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Healthy Bodies and Healthy Minds: Social Engagement for Healthy Aging

Most of us already know the many benefits of maintaining a healthy body, especially as we age.

Eating a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, unprocessed grains and lean protein, and limiting alcohol intake, are crucial starting points to good physical health. Stopping smoking is another key contributing factor to our health. There is no healthy level of smoking. Scientific evidence shows that if one smokes, they face much higher risks of death and or illness from many different cancers, heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, respiratory diseases, and health complications.

Experts also advise to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most or all days to help keep one’s heart, lungs, muscles and bones healthy. Physical activity helps with fitness, strength, flexibility and balance- all increasingly important as we age. Regular physical activity builds muscle and helps to control weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, pain, as well as bone and joint problems such as osteoporosis and arthritis. It can also reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and help prevent falls and injury. Exercise can include swimming, gardening, walking, yoga, bowls, running and tai chi.

Social engagement and healthy aging

Many of us know our blood pressure and cholesterol… But how often do we think about the benefits of keeping our social lives active as we age? Well, there are many benefits to active social participation and engaging with others as we age!

These include maintaining a healthy brain, helping prevent memory loss, maintaining confidence, strengthening our sense of belonging, creating/ enhancing social relationships and thereby contributing to overall health and wellbeing.

The “use it or lose it” theory of healthy aging might explain this phenomenon. Its hypothesis is that the mental workout associated with social engagement could help to maintain brain health and memory. Take conversation. This challenging activity uses multiple mental skills simultaneously, including attention, listening, reasoning, language, and memory.

Dr Suzanne E. Salamon, Associate Chief for Clinical Geriatrics at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center says that “talking and interacting with people takes energy and makes you work harder, which stimulates your brain. ” Furthermore, she says “so far nothing has been found to prevent dementia except exercise and social engagement.” Conversely, research shows that socially isolated older adults are at greater risk of sickness, disability, and even premature death.

So next time you think about the healthy aging, remember that social engagement is a key factor in keeping a healthy mind.

Sources

www.health.harvard.edu
www.myagedcare.gov.au

… talking and interacting with people takes energy and makes you work harder, which stimulates your brain.

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