01/26/2016 03:32 EST | Updated 01/26/2017 05:12 EST

What You Can Do Now To Promote Healthy Aging

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Cape Town, South Africa

It's no secret that people are living longer nowadays. From 1921 to 2011, life expectancy in Canada increased from 57.1 to 81.7, a gain of 24.6 years. If you want to make the most out of those extra 25 years, follow these simple guidelines:

Take care of your heart.

Exercise has a dilating effect on our blood vessels thus lowering our blood pressure and creating a more efficient circulatory system. Sugar, salt and fat have the opposite effect. They constrict blood vessels by laying down plaque along the vessel walls. Sugar is particularly damaging as it can damage the blood vessels themselves. Hey, nobody's perfect, even the top bodybuilders and athletes have a dietary "cheat day" every week. But if you want to enjoy health for many years to come, you should make a commitment to yourself to exercise on a regular basis. Thirty minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, five days a week is the standard for all Canadians.

Take care of your gut.

Maintaining a healthy digestive system has a profound effect on your overall health and impaired digestion often results in inflammation of the gut, which causes inflammation on a systemic level. Ensure you get enough fiber (both soluble and insoluble) so that you pass digested food out of your body. Eating fermented foods such as pickles, coleslaw or sauerkraut will provide healthy bacteria to help with breaking down foods in your stomach. (If you don't enjoy these types of foods, you can purchase digestive enzymes at a health food store -- but always consult your doctor first before introducing anything new to your diet that could pose a risk to your health.)

Drink plenty of water every day.

If you're not sure how much water to drink, a good rule of thumb is eight cups a day to start. A cup is only eight ounces, and can be downed in just a few gulps. Once your regular daily water intake is eight cups, you may find that you can drink even more. Staying properly hydrated has a host of benefits, including: it ensures our brain is well fed, as brain tissue is 75 per cent water; it helps start our metabolism in the morning; it gives our skin a healthy glow; it helps to flush toxins from our bodies; and, if not too obvious, it keeps us from becoming dehydrated.

Stretch daily.

One of the best things you can do for your future self is to develop a daily stretch routine. Starting at around age 35, our bodies start to naturally lose muscle mass, through a process called sarcopenia. For many people, by their 50s, 60s and 70s, their muscles shrink, pulling on their joints, often leading to postural changes, especially in the hips and spine. This, in turn, can lead to changes in gait patterns and finally result in an increased risk of fall and injury.

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