Growing old healthily: How to do it

 woman enjoys the lake shore

Growing old healthily: How to do it

USZ: Our partner for health issues

Thanks to our partnership with the University Hospital Zurich, we benefit from its expertise in health issues. And we are happy to share this with our customers and any interested parties. This allows us to inform them about topics that help them to live well and healthily – a sort of additional fourth pillar of provision.

We all want to live as long as possible – and above all, as healthily and self-determinedly as possible.  We can do something towards this ourselves. Factors such as diet, physical activity, social engagement and environmental factors can be used to explain 70% to 90% of our longevity.

If you take the following current findings into account, you can increase your personal life expectancy and reduce the risk of chronic diseases – ensuring the longest possible healthy life. 

According to long-term studies by Harvard University ("Harvard cohorts"), normal body weight at the age of 50 is one of the decisive factors for a healthy life expectancy. A BMI of 18 to 25 is considered normal weight. Excess weight from a BMI of more than 25 can lead to secondary illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disorders or musculoskeletal disorders. The likelihood of such illnesses increases as body weight rises. It is essential here that normal weight is not achieved by fasting, but by switching to a healthy, balanced diet with freshly prepared meals and getting enough exercise. 

BMI calculator – Calculate Body Mass Index – UHZ

Physical activity
In addition to diet, physical activity is another way to counteract muscle loss and obesity. The experts at the University Hospital Zurich recommend a mixture of strength and endurance training three times a week, as well as a regular basic activity, such as at least 6,000 steps. The WHO suggests 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, or example walking, or 75 minutes of strenuous physical activity per week. As the literature shows, just 20 minutes of walking a day can have a significant and positive impact on longevity

If you also integrate a little more exercise into your everyday life - for example, doing the shopping on foot, gardening or swapping the elevator for the stairs – you are already doing a lot of things right. The key to success is incorporating exercise into your daily life according to your own preferences. By doing so, you turn a resolution into a healthier lifestyle.

The risk of dementia increases with age. According to the Federal Statistical Office, around 40% of all people over the age of 90 in Switzerland are affected by dementia. But here too, prevention is at least possible to some extent – these factors have a protective effect: enough sleep (7-8 hours), stress reduction with mindfulness exercises, avoiding loneliness, maintaining social contacts, regular physical activity, learning new things, a healthy diet and little to no alcohol or cigarette consumption. 

A little tip: Eat a handful of berries and nuts each day, which are so-called "superfoods" for maintaining memory function.

New link: Forgetfulness or dementia?

Social life
We are social beings – social contacts are extremely important for healthy ageing. Social engagement has also been proven to promote health on several levels and is one of the most important dimensions of a healthy and active ageing process. As social creatures, being part of a community is very important to us humans. People who maintain friendships into old age, are open to new things and support others have a higher quality of life and a higher life expectancy.

Stress can encourage chronic inflammatory reactions that cause damage at cellular level and make regeneration more difficult. Regular breaks from everyday life and short moments of silence help to reduce stress. At the same time, psychological and emotional stress can increase in old age, for example when people you know fall ill, need care or even die. Coping strategies and grief counseling are extremely important to mitigate the devastation caused by the loss of a beloved partner. An active, positive attitude also helps to better solve challenges. It is the cornerstone of a healthy ageing process.

Sport, nutrition, social contacts, mental agility and mindfulness of mental health: It is worth paying attention to these lifestyle factors. Genes themselves only account for around 10% to 30% of the variability in life expectancy. This means: To a large extent, our longevity – and above all, with what quality of life – is in our own hands.

Stay up to date – health knowledge from the UHZ

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