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Wellness Talk: How to age gracefully

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Celebrated singer/songwriter James Taylor said, "The key to life is enjoying the passing of time."

It's hard to argue with that because, like it or not, each one us is getting older and - at least in JT's mind - and we all would be wise to enjoy the ride.

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But these days, getting older isn't easy. It takes courage - lots of it. Indeed, we are all going to have to face the reality that our bodies will begin changing. It's inevitable that we will wake up with new aches and pains, we'll see wrinkles where we've never seen them before and the list will go on and on and on.

But here's the interesting thing: Getting older can be a glorious thing, if you pay attention to these important details:

• Don't give in to stereotypes. Getting older does not automatically mean poor health or that you will be confined to a walker or wheelchair. Take charge of your health, and you can look forward to a long, active and healthy life.

• Drink a cup or two of coffee. A large-scale study of 400,000 participants suggests that drinking two cups of coffee a day cuts the overall risk of dying by 10 percent.

• Find a primary care doctor. No matter what your age, you need a primary care doctor. Not only do they treat you when you're sick, but regularly scheduled visits can help your doctor create a program to help you get and stay healthy.

• See your friends every week. Research shows that those who live the longest and healthiest have deep social connections.

• Swap one "super food" for a junk food. Practically any fruit or vegetable can be classified as a super food. Spinach, broccoli, avocados, tomatoes and blueberries are just a few. A healthy diet is key to healthy aging, so swap a super food for your regular diet cola, bag of chips or candy bar.

• Wear your seatbelt. It's quick, it's easy, it's obvious, but many adults still aren't getting the message. Most drivers and passengers killed in crashes are unrestrained.

• Volunteer. Giving back to the community can give your life a positive meaning and perspective, which is essential to a healthy outlook. Visit www.volunteermatch.org for local volunteer ideas and opportunities.

• Try to eat fish two to three times a week. Fish are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows may help with conditions common with aging, like rheumatoid arthritis and depression. Good picks include anchovies, bluefish, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, lake trout and tuna.

• Move every single day. Hearing this advice may be getting old, but following it will help keep you from feeling that way. Exercise is one, if not the best, thing we can do to preserve our health. Aim for 30 minutes of movement a day.

• Find at least one healthy stress reliever and stick to it. Chronic stress is a primary source of premature aging. Whether it's running, listening to music, spending time outdoors or going to the movies, find something healthy that helps you unwind - and stick to it.

• Wear sunscreen every day (yes even in the winter). Besides helping keep wrinkles at bay, wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more can help prevent skin cancer.

• Take 60 seconds to laugh. Laughing helps release "feel good" chemicals called endorphins. In the long-run laughing can also improve your immune system, relieve pain and increase personal satisfaction. George Bernard Shaw said, "You don't stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing." Totally true.

• Sleep seven to nine hours every night. Sufficient sleep is increasingly being recognized as an essential aspect of chronic disease prevention and health promotion.

• Stop holding a grudge. Clinging to betrayals and disappointments is bad for the body and mind. Moreover, research has found that optimism and forgiveness can lower blood pressure and heart rate, and reduce depression.

• Do a crossword puzzle and read, read, read. Or exercise your brain by playing memory games or taking classes. Constantly challenging your mind to learn new things will keep your mind sharp.

• Use flax, olive and nut oils for cooking. The research is overwhelming that eating more fish, flax, olive and nut oils and less processed oils contributes to a healthier and longer life.

• Drink red wine - in moderation. Health researchers reveal that red wine contains antioxidants and resveratrol, both powerful anti-agers. Now here's the key: no more than a 4-ounce glass a day. Consuming more than one drink a day increases your risk substantially. Oh, and by the way, you can't save your drinks up and have them all in one night.

There's an old saying, "Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art." Make it a point to be a work of art, and enjoy every second of the great gift you've been given.

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