I celebrated a birthday this week. It was another of those milestones which cause us to pause and reflect on growing older.

The good news is life does not have to diminish with age. In fact, research with 100-year-olds shows the acceptance of aging can be positive, joyful, and exciting. They demonstrate aging brings new experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and a greater ability to engineer a positive approach to the aging process. Many centenarians contribute their longevity to the following keys to embracing aging:

• Positive Attitude: A positive attitude affects overall happiness, health, and well-being. A positive attitude can also help you better manage life’s transitions and challenges.

•Eating Smart and Healthy: Eating a well-balanced diet can help prevent illness and chronic disease. It can also provide you with more energy so you can be alert and a better decision-maker.

•Physical Activity: Regular exercise is associated with decreased death and disability from diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. It is also associated with positive psychological benefits. The most important thing to remember about exercise is to do it. Make exercise a habit.

• Brain Activity: A healthy brain is crucial to survival, growth, and everyday successes. Similar to the rest of the body, the brain needs exercise and maintenance to optimize and protect its current and future health.

• Social Activity: Engaged people are often healthier, happier, less depressed, and demonstrate enhanced brain vitality. Social activity also inspires a positive attitude, enhances self-esteem, connects you to family and peers, and reduces the risk of illnesses and disease.

• Tuning-in to the Times: Staying in tune to the times throughout life promotes lifelong learning, which increases knowledge, problem-solving skills, and decision-making. Staying on top of the latest technology and keeping up with the news also enhances brain stimulation and helps broaden social opportunities and networks.

• Safety: Practicing safety is important because it helps keep you out of harm’s way. From locking doors to learning how to prevent falls, it is important to be safe in the various realms of life including home, transportation, health, recreation, and emergency preparedness.

• Know Your Health Numbers: Certain health numbers can save and extend your life. These numbers are associated with cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference. A lifestyle including regular visits to a health-care provider, proper nutrition, and physical activity improves these numbers and contributes to healthy aging throughout the lifespan.

• Stress Management: Appropriate stress is healthy and useful, but when stress overwhelms you, it can become distress, causing anxiety, tension, irritability, and a number of health problems. Learning what causes stress and how to manage it in positive ways helps you cope and live a more balanced, healthy life.

• Financial Affairs: Good financial management is important whether you earn minimum wage or are a millionaire. The first step to healthy financial management is balancing income with expenses. With a money management and spending plan in place, you are more likely to meet your financial goals.

• Sleep: Sleep has a major impact on overall health and quality of life, including the way you look, feel, and perform on a daily basis. Bodies need sleep to repair muscles, consolidate memories, and regulate hormones and appetite. When you sleep well, you wake up feeling refreshed and alert for daily activities

• Taking Time for You: Taking time for yourself makes you a better family member, friend, co-worker, caregiver, or leader. Even if it is just for 10 minutes a day, a time out is good for your mind, body, and soul.

Since there is no magic potion to stop the aging process, it is important to take care of your body, mind, and spirit throughout your whole life. These 12 keys, and attention to healthy behaviors, encourage optimal aging throughout the life span.

More information is available in a series of twelve new publications from K-State Research and Extension. Contact the local Extension Office for the “Keys to Embracing Aging” series or find them at www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu.