Vital Aging Network

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Health and Fitness

"Don’t try to think less of yourself, but try to think of yourself less.”

—George Vaillant, Aging Well

img_2n_188John Rowe and Robert Kahn, authors of the MacArthur Foundation’s study called Successful Aging published in 1999, found that lifestyle accounts for 75% of healthy aging. Healthy aging is diminished by risk factors such as blood pressure, weight, and diabetes and reinforced by friendships.

Two books that describe the elements of lifestyle that are most important to healthy aging are:

Aging Well, by George Vaillant, is the report from a 60-year study of the lifelong development of students from the Harvard classes of 1941 to 1944. The report describes six factors that have consistently separated the “happy-well” from the “sad-sick” men in this group: a stable marriage, a mature coping style, no smoking, restricted use of alcohol, regular exercise, and maintenance of normal weight.

Ed Creagan, chair of the Department of Oncology at the Mayo Clinic, has published the second book called Mayo Clinic on Healthy Aging. Dr. Creagan asks, “Can you reverse the aging process?” His answer is, “Absolutely!” The aging process is modifiable, and lifestyle dictates the rate of aging. You will find the fountain of youth in exercising, both physically and mentally; accepting challenges; and keeping connected to friends and family.

Both healthier lifestyles and advancements in medical technology have contributed to a reduced rate of chronic disability among elderly Americans. Over three-quarters of seniors are still in relatively good health at age 80.

But good health does not just happen. You have to work at it.

Page Author: Jan Hively

Updated 1/25/2010


This section includes the following pages:

  • Even Taking an Opioid Prescription Correctly
    Can Lead to Addiction

    - Anne Pylkas, MD, internist, and addiction specialist at HealthPartners, issued an urgent call for action against the dangers of opioids.
  • MVNA: A Lifetime of Compassion - MVNA is a Minnesota nonprofit health care provider who has been caring for the community since 1902. Its humble beginnings include the story of the handful of visiting nurses who cared for tuberculosis patients in the early 1900's.
  • Normandale Center Fosters Wellness for Older Adults

    - For close to 15 years, the Normandale Center for Healing and Wholeness has supported healthy body, mind and spirit for older adults and their family members. The nonprofit, faith-founded organization is based in Edina, Minnesota, and serves people in Edina, Bloomington and surrounding areas.
  • Healthy Meals Keep Older Adults Home - It's a fact--the better we eat, the better we feel and live. Good nutrition can help older adults stay in their homes longer and have better management of chronic health problems. A balanced diet of a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins can help older adults get the nutrients they need.
  • How to Dispose of Medications Safely -
  • Choosing Care for the End of Your Life - It's important for each of us to take the time, while we are able, to reflect on the type of care that we want if we become seriously ill.
  • Honoring Choices Minnesota - Honoring Choices Minnesota (HCM) is a collaborative community-wide public health initiative.
  • A Longer, Healthier Life...How Do I Sign Up? - Minnesota-based author Dan Buettner has traveled the world studying areas where people live longer and healthier lives. In his research, Buettner has discovered the common denominators of these healthy zones.
  • Mental Illness and Older Adults - We somehow believe that the symptoms of depression in older adults are normal. As an older adult, you may experience the loss of your friends or your spouse or partner.
  • Major Depression and Seniors and Suicide - Depression is the most common diagnosis in older adults who have attempted suicide.
  • Community Supported Agriculture: Bringing Farm-Fresh Food Home - If you don't have a green thumb, a sunny backyard, or the inclination to grow your own veggies, you can find many other ways to eat locally year round.
  • CSA Farms: More than Fresh Veggies - CSAs provide an option for folks to know where and how their food is grown, and to receive a fresh box of lovingly produced, chemical free veggies weekly through the growing season.
  • The CLASS Act: A Promising Approach for Long-Term Care - Most of us are uninsured an unprepared to care for loved ones who suffer from Alzheimer's or who need long-term services and supports for other reasons.
  • Financing Long-Term Care - As the population ages, providing long-term care for this large group of older people will become one of the state's most critical issues.
  • Making Sense of Healthcare Reform - Rapid growth in healthcare cost puts a strain on the budgets of families, private industry, and governments.
  • What Have you Done for Your Health Lately - While current national debate on healthcare reform focuses on universal healthcare, many believe that prevention and management of chronic disease warrants much greater attention.
  • So, What Was I Looking for? Normal Cognitive Aging - Around age 50, it is normal to be a little more forgetful. As we age, our brains shrink, and we lose brain (neuron) cells and the connections between them. So, what does a normal, "a little more forgetful" look like?
  • The Sand Trap - Lori La Bey writes about her mother's Alzheimer's disease and how humor is present during the course of the disease.
  • Dementia Care Transitions Project Receives National Innovations Award - The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) recently awarded the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging (MAAA) an Aging Innovations Award for its Dementia Care Transitions Project.
  • Medical Homes Offer Promise for Improved Health Care - The fragmentation of the medical system is apparent to anyone with a recent experience of serious injury or illness. The Medical Home model is one approach that makes health care more accessible, more affordable, and more effective.
  • Tips for Talking to Your Doctor - How to give information, get information, and follow up after the visit.
  • Longevity & Health Trends - Information about trends in health and aging and about the health-related behaviors that foster vital aging and add to your longevity.
  • Options for Exercise - Fitness gives you the ability to perform daily tasks vigorously and alertly, with energy left over for enjoying leisure time. Staying physically fit may be the fountain of youth that delays the onset of age-related disabilities.
  • Good Nutrition for Older Adults - As you age, your body demands that you make adjustments in your dietary habits to maintain optimal health.
  • Mental Health - Today, more then ever, you need to be flexible to meet your needs and those of your family. Having a sense of humor can help you cope with stress.
  • Sexual Health - New breakthroughs in treating impotency and new healthy attitudes toward sexuality in older adults are making sexuality a lifelong experience.
  • Alternative Therapies - Alternative therapies and complementary therapies can be helpful additions to traditional medical treatment.
  • Chronic Illness - More than 125 million Americans experience at least one chronic condition, such as diabetes, cancer, glaucoma, or heart disease. Nearly half of them have more than one chronic condition.
  • Essay: Benefits of Owning a Pet - Jeannine Moga, MSW, LGSW, writes that connecting with a critter goes a long way toward making you happy and healthy.
  • Essay: Acting Happy - Dr. Dale Andersen makes the point that happiness is an infectious state that can definitely have an impact on your health.
  • Essay: Taking Charge of Your Health - The biggest factor affecting your well being is you. There are many ways to take charge of your health and improve both your physical condition and longevity.

Check our Additional Resources for more information


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