Start These Habits in Your 30s to Improve Life After 50

How we live today affects how we will live in the future. Here are 21 things you can start doing in your 30s to improve the odds of great health in your 50s.

 

Start these habits to improve life after 50

Photo from Flickr by Ryan G. Smith: 

Life gets better after 30. When we cross over from our twenties to our thirties, we finally let go of our disdain for being carded and we actually look forward to it the older we get. We still look young, don't we? We've learned a lot and are ready to get the heck out of dodge. Ok, maybe not quite that extreme, but there are plenty of good reasons we can embrace this new stage in our lives.

But what will life be like twenty years from now? Will we have trouble getting up the stairs? Will we still be able to read the news without reading glasses? Will we be able to achieve our dreams and goals? Will we have time for the vacations we want to take? Will we be able to take a breather instead of stressing about things like income?

There are a lot of variables when it comes to our physical and mental health. And most of them depend on how we live our lives today. What we do today affects our future much later down the road.

So, what are some things we can do today that will help us improve our odds of having a better tomorrow? Grab a cup of coffee and let's get started.

1. Eat Healthy Foods

How well we take care of our bodies today affects our health in our future. When we give our bodies the right amounts of vitamins and nutrients, we're giving our immune systems the chance to fight infections that come up. The simple act of eating more vegetables will help us get more vitamins and nutrients into our bodies. Adding vegetables here and there won't be enough, but at least it's a start.

Another consideration is to reduce the intake of foods that are rich in phytic acid. Examples include beans and grains such as wheat and barley. Studies have shown that while phytic acid-rich foods have many health benefits, they also contribute to poor dental health. Researchers found that a diet that did not include phytic acid actually improved dental health and reversed cavities. There are ways to reduce the phytic acid content in foods, however, and still receive some of the benefits. These ways include soaking, sprouting, or fermenting the food.

Also, look for signs that may indicate a food allergy. Certain symptoms that we consider normal after eating a meal may actually be a sign of a food allergy or intolerance. A gluten-free or celiac diet often gets a bad rap as a bogus trend, but some people are actually allergic to gluten and experience relief only when the gluten is eliminated from the diet completely.

2. Practice Good Dental Hygiene

Does the thought of dentures or painful and extensive dental work like root canals, bridges, tooth extractions, and crowns get you excited about life in your 50s? If we don't start taking care of our teeth early in life, we might not have any when we reach retirement age. Poor tooth and gum health leads to unattractive issues like cavities, gum recession, discolored teeth, and rotting teeth. These are the things we think about when considering life after 50. But it doesn't have to be this way.

The good news is that maintaining healthy teeth and gums into our 50s isn't a lofty goal. Gum disease can be treated and managed by taking care of our teeth and gums right now. By addressing signs of gum disease and other infections now, we can set ourselves up for good health later on down the road.  

Our oral health isn't the only reason to make good dental hygiene practices a priority. The health of our mouths has been directly connected to the health of the rest of our bodies. Researchers have discovered that gum disease may cause some major health conditions including heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, life-threatening pneumonia, and diabetes. Gum disease is an infection in the mouth that typically causes bleeding or inflamed gums, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that half of American adults have periodontal (or gum) disease.

Good dental hygiene includes brushing your teeth at least twice per day, flossing at least once per day (but preferably after every time you eat), and regular dental cleanings by a professional dentist. A visit with the dentist for a dental examination that includes x-rays of your mouth can make you aware of hard-to-see issues like cavities, concerns about enamel erosion, weaknesses in a tooth, or signs of root decay.

3. Exercise

Keeping our bodies in great shape now will help keep our joints lubricated and our muscles strong in our 50s. Not only will we establish a routine for exercise, making it easier to exercise into our 50s, but we will also change our whole outlook on aging. Aches and pains are normal for the average American, but exercising now and keeping up with the habit will allow us to stay active well into retirement. Exercising gets the blood circulation going and releases endorphins that help us with our mood and overall well-being.

According to the CDC, adults, from ages 18 to 64, need a minimum of two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week and muscle-strengthening activities that work all of the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) on at least two of those days each week. The CDC provides a list of more workout options on their website here.

4. Get Enough Sleep

Pulling all-nighters is a common habit for young adults, especially college students. But lack of sleep takes a toll on perception, judgment, efficiency, and productivity. It can even cause a person to fall asleep behind the wheel, resulting in a potentially fatal car accident.

According to a Gallup study, 40% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep each night and adults under age 50 are the most likely to feel sleep-deprived.

