You Can Stay Young – Ten Things That Make it Possible

by Karen Brooks on August 25, 2010


Young people rarely think about growing old. Like it or not, though, everyone ages, and before you know it you’re middle-aged, or older. If you look around, though, it’s easy to see that some people age much slower than others. They look years younger than their physical age. How do they do it? Is it possible for you? Indeed, it is. The first thing to remember is that “age is just an attitude — a state of mind.” You don’t suddenly become old at a certain age. Many people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s act and look quite young, and are still very active and healthy. Age doesn’t have to be associated with weakness, deterioration and illness.

But how long you live depends mainly on your genes, you say. And this is, indeed, true to some extent, but lifestyle, diet, exercise, attitude and so on play a very large role. It’s important also to remember that a long life isn’t necessarily a good one. Many older people live for years with diabetes, depression and are miserable. You not only want a long life, you want a good life — free of illness, filled with happiness, good health and optimism.

Everyone ages; you merely have to look at pictures of yourself a few years back to see that. Some of the characteristics of growing older are: grey hair, wrinkles, weakness, deteriorating eyesight and hearing, weight gain and forgetfulness. You can’t stop these things, but you can minimize them using the ten strategies I list below. They are as follows:

1. Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking sufficient water is critical for good health. Seven to eight glasses a day is usually recommended, and unfortunately many people do not get this much. And remember that soda, coffee, and most sweet drinks don’t count.

Drinking water gives you a glow and a youthful appearance mostly because it helps your skin stay young. One of the main reasons water is so important is that approximately 2/3 of your body is made up of water. In particular,

  • muscle is 75% water
  • blood is 83% water
  • your brain is 90% water
  • bone is 22% water

It’s amazing how many things water does in your body. It

  • transports oxygen and nutrients to your cells
  • helps digest your food
  • flushes waste from your kidneys, and helps flush solid waste
  • regulates your body temperature
  • protects your organs
  • protects your joints
  • forms the basis of saliva

It also protects you from disease. Sufficient intake of water decreases your risk of colon cancer by 45%, and bladder cancer by 50%, Furthermore, water helps you lose weight, exercise better, feel better and you are less likely to get sick.

Dehydration, on the other hand

  • makes you tired
  • gives you a headache
  • muscle cramps
  • constipation
  • dry skin
  • kidney problems

So how do you know if you’re not getting enough water? Three things you should watch for are: dark yellow urine, thirst and fatigue.

2. Eat Vegetables (particularly raw ones)

Vegetables are highly nutritious, and are therefore of tremendous benefit to your health. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, trace elements, natural sugars, and enzymes (enzymes help your body digest food).But why are fresh, raw vegetables best? The main reason is that vegetables start to lose nutrients the moment they are picked, or pulled out of the ground; furthermore, cooking deletes them even further (except for a few cases — cooked carrots, for example, are slightly more nutritious than raw ones).

So, try to get your vegetables as fresh as possible. Grow them in your own garden if possible, or buy them at a farmers market. and if you are forced to buy them at a grocery store, use them up as quickly as possible.

What are the main benefits of vegetables? First of all, they are full of antioxidants, so they fight free radicals (one of the main things that ages you). Furthermore, they have been shown to lower your probability of getting heart disease, and they also give you benefits against cancer.

Some of the best, most nutritious vegetables are: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes and spinach. But cabbage, beets, peas, lettuce and cucumber (and others) are also excellent. Try for a variety in your meals.

3. Eat Fruit and Berries

Like vegetables, fruit and berries are also loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. They also help protect you against certain diseases, and are extremely beneficial to your health. Again, variety is the key; try to get as many different ones as possible in your diet. Some of the best are: oranges, grapefruit, blueberries and strawberries. But bananas, canteloupe, grapes, mango, papaya, watermelon, and many others are also excellent. One of the pluses of fruit is that it is sweet and can be eaten as a desert.

4. Get Enough Omega-3

Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid and since it is a fat, it might not seem like it would be good for you, but it is. In fact, it is critical for good health, and its main source is fish oil, but it is also present in flaxseed oil, soybeans and walnuts. The best fish sources are: herring, salmon, sardines, tuna, and trout. Some of the things that omega-3 does are:

  • helps alleviate heart disease
  • helps arteriorsclerosis
  • assists brain function
  • helps alleviate depression
  • helps reduce inflammation
  • helps diabetes
  • helps the immune system
  • is good for the skin

5. Avoid Stress (and Have a Positive Attitude)

Stress will age you faster than almost anything. Furthermore, a large fraction of all illness and disease is due to stress. So it’s obviously something you want to avoid as much as possible. Many things cause stress: illness, marriage problems, divorce, job loss, accidents, and so on. And it’s difficult to avoid all these things. But much of the stress we experience is of our own making. When something bad happens we experience a “stress response” — a surge of adrenaline and cortisol in our body. Usually within a short time we get over it, and things get back to normal. But for some people, stress responses occur one after the other, and they soon experience “stress overload.” This is what you want to avoid. Stress overload affects your heart and vascular system, your immune system, and even your brain, so it’s important to avoid it. Some of the things that help are:

  • exercise
  • sleep
  • proper nutrition
  • relaxation, including meditation
  • music
  • a good social life
  • a positive attitude

6. Get Plenty of Exercise

I know — you hate exercise. But exercise is probably the most important thing you can do to stay young, look young, and live well. It helps prevent disease, and it lets you enjoy life. In fact, the more you exercise, the greater the benefit. After age 30 your body functions start to deteriorate slowly — usually about 2% per year. But with exercise you can decrease this to about 1/2% per year.

