Healthy aging doesn’t mean that you will not get wrinkles or gray hair, but rather it will provide years of health vs. diseased cells and illnesses. We know that people are living longer, but the goal should be to learn to age well and reduce chronic conditions like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, diabetes, and osteoporosis. While there is no magic pill, there is a set of well-studied pillars that can help.
Dr. Torres Urrutia, an Internal Medicine physician with Millennium Physician Group, wants to give patients helpful advice to stay healthy and age well. We spoke to him to find out more about these useful tips.
Dr. Torres Urrutia
It’s been well studied that certain lifestyle pillars are what typically sets the bar when it comes to healthy aging. We don’t want to simply add years to someone’s life; we want to add quality of life to their years. These healthy aging pillars help stave off and even reverse certain conditions or reduce symptoms in many cases.
Sleep is the foundation of longevity. The body needs to rest and requires 7 to 9 hours of sleep. The body and brain must regenerate during uninterrupted sleep cycles. Making time to unwind before bed and creating a comfortable sleeping environment can be helpful. If you have trouble with sleep disturbances, it’s imperative to speak to your physician.
Another pillar is staying both physically and mentally active. People are different, and their activity levels are also, so whether it’s walking, gardening, going to the gym or running, any movement that you can do, is always helpful to circulate oxygen-rich blood and increase cognitive function, along with many other benefits. Exercise is beneficial for the body and brain, and stimulating the brain is great for the body. Engaging the mind often gets less attention, but it’s essential for brain health. I tell patients never to stop learning. This can be a new hobby, a language, how to build something, brain training games—anything that stimulates the mind is never a waste of time.
Physical activity is vital as we age to limit sarcopenia (muscle loss). Other conditions are correlated with sarcopenia like obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and inflammatory response, to name a few. Resistance training for building muscle mass is crucial. We start losing approximately 5% of muscle mass per decade after age 30, and at a higher rate after the age of 50, so improving nutrition and adding resistance training is essential. Depending on your fitness and health level, you can use light weights, resistance bands, or heavier, more strenuous training. Time-under-tension is a helpful technique that I show patients because it’s effective at building muscle with light resistance.
Nourishment is one of the most important things we can control for healthy aging. You have to eat well to age well. One thing that helps tremendously is to avoid processed foods. Most menu options at restaurants, convenience stores, fast food places, or even prepackaged foods at the grocery store are full of processed carbohydrates, sugar, sodium, vegetable oil, and chemicals.
Eating whole, healthy foods is beneficial for the body and brain. I tell my patients to eat as their great-grandparents did, which included plenty of fresh vegetables and high-quality proteins and ingredients. However, each patient has unique needs, so I work with them on what foods are optimal for them specifically.
Staying connected through relationships with others is also very important. As humans, we need a support system. Now, with COVID-19, it might be difficult or impossible in some situations to see loved ones and friends, especially for those with compromised health. Thanks to technology, like Facetime and Zoom, this is helpful to connect. It’s important not to feel lonely. If you do need help, speaking to a professional is critical.
Maintaining a positive attitude is a great tool to mitigate stress. Stress and anxiety can affect one’s overall health in many ways. Stress can be reduced by exercising, meditating, breathing techniques, yoga, tai chi, taking a bath, reading a book, journaling, and giving yourself an outlet. Again, seeking professional medical help is crucial if you have uncontrolled anxiety.
I also recommend supplements for certain patients depending on their specific needs, but I caution those that take these without consulting their physician, as some interfere with prescription medications, and some may make a condition worse. Medication management is very important. If you see a specialist and they put you on a new drug, you must tell your other physicians so that there are no adverse interactions. I like to review a list of medications that my patients are on, and we ask them to keep us updated on any changes.
Health conditions like diabetes, obesity, hypertension are often interrelated due to metabolic syndrome. This comes down to a hallmark of issues such as elevated blood sugar, low HDL High waist circumference, High BMI, and hypertension.
If these are left untreated, other issues may possibly arise like strokes, heart or vascular disorders, cognitive decline, and cancer.
I address lifestyle changes as well as any mediations to help mitigate these conditions. With lifestyle, we sometimes recommend specific nutrients and dietary changes along with exercise. Many patients do well on a low carb, low processed, healthy fats, and whole-food program.
It’s interesting, concerning diabetes, the American Diabetes Association CEO, Tracy Brown, recently went on record in a podcast interview, explaining how she successfully manages her type II diabetes by eating a low carb diet and avoiding sugar. She explained that she has completely come off of three medications and her insulin by this lifestyle change.1
The American Diabetes Association has recommended the low carb diet lifestyle for several years now, and it is helpful for many people. Again, exercise is necessary; I encourage patients to try and work out first thing in the morning, which is known to increase a higher metabolic rate for the rest of the day. Cardiovascular exercise and resistance training are essential.
It’s also essential to stay connected with your physician, maintain your regular checkups, and get your yearly screenings. If you have any new symptoms, please contact your physician, as some conditions can rapidly escalate.
Juan Carlos Torres Urrutia, M.D
Dr. Torres Urrutia is a graduate of the UCC School of Medicine in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He trained in internal medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
Dr. Torres Urrutia has been practicing in Florida since 2006. Juan Carlos Torres Urrutia, M.D. is board certified in internal medicine. He is fluent in English and Spanish.
Millennium Physician Group
3530 Fruitville Road
Sarasota, FL 34237
1. Sisters4Fitness, Diabetes Care Pt 1, Tracey Brown, CEO, American Diabetes Assoc Sisters4Fitness Wellness Show, Jan 29, 2020