your face.

  • Limit alcohol consumption. It can cause dangerous interactions with medications. Moderate drinking is defined as no more than two drinks a day for a man and no more than one drink a day for a woman.

  • Use a sunscreen to lower your skin-cancer risk and prevent wrinkles.

  • Take medications properly. Follow prescription instructions to the letter; don't stop or start a medication without your health care provider's OK.

  • Get recommended screening exams to detect conditions early.

Think young

A positive attitude can add vigor to your body and your mind. Thoughts and actions that reduce stress help protect your immune system and cut your risk of stress-related diseases. To help your mind help your body:

  • Learn new skills. Your mind needs exercise, too.

  • Cultivate your sense of humor. Give it plenty of exercise to keep it young and strong.