A sense of purpose in 2023 may extend your life | Columnists

A new year brings new resolutions that may lead to improvements in daily habits as well as health benefits for many older Americans.

In fact, according to a 2019 report published in JAMA, having a sense of purpose may not only extend their lives but may also result in fewer chronic conditions, less disability and reduced mortality. For people who are already suffering from chronic conditions, setting simple and realistic goals that are manageable with their health challenges is important.

As you consider changes and goals for 2023, here are five achievable resolutions that can help kick off the new year on the right foot.

1. Pursue an active lifestyle

Staying active is an admirable goal to have every year. Adults can engage in activity at home including aerobic activity, resistance training yoga and walks around their neighborhood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular physical activity is vital for healthy aging. Talk to your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level and ask about the type and amount of activity that may be best for you.

2. Eat healthfully

Prioritizing home-cooked meals and healthful snacks is the best place to start. Depending on how they are prepared, home-cooked meals can often have lower levels of sodium, sugar and fat when compared to meals at a restaurant. If you have allergies or conditions that require a special diet, talk to your doctor about your meal plan. Check out Optum’s two-minute tips on meal planning.

3. Challenge your brain and stimulate your mind

It is important to practice a form of daily brain stimulation as age can cause changes to brain size, vasculature and cognition, according to the National Institute of Aging. A healthy life, both physically and mentally, may be one of the best defenses against the changes of an aging brain. Completing crossword puzzles or playing games, such as chess, can be fun ways to keep your mind active while enjoying a new hobby. Check out this fun activity to keep your mind active.

4. Stay connected with friends and family

Time spent with family and friends can be very beneficial. The National Institute of Aging mentions that older people with strong social and community ties are more likely to live a longer life and cites research stating that isolation can contribute to high blood pressure. Even a virtual visit is better than no visit at all, when it’s not possible to get together face-to-face.

5. Nurture an interest

People who engage in activities or hobbies may feel happier and healthier, according to the National Institute of Aging. Learning new skills may also help increase cognitive function. Music, theater, dance and creative writing are just some ways that older adults may be able to help improve their well-being through hobbies. These specific interests may help with memory, boost self-esteem, reduce stress and increase social interactions. If you are looking for something new to learn, try this art exercise that you can do from your home to stimulate your brain and improve your mental health.

6. See your doctor

While New Year’s resolutions such as watching what we eat or starting a fitness routine are common to many, the importance of prioritizing and scheduling a wellness visit with a primary care physician is often overlooked. Getting routine preventive care, through visits that are separate from visits due to sickness, injury or routine care for ongoing medical conditions can help you stay well and catch problems earlier, helping you live a healthier and longer life.

Dr. Stacie Pinderhughes is chief medical officer for Optum Arizona. Visit Optum.com for more information.

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