social engagement

‘Preventing Aging’—What Strategies can Physicians Advise?


Dr. Marina Abdel Malak, MD, CCFP, BSc.N,

is a Family Physician in Mississauga, Ontario. She has served on several committees and groups, including The Primary Care Network and Collaborative Mental Health Network. She has a passion for medical education, patient empowerment, and increasing awareness about the relationship between mental, emotional, and physical health. Dr. Abdel Malak is highly involved in quality improvement initiatives, and her research interests include strategies to support physician wellness, patient self-management, and optimizing physician education.


Abstract: The Canadian population continues to age, and therefore, promoting healthy aging is essential. Physicians play an important role in counselling patients on how they can optimize their health. Despite the range of societal myths and fads, the 4 pillars of health are the strategies that have been shown by evidence to promote healthy aging. In the clinical setting, it is critical for physicians to advise patients on these 4 pillars: a balanced diet, a range of physical activities, maintaining relationships, and utilizing the brain’s cognitive capacities all promote physical, mental, social, and emotional wellness. Although aging itself is unavoidable, these lifestyle behaviours can support patients in experiencing aging as a positive, fulfilling, and meaningful part of their lives.
Key Words: Health promotion, aging, nutrition, exercise, cognition, social engagement.
1) Although aging is unavoidable, patients can engage in lifestyle habits and behaviours that promote healthy aging and improve quality of life
2) Optimal nutritional intake and physical activity positively impact mental, emotional, and physical health throughout the lifespan
3) Engaging in social relationships, as well as cognitive stimulation, improves the self-esteem life-satisfaction of elderly patients
1) The four pillars of health that promote healthy aging throughout the lifespan are nutritional intake, physical activity, cognitive stimulation, and social engagement. Physicians need to counsel patients on strategies that address these four pillars
2) Chronic under and over-nutrition are both harmful to health. Physicians should therefore provide advice to patients on how to eat a balanced diet that provides essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients
3) Cognitive stimulation can involve activities such as word searches, memory games, playing a musical instrument, mazes, and more. Evidence supports that these activities promote neuroplasticity and can prevent the development of dementia
4) Attending groups and workshops provides social engagement opportunities for elderly patients, which allows them to contribute to the community, develop social skills, and maintain a sense of human connectedness
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