FEATURE —The aging process today is vastly different than what our grandparents — and maybe even our parents — experienced. Advancements in health-care technology and a wealth of patient resources are helping people live longer now than in any other time in history. So, if you are going to live longer, how can you maintain your health and happiness as you age?
Follow these doctors’ advice.
1. Stay mobile.
“The key to maintaining overall health, including heart and vascular health, is to remain active as we age,” certified physician’s assistant Justin Poole, of Revere Health Heart of Dixie Cardiology, said. “Becoming sedentary for any reason will decrease strength, worsen balance and increase the risk of heart disease.”
Being active may be difficult for those with chronic conditions or limited mobility, but even minimal exercise, like a 10-minute walk, can make a difference.
“Walking is one of the best forms of medicine for the elderly,” Dr. Gus Pendleton, of Revere Health St. George Clinic, said, explaining further: Seniors who lose the ability to walk are on the road to worsening health problems including higher instances of illness, depression and loss of independence.
2. Don’t skip leg day.
The strength of your quadriceps (the big muscle in your leg) impacts your health more than you may think. Seniors that have weaker quadriceps are more likely to fall or lose their balance, develop knee osteoarthritis and experience knee pain.
To strengthen your quads, Dr. Ed Prince, of Revere Health Coral Desert Orthopaedics, suggests straight leg raises. You can start on your back or by sitting in a chair. Simply raise a straight leg up, but only to 30 degrees.
“The stronger the quadriceps,” Prince said, “the better off you will be.”
3. Watch what you eat.
Your nutrition needs change as you get older — your body needs fewer calories and a lot of nutrients. Be sure to fill your plate with foods rich in nutrients like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, eggs, and beans or nuts.
For those looking to plan their meals with a little more structure, Poole suggests the Mediterranean diet — a plan that emphasizes plant-based foods, seafood, low sodium and healthy fats.
“The Mediterranean diet is not just a fad,” Poole said. “It’s a scientifically proven plan to improve your cardiac, vascular and overall health.”
4. Stay up-to-date on screenings.
Preventive screenings keep you healthier and help your doctor catch diseases in their earliest stages, when they are often easier to treat. Make regular appointments with your primary care doctor to make sure you stay up to date on these screenings and preventive measures:
- Flu, pneumonia and shingles vaccinations.
- Osteoporosis screenings with bone density scans, especially for women over 65.
- Annual rectal exam and prostate specific antigen, or PSA, testing for men over 50.
- Annual blood pressure check.
- Regular vision and hearing tests.
- Annual periodontal exam.
- Colonoscopy screenings for adults ages 50 to 75.
- Regular mammography screenings.
- Skin cancer screening — be aware of new or suspicious looking moles
The age at which you should get certain cancer screenings depends on your risk factors, Dr. Joseph Te, of Revere Health Oncology, said, but talk to your primary care physician to determine when screening is right for you.
5. Be good to yourself.
Your mental health and emotional well-being is important at any stage of life, but over 20 percent of adults age 60 and older suffer from a mental or neurological disorder, according to the World Health Organization, and depression is one of the most common.
Depression is not a normal part of aging, but the loss of loved ones, health problems, financial burdens and other challenges can cause seniors to feel lonely, sad or stressed.
Being good to yourself can help improve your appetite, your social interactions and your overall health. You may find success in the following ways:
- Getting enough rest.
- Communicating regularly with family and friends.
- Participating in a hobby you enjoy.
- Spending time with a pet.
- Learning something new.
- Listening to soothing music.
- Understanding that it’s okay to seek help.
It’s never too late to improve your habits and make healthier choices. Your doctor can help you establish a plan to live as happy and healthy as possible throughout the aging process.
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