Healthy Aging Month: Set Your Future-Self Up for Success

Healthy Aging

It turns out there is a science to aging as much as an art. Celebrate Healthy Aging Month and learn more about how to sustain yourself through the years as we break down what it truly means to age with intention. 


The mere thought of growing older can be daunting, what with the mental and physical changes that come along with it. While inevitable, the extent and prevalence of those changes are dependent on choices we make in our younger years. There are two paths: a hard and fast lifestyle or a slower, smoother approach. It’s most likely quite obvious which one will serve you well, but let’s dig into why exactly that’s the case. 


What happens when you age? 

When it comes to aging, there’s your chronological age and biological age. While your chronological age is measured in years, your biological age is measured based on your cellular health and other key biomarkers. Depending on lifestyle, diet, and genetics, your cellular aging could be faster or slower than your chronological aging. Over time, the tissues in your body are challenged to greater degrees as your body works to replace and renew cells (this process of decreased cell renewal is known as cellular senescence). The choices you make in your younger years along with genetics play a major role in your body’s continued ability to efficiently function.


For instance, your skin is constantly shedding skin cells and producing new ones to replenish your epidermal barrier. As you age, the rate of skin cell production could decrease, resulting in a thinning barrier which could lend to TEWL, or trans-epidermal water loss. This is a root cause of skin that may feel dry and lend itself to the start of fine lines. 

Not all your cells shed and renew at the rate of skin cells - the cells that comprise your brain and other organs tend to last longer. However, as these cells age it can affect organ function. Those of us who’ve lived generally healthy lives have a better “reserve” to deal with this strain as we age. Even as our reserves grow smaller and we start to see noticeable signs of aging, there’s a lot we can do to support our systems and age gracefully.1  


What do we know about healthy aging? 

Healthy aging is influenced by a variety of factors, some of which are out of our control. For example, you may not be able to change your genetics, but you can make choices that set your body up for its best chance at longevity. Among many things, some key elements that are indicative of healthy aging are your activity levels, mental well-being, and diet. 


Keep it moving. Research shows that people who move regularly and are physically active may have improved quality of life over those who don’t. In fact, a recent study of adults aged 40 or older discovered that “taking 8,000 steps or more per day, compared to only taking 4,000 steps, was associated with a 51% lower risk of death from all causes.”2 While maintaining a healthy weight can put less pressure on your body’s systems, the muscle mass you build in your younger years can have lasting benefits as you age. Another poignant study showed that “muscle mass was a better predictor of longevity than was weight or body mass index (BMI).”3 Even simply taking a daily brisk walk with hand weights could pay you back tenfold in the future. 


Support your mind-body connection. What happens in the mind can impact the body and affect the way you age. How much you socialize and manage your stress levels are key indicators of longevity. Studies show that community is one of the pillars of longevity for increased healthspan. For instance, a recent study showed that feelings of loneliness could be associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular decline4 while another revealed that “individuals who were emotionally stable lived on average three years longer than those who had a tendency toward being in a negative or anxious emotional state.”5 Tap into your network of friends and family to build a strong support system and reap the benefits of social interaction. While socializing is important, your mental health can also be stimulated by putting effort into learning something new or doing a brain teaser like a crossword puzzle. 


Eat cleaner. Making smarter food choices could make all the difference with how your body ages. The science backing different diets can be overwhelming, but one of the best solutions is a tailored, one-of-a-kind approach. Each of us has a unique microbiome and cellular makeup, meaning that certain foods could be compatible with you that aren’t necessarily an ideal choice for your neighbor. Get to the bottom of what foods fuel you by discovering what foods are beneficial for your unique biology. 


What does the hard and fast path look like?

When we live a lifestyle that’s difficult on the body - whether that involves a high alcohol intake, regular smoking, or poor diet - aging can start to happen prematurely. This shows up differently for everyone, but it could mean that you start to notice age spots on your skin, a lag in your muscle recovery time after a workout, or a more sinister degradation in your general wellness. The unhealthier your choices, the larger the toll is on your body’s reserve, and the greater the pressure is on your body’s ability to renew and restore. 

Ultimately, healthy aging is about prevention and supporting your cells through a lifestyle that boosts your body. With that said, taking the proper path now is something that you’ll be thankful for years to come.


  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Home - books - NCBI. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved August 27, 2022, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). National Institute on Aging. Retrieved August 27, 2022, from nia.nih.gov/health

  3. Srikanthan P, Karlamangla AS. Am J Med. 2014 Jun;127(6):547-53. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2014.02.007. Epub 2014 Feb 18. PMID: 24561114; PMCID: PMC4035379.

  4. Hu J, Fitzgerald SM, Owen AJ, Ryan J, Joyce J, Chowdhury E, Reid CM, Britt C, Woods RL, McNeil JJ, Freak-Poli R.(2021). Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 36(11):1795-1809. doi: 10.1002/gps.5601. Epub 2021 Jul 21. PMID: 34231940.

  5. Moffat SD, An Y, Resnick SM, Diamond MP, Ferrucci L. (2020). J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 75(2):394-400. doi: 10.1093/gerona/gly279. PMID: 31714574; PMCID: PMC7176109.