Ask the Expert: 5 Ways to Be Healthy at Any Age

Argye Hillis “I’m a vegetarian and I run at least five miles every day, but I don’t get enough sleep,” says Argye Hillis, director of the cerebrovascular division at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Recently I’ve taken up horseback riding, which is a good challenge for my brain. I can meditate on long rides and find I’m happier, calmer and have less back pain.” 

Whatever healthy change you want to make, it’s not too late to start and to see the benefits. It’s time to take charge and not let your age stop you, because there’s surprisingly not that much difference between an 18-year-old brain and a 100-year-old brain.

Here are five lifestyle changes you can make, at any age, to keep you healthy and possibly even extend the length and quality of your life.

1. Be active more often
Exercise lowers your risk of many conditions including heart disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and even some cancers. This powerful effect leads to something experts call “compression of morbidity,” which means you say healthy longer in your later years compared to someone who spends many years of their life battling one of these chronic illnesses.

Exercise is one of the best tools to prevent dementia and other cognitive changes. Set a goal for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.


2. Improve Your Diet
Not every diet is about losing weight. Hillis recommends a Mediterranean-style diet, which minimizes many health risks and can help prevent dementia. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish, and is low in meat, sugar and processed foods. Altogether, this helps your cells function better. You can even s
earch for Mediterranean-style recipes in the Health Library.

3. Get Quality Sleep
Not getting enough sleep has a negative effect on your memory, emotions, weight and even your appearance. You need the same amount of sleep even as you grow older, though it may be more difficult to fall and stay asleep as you age.

The National Sleep Foundation suggests that most sleep problems are caused by snoring, medication side effects and underlying medical conditions, which can all be addressed by your doctor. You can better your sleep by creating a calm, sleep-friendly environment, setting aside enough time to fall asleep and practicing relaxation techniques.


4. Stop Smoking
Within 24 hours of stopping smoking, there is a decreased risk of a heart attack. Johns Hopkins researchers found that quitting smoking decreased middle-aged smokers’ risk of dying early by almost half. Exercise can help you combat smoking cravings and withdrawal symptoms, so plan your fitness activities around the time you will most likely want a cigarette. Soon your cravings may turn to those of physical activity instead. You can also check with your doctor about smoking-cessation programs and aids.


5. Challenge Your Brain
Your brain needs exercise just like your body. Whether it’s learning a language or driving a new route to work, your brain loves tackling fresh tasks. It’s never too late to learn a new language – make it a goal to keep learning as you age.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }


kalpana shah May 7, 2015 at 8:38 pm

Few very simple suggetions to remain healthy if you have a deck ,take a chair, sit confortablly if possible inthe morning .if sunrays coming then it is the best site,close your eyes & take deep inspiration ,hold as much as you can & then exale it. this will oxygenate your all cells of the body which helps us to remain healthy .this is call breathing yoga( pranayam) .2nd tip take turmeric powder half teaspoonful disolve in water & drink it in the morning3rd tip- laugh loudly as much asyou can & as many times as possible. I can teach pranayam (six types of them) . laughing yoga&exercises if i get the chance to teach.wish everybody remain in good health.


Karen Peterson February 4, 2015 at 9:49 am

I find that when I am tired, taking a brief walk around the building helps me to move a little faster to complete my tasks for the day.


Tamara February 4, 2015 at 9:33 am

I thank you for this information, it continue to confirm what I believe. We were not created to be inactive . We must keep moving and doing thing in order to live; all of this sitting and doing nothing will kill us faster then anything. Doing any active will always help with brain function because we would be constantly plane on what to do next. so again thank you for sharing your thoughts.


Camilo Rojas February 4, 2015 at 9:16 am

It's great news but is it true?

"...there’s surprisingly not that much difference between an 18-year-old brain and a 100-year-old brain."

What is the evidence for that?


Paul Schley February 4, 2015 at 7:30 am

# 1)- Exercise doesn't have to be walking a treadmill or jumping jacks. Learning to dance (which includes #5) or tennis or walking in a mall would work. Be careful not to exercise the charge card if walking the mall!


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