By Michelle Carbery, Corporate Wellness Specialist, Independent Health

As a way to focus national attention on the positive aspects of growing older, September has been designated “Healthy Aging Month.” Getting older is a natural part of life. How you will feel as you get older depends on many things, including the lifestyle choices you make.

Changes as you get older are usually gradual. Certain physical changes are common, such as:

  • Your metabolism (how fast your body can burn calories) slows over time, which means that your body needs less food energy than before.
  • How much and how well you sleep will likely change.
  • Most people start needing reading glasses around age 40, and many have some hearing loss later in life.
  • Starting in your 50s, bone aging increases.
  • Most vital organs gradually become less efficient with age. The kidneys are less able to keep enough water in your body. And the heart can start to show signs of wear and tear.

The good news is that, as you get older, there are things you can do to help your body and mind work well for a longer period of time. It’s never too early or too late to change bad habits and start good ones.

For example, being physically active keeps your body strong, and it helps with how you feel. Physical activity can be anything from walking to gardening to working out at the gym. The important thing is to be active almost every day. No matter what your age or condition, there is a type of physical activity that’s right for you. Always ask your doctor whether it is safe for you to start a physical activity program.

Your mental and emotional health are also important. To protect or improve your memory and mental sharpness, keep your brain active and challenged. Learn or do something new and different. People who feel connected to others are more likely to thrive than those who do not, so make sure you stay in touch with friends, family, and the community.

Other good health and wellness habits that can help you stay at your best include:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Avoid salty foods and foods with a lot of fat in them, such as fried or processed foods.
  • Drink plenty of water each day. Limit how much alcohol and caffeine you drink.
  • If you smoke, try to quit.
  • Keep stress at a minimum. Relax your body and mind through breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, massage, yoga or meditation.

In addition, make sure you visit your doctor for a checkup each year and get the preventive health screenings you may need. Since depression can be a serious problem for older adults, speak with your doctor if you think you may be depressed.