“Seasoned” Health and Aging Tips
There’s a whole lot we can’t control about our health as we get older, like our genetic makeup and our family medical history. But there are things we can do in our in “seasoned” years that can help keep us as healthy as possible for as long as possible. There are plenty of steps we can take every day to help us feel good, stay healthy, and enjoy our independence as we age. There are specific decisions we make every day that have a direct impact on our physical and emotional health.
We can choose to take steps and make decisions that shape our lives in a positive way. We can choose to stay away from lifestyle habits that have negative effects on our health, like smoking, drinking too much, and becoming a couch potato. We can choose healthier ways to live instead, like eating healthy, staying positive, moving our bodies, sleeping enough, and drinking enough water.
A few helpful suggestions...
- Get enough nutrition and stay well hydrated. A healthy diet can help us live longer and better. Eating a poor diet has been associated with some of the common diseases and health concerns that often accompany aging, like high blood pressure, diabetes, weakening bones, some cancers, and even memory issues. Taking in enough fluid every day to keep the body hydrated also is essential. According to the United States Department of Agriculture MyPlate Program, it’s best to focus on making healthy food and beverage choices from all five food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. Speak with your doctor about your nutrition needs and how to best meet them.
- Cut back on salt. To work properly, the human body requires sodium, which is contained in salt. However, it needs just a small amount. Too much salt in the diet can lead to health issues like heart disease and stroke. In the United States, it’s very common to consume much more salt than is recommended. Talk to your doctor about your salt intake.
- Include enough fiber in your diet. Fiber is important because it can help reduce the risk of some significant health concerns, such a colon cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and various digestive issues. Eating whole grain breads and cereals, beans, and a variety of vegetables and fruits can help put more fiber in your diet. Your doctor may recommend a fiber supplement if your diet does not include enough fiber from natural food sources.
- Keep moving. Physical activity has been proven to help delay, prevent, or manage some of the most common health concerns that can negatively impact and limit our lives in our later years, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and arthritis. Keeping our bodies moving and maintaining an active lifestyle can help us live healthier lives and maintain our independence longer. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s important to include both moderate-intensity aerobic activity and weight training muscle-strengthening activities in an exercise plan. BEFORE adding more activity to your daily life, make sure to speak with your doctor about the type and level of activity that’s right and safe for you.
- Exercise your brain. Brains change with age and some level of mental decline is common in later years, but research suggests that stimulating the brain may help improve the situation. A lifestyle that includes keeping the brain active and engaged appears to slow down cognitive decline for many people. It’s a good idea to stimulate your mind in ways that require thinking and learning. Crossword puzzles, brain teasers, Sudoku, and jigsaw puzzles all keep the mind busy. So will tackling something that’s unfamiliar to you, like a new skill, hobby, musical instrument, game, or language.
- Maintain a positive, flexible attitude. People with a more positive outlook on life tend to live better and longer than those who concentrate on life’s negative aspects. Nobody is happy or upbeat all the time, but cultivating an ability to put a more positive spin on things can help create a more beneficial perspective. It takes effort and practice, but optimism and having a buoyant outlook can be learned. Focus on the good instead of fixating on the bad. Recognize and accept what you can’t change. Surround yourself with positive people. Smile a lot, because even a forced smile can boost your mood and life your spirit. If you find yourself feeling down frequently and have trouble shaking off a bad mood, let your doctor know so he or she can help with recommendations or a referral.
- Deal with stress effectively. Life can be stressful at any age, and feeling stressed out now and then is expected. But the physical effects of ongoing stress can be detrimental to health, especially as we get older. The body goes through physical changes when we are stressed. For example, the heart beats faster and blood pressure goes up. As we get older, our bodies have a more difficult time handling the symptoms and effects of stress. Too much ongoing stress puts us at greater risk for health issues. It can weaken our immune system, which can make it a lot harder for our bodies to fight off disease and infection. It can put us at greater risk for heart disease. It can lead to emotional health issues. We can’t eliminate all stress from our lives, but we can find ways to deal with stress in healthy ways. Let your doctor know if you are dealing with a lot of stress so he/she can help you figure out effective ways to deal with it.