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U.S. residents are generally living longer these days, but more and more of them are developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, that will shorten their lives and boost medical costs. Some 133 million adults almost half the adult population now have a chronic health condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Such a staggering statistic might lead you to think illness and impairment are synonymous with aging. But growing old doesn't have to bring disability and disease. Here are eight tips from experts on how to stay healthier, stronger and happier in your golden years.
Never too lateSlide 2 of 17
Never too late
It's never too late to start leading a healthier lifestyle. Even well into their 60s and 70s, adults can take action to reduce their risk of developing chronic disease.
"I think the old myth was somehow after age 60, 65 there's just nothing you can do anymore," said Margaret Moore, a public health advisor for the CDC's Healthy Aging Program. But really, "there are lots of things you can do to improve your function [and] your health well into older age.
"There's certainly going to be some changes that occur with getting older," Moore said, "but it doesn't have to mean disability, it doesn't have to mean disease."Slide 3 of 17
Amp up your fitnessSlide 4 of 17
Amp up your fitness
If there's one step you should take for improving your health and helping you steer clear of chronic disease, it's exercise, experts say. And it really is never too late to start.
"I have known patients who have started exercising in their 70s and reaped great benefits from it," said geriatrician Carmel B. Dyer, who is director of the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
Exercise helps control body weight, lower your blood pressure and strengthen your muscles, which helps you avoid injuries by making you less likely to fall.
And an increase in muscle mass helps your body metabolize drugs more like a young person does, Dyer said, which means medicines can be cleared from the body more effectively.
Physical activity has also been linked to a decreased risk of dementia, she said.
Older adults need not join a gym or suffer through rigorous workouts. Milder activities such as walking, gardening or anything to keep moving would be sufficient, CDC's Moore said.Slide 5 of 17
Stay limberSlide 6 of 17
Daily stretching is important, Dyer said. Your muscles tend to shorten and stiffen when you aren't active, but stretching activities such as yoga will improve your flexibility.
"You wouldn't think that five minutes of stretching in the morning would be all that helpful to you in old age, but it's extremely helpful," she said.
Yoga improves flexibility and can help relieve the discomfort of chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University found.
"Yoga teaches patients a set of techniques, such as breathing and meditation, in addition to incorporating poses that improve strength and balance," said James Carson, a clinical health psychologist and assistant professor at OHSU.Slide 7 of 17
Manage your weightSlide 8 of 17