America’s newest generation will live longer than any other period of time in U.S. history, with the latest government life expectancy projection reaching 78.8 years, according to Time magazine.
Life expectancy for individuals born in 2012 was 0.1 years longer than it was in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest research. At the same time, the CDC found the infant mortality rate fell to a new low — 1.5 percent — equal to 597.8 deaths per 100,000 live births.
“Much of the recent improvement in death rates and life expectancy for population groups examined can be attributed to reductions in death rates from major causes of death, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases,” the CDC said, according to Time.
The CDC’s attribution of reduced death rates from common chronic diseases to extended life expectancy may be a sign people are increasingly maintaining good health during old age. However, there are certain practices young and middle-aged adults can adopt now to stay healthy as they age.
1. Look out for your bones.
As we age, our bones become thinner and more brittle, particularly in women. This can sometimes result in osteoporosis — especially in women — a fragile bone condition that can also be painful. To build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis, engage in weight-bearing exercise and eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, according to WebMD. In addition to diet and exercise, refraining from smoking and limiting alcohol intake can help prevent thinning bones.
2. Strengthen your heart.
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Although there is not much we can do to change certain risk factors, such as family history, sex or age, there are effective preventative measures against heart disease, according to Mayo Clinic. These include not smoking or using tobacco, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week and eating a heart-healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet is one that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, beans and other low-fat sources of protein and fish. It is also important to limit the types of fats you eat, according to Mayo. Additionally, try to avoid trans fat and saturated fat.
3. Preserve your capacity to think and remember.
After cancer, cognitive deterioration is now the second leading health concern among adults in the U.S., in addition to France, Germany and Spain, according to a Harvard University School of Public Health survey and the Alzheimer Europe consortium, Psychology Today reported. Although Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can occur spontaneously, research shows the onset of these diseases is also related to lifestyle choices.
Staving off dementia begins with what we eat, as everything we put in our bodies prompts a neurological reaction. Foods rich in antioxidants are linked to delaying the onset of brain degeneration, according to the report. Examples of foods rich in antioxidants include blueberries, broccoli, grapes, prunes, strawberries, spinach, artichokes and apples, in addition to spices, such as rosemary, turmeric, thyme and oregano. Coffee and tea also contain antioxidants, as well as anti-inflammatory compounds called flavonoids, according to the report.
4. Protect your skin.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., according to the CDC. This disease can occur during any age, so it is important to always protect your skin with sunscreen, clothing and not use tanning beds. Applying a daily moisturizer with SPF on your face, chest and any other skin that is regularly exposed can help prevent sun damage. It is also important to remember to put on sunscreen before exercising outdoors, and letting it soak in before starting to sweat. Taking these same measures can also help prevent brown sunspots, which commonly appear on elderly people’s hands and arms.
5. Maintain proper dental hygiene.
Advancing age can put people at risk for numerous oral health ailments, such as darkened teeth, dry mouth, gum disease, tooth loss and others, according to Mayo Clinic. While some tooth decay is normal, keeping up with oral and dental hygiene can help prevent these unpleasant conditions. Daily brushing and flossing is essential for preventing the buildup of plaque, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Using toothpaste that contains fluoride and antibacterial mouthwash can also help get rid of plaque. Additionally, it is important to visit the dentist on a regular schedule for cleaning and an oral exam to catch any signs of issues early on.