As you age your muscles gradually start to sag as they lose their tone and texture. Exercise delays this. It also improves your strength, endurance and appearance. Furthermore, it helps relieve stress, depression, anxiety, and it helps you sleep better. It is also particularly helpful to your heart as it reduces LDL cholesterol, and increases your HDLs, and it lowers your blood pressure. And as an added bonus it helps you avoid certain diseases: diabetes II and osteoporosis (it helps build bone strength and density).

What are the best type of exercises? Four types are critical: aerobic, strength (resistance, anaerobic), core stability, and flexibility exercises. Aerobic exercises use oxygen, anaerobic do not; in practise most exercises involve both. Some of the more common aerobic exercises are: walking, jogging, biking, rowing and dancing. Important in relation to aerobic exercise is your “aerobic capacity.” It is a measure of how well your heart, lungs and blood vessels transport oxygen throughout your body. When it is high you don’t tire as easy.

Strength training is done using weights or special equipment. It is just as important as aerobic exercise as it maintains your muscles. Strength training is particularly important for the muscles of your trunk or mid section: your abdomen, pelvis, lower back and hips. Keeping them strong gives you good balance, which is important as yo u get older.

Stretching exercises for flexibility are also critical. You lose flexibility as you age, and these exercises slow it down.

Finally, it’s important to point out that you should start out slowly. Don’t overdo it. Slight soreness of your muscles is natural — it means they are growing stronger. But if you encounter pain, stop immediately.

7. Get Plenty of Sleep

Sleep is also crucial to your health, and lack of it will soon affect you. Many people think that you need less sleep as you get older, but this isn’t necessarily true. The need for sleep is fairly constant over your life; for most people you need at least 7 hour per night. As you get older, however, it becomes more difficult to get sound sleep; most older people have a tendency to wake up at least once in the night. There are things, however, that you can do to maximize your sleep. Some of them are:

  • Keep a regular sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Exercise is well-known to help sleep (but not just before you go to bed)
  • Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening
  • Be careful of naps. No more than 20 minutes if you are having trouble falling asleep
  • Prepare for bed by winding down. Read a book, watch TV (but not violent TV), have a hot bath, relax
  • Be careful of medications

8. Stimulate Your brain

Not only do you want your body to age slowly, but you also want your brain to age slowly, and indeed, you can keep it alive and well. Stress, anxiety and depression all age the brain rapidly so try to avoid them.

One of the best things to keep your brain young is intellectual stimulation. Challenge yourself with cross-word puzzles, reading, learning new things (taking university courses), taking up a hobby. Staying physically active is also important. It improves blood flow to the brain and therefore brings more oxygen to it.

People sometimes worry when they realize they are forgetting names and so on relatively easy. The best thing for this is to use memory aids such as associations; also listen more carefully when information is given to you. Repeat it to yourself, and write it down later if you feel you need to.

9. Avoid Soft Drinks, Fast (junk) Foods, Alcohol and Cigarettes

The reasons for avoiding these are generally well-known. Soft drinks have a large amount of sugar, and fast foods have a large amount of calories. Alcohol in moderation is okay, but be careful, and cigarettes are a definite no.

10. Avoid Excess Salt in Your Food and Don’t Salt Your Food at the Table

Excess salt in your diet can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease so avoid it as much as possible. One of the major places it creeps in is in processed foods, so read the labels. Also, make sure you don’t salt your food from a shaker.

I hope this is helpful to you, and it is, indeed, the major things you should do for a long life. But there are a few other things worth mentioning. In relation to your diet, also make sure you eat oatmeal, whole grain cereals,and whole grain whole grain bread. Also, milk and chicken ares a good source of protein. Furthermore, eat only when you are hungry, eat slowly and chew your food well and of particular importance: stop when you are full, and don’t worry about cleaning your plate.

About The Author

Barry Parker, Ph. D., is a professor emeritus (physics) at Idaho State University. He is the author of 25 books on science, health, writing, and music. His website is and he has several blogs, one of them is at He has done research in biophysics (mutations in the DNA molecule) and in relativity theory (Einstein’s field theory), has a strong interest in health and fitness, self-improvement, and in music (particularly piano). He taught a writing class at ISU for several years. One of his recent books is “Feel Great Feel Alive.”

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