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Living a vibrant, healthy life as we age has everything to do with the choices we make today. From how we spend our leisure time, to eating, to moving regularly and being grateful, aging well is a multifaceted path that begins with the simple, usually overlooked steps we take every day toward optimal health.
Frank Lipman, MD, a widely recognized functional and integrative medicine trailblazer, a New York Times bestselling author, “Tune Into Wellness” podcast host (with 47.5K followers on Instagram) and a 2022 Next Avenue Influencer in Aging, believes that health or disease are frequently multifactorial in cause.
““Aging does not have to make you vulnerable. Instead, it can be a wake-up call to become the healthiest you have ever been.””
They are often the result of those small but mighty daily decisions, habits, practices, behaviors and actions that can immensely affect how we age.
While recognizing that health is an ever-fluid entity that shifts throughout our lives, Lipman, 68, delineates this ethos in “The New Rules of Aging Well: A Simple Program for Immune Resilience, Strength, and Vitality”—a straightforward guide offering resources and actionable advice to support longevity, boost immune resilience, maintain overall wellness and beautiful aging.
‘Your body is a complex machine’
Lipman’s approach is unequivocal: add what is beneficial and dismiss what is damaging: “What you put into your body and mind affects the whole organism, determining function and resilience.”
“Your body is a complex machine, and keeping it humming along beautifully as you age calls for a plan that prepares your body to handle whatever the world throws at you,” says Lipman.
Aging well “is not about pushing and pushing, but about letting go and being comfortable with where things are, while still trying to get healthier,” he adds.
Thus, there can be countless routes to aging. However, the goal is to create a sustainable, health-giving blueprint for optimal living that Lipman says considers the body as “an integrated whole and not as a machine with separate parts treated independently.”
Through this all-encompassing lens on health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well-being), it is more effortless to realize that healthy aging is not about living longer but about being vigorous and happy for years to come.
I recently talked to Lipman to learn more about his uncomplicated but informed view on healthy aging, gleaning more from this blend of leading-edge, contemporary medicine with age-old Eastern healing practices.
I also asked about current views of healthy aging in America and its diverse outcomes in our modern post-pandemic world.
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A shift in perception
“The biggest problem is the perception of what it means to age and how we age. So much of what we perceive in aging is a decreased function,” says Lipman.
Most individuals assume that typical aging symptoms (think losing mental sharpness, stamina, muscle, physical strength or mood swings) are a given. Still, these should not be absolute. A lot of these symptoms end up being attributed to aging.
Nonetheless, aging is not necessarily the problem, but inadequate lifestyle patterns, lack of sleep and exercise, poor eating behaviors and stress management strategies are, to name just a few.
Lipman notes, “These common aging signs imply that we must revise our lifestyle to improve our well-being and build immune resilience. Regardless, aging does not have to make you vulnerable. Instead, it can be a wake-up call to become the healthiest you have ever been.”
Lipman’s view on healthy aging is a call to action to pave better, more nourishing ways to optimal wellness and to lead a thriving life. “It means tuning in to your health, becoming your wellness coach, and learning to sense what you need when you need it,” he explains. “It involves responding to changes, preventing injury, building resilience, and being open to new approaches and behaviors.”
Lipman believes our daily choices can tremendously affect our overall health and our body’s ability to protect itself, which is why ensuring a daily, wellness-supporting routine is paramount.
Read: This retiree traveled solo to Bali, Iceland and Patagonia — ‘Women can live vibrant, full lives after 50’
The ‘new rules of aging well’
Lipman’s latest book refers to aspects of our life that directly affect our health, and most important, it shows how we can take the process of healthy aging into our hands — starting today.
Here are some essential, accessible and uplifting rules to live by when it comes to aging well:
- Focus on food: We all know eating the right foods (e.g., opting for nutrient-dense nutrition, organic and local produce, limiting sugar, consuming less food and reducing animal protein intake) is a nonnegotiable for keeping our bodies running smoothly and increasing mitochondrial function. Nevertheless, food is also about community. It is about connection, love, and sharing those special moments with the people we love.
- More and better sleep: Sleep is the fundamental rhythm that keeps every other body system in tune. For Lipman, “sleep is not a luxury but an absolute act of daily maintenance, and our ally in keep the brain sharp and youthful.” Chronic poor sleep will negatively affect our health in countless ways, with daytime stress and being biologically older being two of them.
- Move: As Lipman says, “Exercising as you age is about more than defined workouts; it is about moving as much as you can every day, all day. It is about being a physical person.” He also adds that since we need our muscles and joints perpetually, we should think twice before wearing them out. “Being nimble at 90 depends on how you take care of yourself now.”
- Community, nature and more: There are many elements that comprise the prism of multidimensional well-being, but relationships, nature, and gratitude should not be left unmentioned. “Having a pet, being kind to others, having appreciation, taking a walk, spending time with loved ones, or listening to music are equally important tangents to aging well,” Lipman says.
Also see: Here’s one thing mindfulness and exercise don’t help, new research says
Healthy aging post-pandemic
At the intersection between COVID-19 and healthy aging lies a complex field of questions and future lines of inquiry. In Lipman’s view, “For some (the pandemic), it has been helpful; for others, it probably has not.”
“Many people realized that stress, poor eating habits, and lack of movement were their usual way of life, and they had to change it. They had no other choice when they realized the importance of upgrading these lifestyle habits,” says Lipman.
Unfortunately, the shift happened in the opposite direction for others because of more disconnection and loneliness. “I think the loss of community took an emotional toll on many individuals, and these changes have impacted us all as well,” he says.
This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, © 2022 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.
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