Not surprisingly, chronic sleep deprivation is associated with a number of health concerns including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Researchers have also linked insufficient sleep and weight gain. Studies have shown that people who frequently sleep less than six hours per night are more likely to have a body mass index (BMI) that is higher than average.

5. Stop Bad Habits

We already know that bad habits such as smoking or chewing tobacco are bad for our health. But we often downgrade or disregard the consequences for the gratification we experience right away. Justification won't help us in our 50s and 60s.

Other bad habits include sipping sugary drinks throughout the day, chewing on ice, using teeth as tools, binge eating or drinking, skipping meals, road rage, skipping brushing and flossing sessions, not drinking enough water, eating fresh lemons, holding grudges instead of forgiving, and not washing our hands enough.

To set us up for health in later life, we must let go of the habits that will, without a doubt, negatively affect our health in the future.

6. Limit Sun Exposure

Catching some vitamin D is great for the health of our teeth, gums, and the rest of our bodies because it is a vital nutrient, but too much exposure to the sun's UV rays causes skin damage such as sunburns and even cancer. Repeated sun damage can make our skin look dry, wrinkled, discolored, and leathery. It even weakens the skin and causes it to bruise more easily.

While some experts suggest using sunblock to prevent sunburn and sun poisoning, others recommend simply limiting your time in the sun.

7. Work on Relationships

A good life includes experiencing good relationships and friendships. Maintaining our existing friendships and finding new friends is healthy for our well-being. We were designed for relationships. Friends may come and go, especially right out of high school or college, but we owe it to ourselves to work toward building relationships and experiencing life right alongside other people.

If any of  your relationships need some repair, now is a good time to work on those. Living life harboring grudges or regrets causes a lot of wear and tear on our bodies. Let go of grudges and work toward repairing those relationships. There are plenty of resources available to help you work through this area.

8. Plan for Retirement

One day we will wake up and realize that we've spent all of our money and we don't have any savings set aside for our retirement. Nearly half of Americans age 55 and over do not have enough money saved for retirement. While some of these individuals will receive a pension, 29% of those households will not. Don't allow yourself to fall into this percentage. The older we get, the more we value things other than our careers. Keeping a job is important, but keeping relationships, especially a marriage, healthy is important, too.

To set yourself up for success in retirement and prevent a lot of stress in your 50s, it's best to start saving right away. Financial experts say that to support our lifestyles in our retirement, we need to save 100% of our pre-retirement salary for each year of retirement. That means, if our retirement lasts for 30 years and our current household income is $40,000, we need to have $1.2 million set aside. This may seem like a daunting task, but the good news is we can start saving today.

9. Buy a House

Becoming a homeowner can be very rewarding. Set yourself up for success by staying well within your means. A mortgage payment that is manageable today may become a heavy burden later on, especially if the household experiences a loss in income. Also, ask your lender about early payoff. You may even have it paid off by the time you reach your 50s.

Buying a home may also be a great investment, if purchased during the right time in a strong real estate market.

10. Make Good Decisions

The decisions we make today can affect how we live in the future. Are we holding onto grudges? Are we holding off on taking that dream vacation? Are we settling for a life we don't want? Are we spending our time in a way that will help us achieve our goals? Are we setting money aside for retirement?

These things may not seem too terribly important now, but they could very well be important in the future. How we choose to live today affects our whole future.

11. Learn From Mistakes

Learning from our mistakes is one of the most important lessons we can learn in life. Each mistake is a learning exercise. It gives us the opportunity to learn, grow, and move on.

If we see mistakes as regrets or bad experiences, we are more likely to fall into depression or spend the rest of our lives unhappy, unsatisfied, and uninspired.

12. Pursue Life Goals

When we hold off on pursuing our life goals, we can end up feeling frustrated and stressed out, especially when we wake up in our 50s and realize we never achieved the things we dreamed about. Don't wait until the timing is just right. There will never be a more perfect time to start reaching toward a goal than right now. If you have a big goal, start working toward it today. Break it down into smaller goals and figure out what you need to do each day to keep yourself moving forward.

13. Live a Full Life

It is easy to get caught up in the routine of everyday life. And in this situation, we start to see ourselves settling for mediocrity. But instead of working to pay the bills and living to work, work toward working to live. Take advantage of opportunities. Go on those vacations. Reward yourself for mini successes. Celebrate today instead of waiting until retirement. Living life to the fullest now will help keep those regrets from sabotaging our happiness and well-being later on.

