Women: What’s the Secret to a Better Life at Any Age?

There’s a not-so-secret way to live a better life: taking better care of your health. No matter how old you are, now is the time to start making your health a priority. It will pay off now — and for the rest of your life.

Is It Worth the Effort?

It may seem like it takes too much time or effort to take better care of yourself on top of everything else you have to do. But it’s worth it. The payoff is being healthier, feeling better and enjoying life more. And that will make it easier to take care of all those things that you need to do, and want to do.

Research shows that the effort pays off. A recent long-term study leaving site icon  found that sticking with certain healthy habits can add over 10 years to your life and help you avoid serious illness, like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The study found that these five habits had the most impact:

  • Eat a healthy diet with more vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and healthy fats. Limit or avoid red and processed meats, sugary drinks, trans fats, and too much salt.
  • Aim for a physical activity level of at least 30 minutes a day of moderate effort, like brisk walking.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
How Are You Doing?

The first step is to see what you’re already doing well and what areas could use some more attention. We know a lot of the things we should be doing to be healthy, but having convenient reminders can help us keep track.

Take a look at the healthy living by age checklists leaving site icon provided by the U.S. Office on Women’s Health. The lists show you the healthy things to do regularly as you go through your life, questions to ask your doctor, and any tests, screenings or vaccinations you may need at different ages. There’s a checklist for each decade, starting with the 20s and continuing through to the 90s.

Being Active Does More than Keep Your Body Fit

Exercise is critical to staying healthy and having a better quality of life as you age. Regular activity leaving site icon helps you:

  • Live longer. Exercise helps lower your risk of death from all causesleaving site icon
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying too much weight, or not enough, can raise your risk for many serious health issues.
  • Keep muscles and bones stronger and your body functioning better as you age. That means you can lower your risk of injury and maintain your independence as you get older.
  • Reduce fatigue so you have more energy to do the things you want to do.
  • Sleep betterleaving site icon
  • Possibly improve or maintain cognitive functionleaving site icon

But getting regular exercise doesn’t just help your body. It also supports emotional and mental health. The National Institute on Aging leaving site icon says physical activity can help:

  • Reduce feelings of depression and stress.
  • Help your mood and overall emotional well-being.
  • Boost your energy level.
  • Make you feel more in control.
  • Help you feel more connected if you work out with friends.

Be sure to set reasonable expectations and start with small increases in activity. Find out what four categories of exercise to do, leaving site icon and get tips on how to work more movement into your day.

Think you’re too old to start being more active? Learn how older adults can safely be more active and what kinds of activity are most helpfulleaving site icon

If you’re just starting to be active or increasing your activity level, talk to your doctor first to make sure your plan is safe for you.

Make Preventive Health Care a Priority

Getting a yearly physical exam and regular health screenings is another important part of staying healthy for life. If you can’t remember the last time you saw your doctor, it’s been too long. You may be behind on important health screenings and vaccinations.

Seeing your doctor at least once a year means:

  • You’ll get a well-woman exam. leaving site icon Depending on your age and health, you may be due for a screening test such as a mammogram or pap test to screen for cervical cancer.
  • Your health stats and medicines will be tracked.
  • You’ll get any needed shots to protect you from illness.
  • You’ll have recommended screenings that may include cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and colon cancer. Regular health screenings help catch any problems early, when they can be more successfully treated. Learn more about the screenings you may need at different agesleaving site icon 
  • You’ll have a chance to talk with your doctor about hormone concerns, sleep issues, stress and any other problems you may be having.

Building new habits is hard, but even small changes can improve your health. Think about what you can do to get started on a journey toward better health. Taking the time to take better care of yourself is worth the effort. It will pay off for the rest of your life.

Sources: What Do We Know About Healthy Aging?, leaving site icon National Institute on Aging, 2022; Five healthy habits net more healthy years, leaving site icon Harvard Medical School, 2020; Four Types of Exercise Can Improve Your Health and Physical Ability, leaving site icon National Institute on Aging, 2021; How much physical activity do adults need?, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022; Healthy Living by Age, leaving site icon U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, 2021; Real-Life Benefits of Exercise and Physical Activity, leaving site icon National Institute on Aging, 2020; Healthy Living - Get Your Well-Woman Visit Every Year, leaving site icon Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2022
Anonymous