What Is A Super Ager or Healthy Aging?
Aging is often associated with an array of negative side effects, including mental health problems such as memory loss, and a decline in physical health and mobility. We all understand that our brain and physiological functions may decline as we age, and for many of us, we have accepted this as a fact of life.
However, there are some people who are well into their 80s and beyond who can show you that this is not necessarily your fate. They are living testament that poor mental and physical health among folks their age can be avoided. They are the people who we can call 'super-agers'.
Experts in the field of aging and memory loss have begun to use the term 'super-agers' when referring to people 80 years of age and older who display cognitive and physical attributes that are commonly found in people much younger.
Super-agers can physically and cognitively rival those who are years or even decades younger than themselves.
Two Types of Super-Agers - Cognitive and Physical
Cognitive super-agers are people who have better memory retention compared to their peers, in part because their brains have shown to have minimal cell loss. This explains why super-agers can retain and recall memories easier than other people of their own age.
Physical super-agers have physical attributes, particularly aerobic capacity, that are similar to people younger than they are. Aerobic capacity, or the amount of oxygen a person takes in and distributes throughout the tissues in their body per minute, determines the level of physical activities a person can perform.
The higher the aerobic capacity, the more high-intensity exercises a person can do. As a person ages, their lung capacity can be affected.
If they stoop, for example, their lungs cannot expand as they once did when they stood straight and tall. If you can take deep breaths, as super-agers can, you can be more physically active and able.
Apart from athletic performance, a high aerobic capacity can help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and also dementia.
What Puts Someone In The 'Super Ager' Group?
While it seems that super-agers are the ‘lucky ones’, they were not born that way. These are the people who have developed their own super-ager traits through years of observing healthy habits. They looked after themselves while they were young, and instead of abusing their mind and body, they developed them and cared for them.
They would have been open to new mental challenges, which is important in maintaining healthy cognitive function, including attention span and memory.
Engaging in new activities that challenge mental capacity strengthens the brain while actively avoiding cell loss, which can lead to decreased brain function. New cognitive activities that challenge the brain can reduce plaque in the brain, which is consistent among people with dementia.
Physical super-agers are known to practice healthy physical activities, such as exercising in high intensity for 20 to 45 minutes a day. Regular exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, increases aerobic capacity significantly. Plus, other added benefits are that the frequent use of muscles through exercise prevents muscle atrophy and decreased mobility.
The upshot is that super-agers have cultivated years of healthy mental and physical habits that have enabled them to be in tip-top shape despite their advanced years.
Who Can Be a Super-Ager?
Anyone can become a super ager, especially if you are young now! You can start by exercising your mind and body.
Mental challenges, such as crossword puzzles, sudoku, and games that involve linguistic or mathematical abilities are easy and affordable ways to become more mentally agile. Do whatever mentally stimulates you, such as reading or learning a new skill. Are you creative? You could try learning a new musical instrument or writing short stories or poetry. You could also draw or paint and further develop your creative mind.
To become a physical super-ager, start an exercise routine if you haven't already started yet. You definitely need to get rid of the sedentary lifestyle and work on having a more active existence. Your exercise routine doesn’t have to be one where you are dressed in a leotard, it can be a physical activity that you enjoy, such as dancing, walking, or playing a sport. Whatever it is, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercise as you get more comfortable.
That way, you are constantly challenging yourself as you improve your aerobic capacity.
Of course, aside from performing mental and physical activities, your habits have to be healthy ones, which means quitting the habits that will reduce your efforts toward becoming a super-ager. Smoking is detrimental to your lungs and is linked to higher risks of life-threatening diseases, such as heart disease and Alzheimer's disease. You should also watch your diet to keep your heart healthy.
If you want to become a super-ager, it is never too late to start!