by Rita Waxon
Elk Run Assisted Living Community

A long, healthy life is no accident. It may begin with good genes, but it also depends on good habits. If you adopt the right lifestyle, experts say, chances are you may live up to a decade longer than the average lifespan. In the United States, the average age of life expectancy is 78.7 years, according to the World Bank in 2015.

The recipe for longevity is entwined with community, lifestyle and spirituality. Experts say people can live longer and healthier lives by embracing a few simple but powerful habits, and by creating the right community around themselves. When speaking to older residents, we learned the secret to their longevity is clean living (as many grew up on farms with plenty of fresh air and exercise). They also believe fresh vegetables, meat and most importantly, ice cream, play a role in their longevity!

While I can’t prove these residents’ theories, I can confirm many centenarians have lived at Elk Run since it opened in 2002. Currently, Elk Run has 14 residents in their 90s. One resident is 102 and the oldest resident is 104.

To learn more about longevity, I did some research and discovered recommendations from experts at Harvard Medical School and elsewhere. Their thoughts make a lot of sense to me, which is why I’m sharing them with you:

1. Don’t smoke. Although movies used to make smoking seem glamorous, it actually contributes to serious chronic diseases such as emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and stroke. It makes it much harder to breathe when you’re exercising, which can make you less likely to exercise. Smoking also appears to harm your memory. If you need help quitting, ask your doctor about products and programs to help you quit.

2. Eat more whole grains, vegetables and fruits and substitute healthier unsaturated fats for unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats. There is an old saying that notes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I think that’s still true because fruits and vegetables are so good for us. Studies show eating healthy foods can help you live longer and avoid heart disease, cancer, hypertension and even cataracts! Eating more vegetables and fruits and balancing the calories you take in with those you expend on exercise, can make a world of difference to extending your lifespan. Eating “right” isn’t always easy, I know! You may need to make a plan before attending holiday parties, stay away from buying sweets and snacking too much after dinner. Your doctor may have nutrition tips as well.

3. Enjoy physical and mental activities every day. Challenge your mind and keep learning and trying new activities. Besides having fun, you’ll stretch your ability to absorb new information—and retain it. Physical exercise can also help you retain strength as you grow older. I also recommend some kind of balance class to prevent slips and falls.

4. Take a multivitamin every day and make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D. While food is the best source of vitamins and nutrition, stress can leach vitamins from our bodies quickly. Vitamins help ensure that we can withstand daily stresses and still get the nutrition we need to stay healthy.

5. Don’t skip that annual physical appointment. Yearly physical exams provide the opportunity to check in with your doctor about sleep habits, overall health, depression, fatigue and other issues. Your doctor is also a great source for practices that help prevent illness or chronic disease.

6. Build a strong social support system and network. Good relationships keep us healthy, too. A large number of studies show we need to connect with other people in meaningful ways. That could mean attending a current events group, lunching with friends or participating in an exercise class. Elk Run offers many different activities each day to help residents socialize with friends and neighbors.

7. Take care of your teeth. Brush at least twice a day and floss daily. Visit your dentist at least twice a year. Flossing can add more than six years to your life, according to Dr. Michael Roizen, who researched various studies and wrote a book called “RealAge.” A study by Emory University in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control also indicates the mortality rates for people with gum diseases like gingivitis are 23 to 46 percent higher than for those without them. Gum diseases are linked to increased rates of cardiovascular diseases, strokes and infections.

8. Ask your doctor if medication can help you control the potential long-term side effects of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, or high cholesterol. It’s also important to evaluate medications regularly to make sure you still need them. At Elk Run, we work with your physician to review medications and make sure they are all interacting properly.

These are just a few steps you can take to help you live longer. To learn more about how assisted living at Elk Run makes life easier and can give you and your loved ones peace of mind, please contact us at. Do you have any tips on longevity to share? We’d love to hear them, too.

Elk Run Assisted Living by Augustana Care can bring you more freedom, joy and time. Services are tailored to your loved one’s unique needs and preferences, so he or she can take advantage of new friendships, opportunities and possibilities. Call 303-679-8777 to schedule a tour.