Staying Healthy Later in life

Though you may have felt invincible in your younger years, you know you won’t live forever. You may be wondering how you can adjust your life in ways that will help you maintain the strength and mental prowess that you had in your youth.

The good news is that no matter how old you are, there’s always a chance to improve your health both mentally and physically. Most of the time, you can achieve this by following the same advice you were told as a kid: exercise, eat well, manage stress. It is a basic recipe, and it’s all possible if you start making a change today. 

Physical Health

As you age, you must continue to monitor and improve your physical health. Moderate exercise can do wonders for your body, and not only will it make you stronger and more resilient, but it could help your mental health as well. 

You don’t have to go crazy when it comes to exercise. Doctors recommend that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week. That can include jogging, taking long walks, working out on the exercise bike or elliptical, or anything in between. Along with your cardio, lift weights or try another form of strength training to work all major muscle groups at least twice per week.

In addition to keeping you lean, exercise is essential for fighting off life-threatening diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. This is because exercise creates a healthy immune system so you don’t get sick as easily. With current viruses like COVID-19 posing risks for seniors, proper fitness is more important now than ever.

Cognitive Health

It’s also important to focus on brain function and cognitive health. Memory loss and a reduction of cognitive abilities can be more frequent as you age, along with an increased chance of dementia. You always want to keep your brain sharp, and doing so doesn’t require extensive brain exercises. By trying new things and keeping your brain active, you will increase your cognitive health for the rest of your life.

Any new activity can trigger this healthy brain development. For instance, a new hobby like needlepoint or playing chess will work your brain differently than it has before. You can also make loftier plans, such as volunteering at a charity. In addition to learning new tasks, you should meet and talk to new people, which will also build that creative energy. If you’re retired, plan an exciting trip to a place you’ve never been, as traveling and seeing new sights are wonderful ways to expand your mind.

Another part of a healthy brain is keeping your stress levels under control. Unnecessary anxiety will not only affect your cognitive abilities, but chronic stress can actually change your brain and even increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

If you feel you’re overly stressed much of the time, you should begin work on decreasing your anxiety. Talk to your friends and family when you’re feeling upset and explain your issues, as talking through it could help resolve the problem. You can also practice yoga or medication to put your mind at ease. Consider taking long nature hikes at the local park as doctors have noticed that outdoor activities will not only help you physically but can also play a big part in decreasing unhealthy anxiety. If you are still having trouble with stress and anxiety, consider talking to a licensed therapist.

Sleep

No matter how old you are, the importance of getting good sleep will always be the cornerstone of a healthy life. Doctors recommend that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. A proper sleep routine is essential for many reasons, including improving that all-important cognitive ability. When people sleep less, they tend to wake up with a foggier mental state, which may affect their ability to remember basic facts. Since you want to remember all the amazing memories of a life well-lived, sleep should be your number one priority.

To get the sleep you need, it is important to have a good routine, which includes going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, even on weekends. This way, your brain recognizes when it is time to sleep. Seniors often sleep lighter than younger folks, so it’s okay to take a power nap during the day every once in a while to catch up on any sleep you missed.

Heart Disease

As your age climbs, so does your risk of heart disease. This ailment can occur naturally or be accelerated by a life of excessive nicotine or alcohol use, a diabetic condition, hypertension, or substance abuse disorders, among others. 

As you grow older, heart disease can rear its ugly head if you haven’t cared for your body as much as you should. But though you may have made some bad choices in the past, you can reduce your chances of heart disease now with several life-extending tips, which include eating healthier, getting that exercise, and if you smoke, quitting immediately.

To get the help you need before a heart condition increases in severity, it’s important to recognize the signs. Typically, abnormal heartbeats can be the first sign, and they often produce a racing in the chest, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. Signs of a heart valve issue can include fatigue, chest pain, and even swollen feet or ankles. Since you can’t see what is going on internally and you don’t want to take any chances, it’s important to see a doctor immediately if you experience these issues or any other persistent aches and pains.

If you do discover you have heart disease, your doctor will likely recommend medication to reduce the effects, or surgery if the ailment is progressing to a dangerous level. It’s a good idea to have a cardiovascular screening that will detect potential heart disease, and that procedure is covered under Medicare Part B. If you do have surgery or you have a case of mild heart disease, counseling and rehabilitation programs are also covered by Medicare. 

Eat Right

A proper diet is also essential as you grow older because, just like with exercise and good sleep, sticking with healthy foods will reduce your risk of serious health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol. Again, as you grow older, your risk of these ailments increases, so it’s important to do everything you can to stay in great shape so you can enjoy your elder years as you wish.

The best diet includes several important components:

  • Whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice provide the nutrients and vitamins your body requires.
  • Low-fat dairy will provide the calcium and protein that will keep your bones strong and durable.
  • Lean protein, which can come from seafood, eggs, and beans will help you build and maintain muscle, support your immune system, and lower your blood pressure.
  • You should eat fruits and vegetables at every meal, as eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day can also help to fight disease and cancer. 
  • Nuts, especially almonds, provide many nutrients, antioxidants, and a high dose of vitamin E, which is essential in fighting the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to healthy food, seniors can also try other alternative supplements, such as collagen, which can be found when eating pork rinds or drinking bone broth. Collagen can help with sleep issues and can also improve joint pain.

Supplements

While you are doing a great job with your exercise and healthy eating, you can get the extra help you need by taking supplements, some of which can do wonders for older folks. For instance, as you age, your skin can tend to weaken as your body starts producing less natural vitamin D than it did in its earlier years. Taking a vitamin D pill once daily can encourage that natural production and create stronger skin.

Another great supplement is vitamin B12, which is incredibly useful for protecting your blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off the effects of anemia and helps you feel more energized during the day. Calcium is another supplement that is important as we age, especially for older women, as it helps to fight the development and symptoms of osteoporosis and reduces the risk of a heart attack.

You can get these and many other helpful supplements every day with less effort by taking a multivitamin, which typically also provides vitamin A, folic acid, and potassium, all of which are essential for your overall health.

As you can see, there are many ways to remain healthy and happy during your older years. All it takes is following the health advice that you have heard for years. By taking a proactive stance in your body and brain function, you can remain strong and alert for a long, long time to come.

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