Like many people, my relationship with my dentist is “complicated.”
On the one hand, I wish I never had to worry about my teeth at all. On the other hand, reality says I need to periodically visit my dentist for a healthy mouth, but also a healthy body. Studies have shown good dental care also helps with a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and even pneumonia.
It was not until I was well into my adulthood that I decided to really pay attention to my teeth. As I took care of my mouth, I also realized that I should begin to focus on the rest of the body as well. Because I try and take care of my teeth, statistically I have a better chance of living longer.
As we age, we often worry more about our health and well-being. We really start to wonder in our forties if we will be able to live a long and healthy life. The good news is that there are many things that people in their fifties can do to improve their chances of living into their eighties and beyond.
Here are general some tips on how to live a long and healthy life:
- Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet is essential for good health at any age. Make sure to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (I struggle here – would much prefer chocolate). Limit your intake of processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats. My wife and I have been focused on this for the last 2 years).
- Get regular exercise. I try and walk 3 to 4 miles every day. Exercise is another important part of a healthy lifestyle. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. If you are overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight can improve your health. Trust me, it gets harder to lose weight as you get older.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. It increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other chronic diseases. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Fortunately, I never picked up the habit, but both my parents suffered from heart disease because of smoking.
- Limit alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol can damage your liver, heart, and other organs. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. I have an occasional beer and prefer a good pale ale.
- Get enough sleep. Most adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Getting enough sleep helps your body repair itself and stay healthy. I struggle here and could do better.
- Manage stress. Stress can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, yoga, or meditation. This can be very hard when in your fifties you are in the peak of your career.
- See your doctor regularly. It is important to have regular checkups with your doctor, even if you feel healthy. Your doctor can screen you for diseases and help you stay healthy. This aligns with seeing the dentist consistently.
How many of these are you doing well? Remember a few of these items.
- The average life expectancy in the United States is 77.3 years. (Source: Centers for Disease Control)
- For those who live a healthy lifestyle, the average lifespan jumps to as high as 89 years. (Source: The Chicago Health and Aging Project)
- You have over 20% of your life left after the traditional retirement age. (Source: Retirement Time Analysis)
Taking care of yourself can be the difference between living into your seventies with medical issues or living healthy int your eighties. Not sure how to start, begin with your teeth.
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