If you think you’re old, you will inevitably feel like it, too by unknowingly holding yourself back from aging well. As you get older, your mentality around health and wellness may begin to deteriorate, but here’s the number one anti-aging secret to staying young: “what you think, you become.” If you think of yourself as young, and continue to act like it through a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise, you’ll continue aging well and can even live longer.
If you think you’re frail and old, this mindset will lead you to stop the positive activities that are attributed to aging well and an improved quality of life. An Exeter University study found that despite a person’s physical weakness, you could enjoy a healthy, high-quality life when you possess an overall positive attitude. The study interviewed 29 people aged 66 to 98 with varying levels of health about how attitude could affect aging well, frailty, and quality of life. The researchers discovered there was a clear connection between a negative outlook and a disinterest in exercise and social activity.
The study shows that older adults’ views about themselves can lead to stigmatization, poor health, disengagement with physical and social activities, and an overall reduced ability to continue aging well. While lack of social activity and exercise both contribute to poor health and wellness, there are other mental health reasons that can also contribute to your outlook on aging and ultimately shape whether or not you’re aging well.
Depression and Aging Well
A negative outlook on aging can lead to depression, and many people suffer from depression in silence, which can seriously hinder the body’s ability to continue aging well. There is a link between depression and the acceleration of cell aging, according to a 2011 University of California study. The study compared immune system function of those who were depressed versus those who were mentally stable through shortened telomere measurement in immune cells from blood.
Telomeres act as a biological clock, controlling your cell’s life. The length of telomeres helps indicate whether you will develop certain age-related diseases. Patients untreated for depression for more than nine years showed signs of accelerated cell aging by about seven years; aging well is next to impossible if your cells aren’t functioning as well as they should be.
Anxiety and Aging Well
There are about 40 million American adults affected by anxiety disorders, which are also a serious mental health condition that can hinder your outlook on getting older and impact aging well. Many older adults believe anxiety symptoms are normal and therefore do not seek any help or treatment. A study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that middle-aged and older women who experienced a high-level anxiety known as phobic anxiety had shorter telomeres, putting them at a higher risk of increased age acceleration. Not only do shorter telomeres affect aging well, but there’s a link between shortened telomeres and increased risk of heart disease, dementia, cancer, and premature death.
So, if your outlook on getting older influences aging well, does that mean you can trick your body into aging well just by thinking positively? Keep reading to find out!
“Anxiety and Older Adults: Overcoming Worry and Fear,” Geriatric Mental Health Foundation web site; http://www.gmhfonline.org/gmhf/consumer/factsheets/anxietyoldradult.html, last accessed February 13, 2014.
“Anxiety Linked To Accelerated Aging,” Medical News Today web site, July 14, 2012; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/247792.php.
Cicetti, F., “Anxiety May Increase With Age,” Livescience.com, August 9, 2010; http://www.livescience.com/8452-anxiety-increase-age.html.
Collins, N., “Old age ‘is a state of mind,’” The Telegraph web site, April 13, 2013; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/elderhealth/9997556/Old-age-is-a-state-of-mind.html.
“Study Suggests State of Mind Affects Body’s Aging,” Bel Marra Health web site, December 9, 2013; http://www.belmarrahealth.com/anti-aging/study-sugests-state-of-mind-affects-bodys-aging/.