14. Be Content with What You Have

Constantly seeking more than what you have comes with a price: stress. When we're never satisfied with what we have, we're usually frustrated and stressed out that we don't have more. Instead of dreaming about that newer, bigger TV or that brand new truck we've been eyeing at the local car dealer, we need to learn to be content with what we have. We need to ask ourselves (and be honest): What are the benefits associated with the things we have? Are all of the vehicles paid off? Do they get us from Point A to Point B? Does the TV still work? Does it do its job? Is it really greener on the other side?

Contentment gives us peace and helps reduce our stress. So, sit back, relax, and be happy with the things you have.

15. Stop Impressing Other People

A good life isn't about keeping up with the Joneses or about impressing other people. If you feel compelled to buy something, do it because you want it instead of trying to outmatch someone else. Just because the neighbor got a new boat doesn't mean we need one that is bigger and better.

There isn't anything wrong with taking pride in our work, but when we do it to impress other people, that is where we cross the line.

16. Collect Memories (Not Things)

It's nice to have nice things, but when that desire crosses over into an unhealthy level of materialism, it can lead to stress. When we spend everything we make on possessions, it's hard to end the vicious cycle. We always want more. And eventually, we start getting ourselves into trouble by buying it with credit. Credit cards can be used as a good financial tool, but they can easily be abused, resulting in heaping credit card debt and rapidly accumulating interest.

Instead of spending money on material items, focusing on creating memories by building relationships and experiencing new things in life. As we get older, we start to realize that possessions do not define us, our experiences do.

17. Give Back

Giving to someone in need can be very fulfilling. There will always be someone who needs the money (or service or household item) more than we do. It doesn't have to be a monetary donation. It could be a donation of your time. Is there a charity you would like to donate your time to? Or do you have household items you can give away?

Letting go of possessions you don't need can be liberating as well. There can be a lot of stress involved in holding onto possessions, especially the ones you don't really need (i.e., duplicates and triplicates of cooking utensils, etc.). So, start going through your home and picking out everything that you could give to someone else.

Giving back is also a great way to get your kids involved, too.

18. Read

Reading is a great way to exercise the brain. Studies have shown that people who engage in mentally stimulating activities such as reading experience slower memory decline compared to those who don't. It may even reduce our risk for Alzheimer's disease and help us get better sleep.

If reading isn't your strong suit, finding a genre that interests you can be a challenge. But stick with it and keep testing out new books. It's a wonderful way to wind down an evening or pass the time during a snowstorm.

19. Meditate

Not only is meditation a great way to stimulate the brain, but it is also a great stress-reliever. Stress can lead to many health-related conditions including dry mouth, overwhelm, and depression. Some studies have even suggested that meditation helps lower blood pressure and reduces the incidence, severity, and duration of acute respiratory illnesses such as the flu.

There are plenty of helpful resources on getting started with meditation practice. Your library may even have books on meditation or your local recreation center may offer classes on this practice.

20. Travel

Not everyone has a desire to see the world, but if you do, find a way to make travel a priority. If you never get to see the places you've dreamed about visiting, you will always feel a little regret. But don't wait until retirement. If you put it off, you may never get a chance to do it.

Take advantage of travel opportunities and start setting money aside right away. A lot of people don't think it is possible to take vacations on their current salaries, but there are likely areas of spending that can be reduced or eliminated. For instance, is it really necessary to have cable television? Do you really need a smartphone? Is there a way you can lower your monthly car payment? Instead of going out to eat, can you set that money aside for your travel fund.

There are ways to increase savings. You may just need to get a little creative with your spending habits.

21. Keep a Journal

As we age, our memory may start to decline. Just think about how many times you ask yourself where you put your keys or the TV remote. It happens, but keeping a journal is a wonderful way to record the highlights in life, giving us something to look back on without having to remember all of the details. A journal doesn't have to be a plain book of writings. It could take the form of a scrapbook and you could paste pictures to the pages for easier reading later on. The act of creating something like a collage or a scrapbook can also be therapeutic, helping you reduce stress and enjoy the moment.

Developing habits like these today can help us improve our lives tomorrow. When we consider how much of our activities affect our physical and mental well-being, we can find a renewed sense of motivation to work toward setting a good foundation for a great future. It's all up to us! We just need to start. Why not today?

Resources:

 

http://www.aarp.org/work/retirement-planning/info-2015/nest-egg-retirement-amount.html

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-and-disease-risk

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/healthy_living/hic_An_Overview_ofYour_Skin/hic_protecting_yourself_from_sun_damage

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/08/05/health-benefits-reading_n_4081258.html

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/10/ask-well-the-health-benefits-of-meditation/?_r=0

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/10/scientific-proof-that-the_n_5110179.html

http://www.gallup.com/poll/166553/less-recommended-amount-sleep.aspx

 

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