By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
If being over 65 years old is truly going to be your golden years that doesn’t mean you won’t have to polish some of your daily habits to make that possible.
As we get older, there are certain key elements that we must either maintain or eliminate for successful aging.
Physician Julie Colvin, medical director at St. Joseph’s Physicians Family Medicine in Syracuse, discusses five tips to better living. “You can live a long healthy life, but it isn’t going to happen unless you focus on your health all the time,” said Colvin.
1 Physical activity
Research indicates that staying physically active can help prevent or delay certain diseases, including some cancers, heart disease and diabetes, and also relieve depression and improve mood. Inactivity often accompanies advancing age, but it doesn’t have to. Even 20 minutes of activity a day, three times per week, provides benefits. Thirty minutes every day is even better.
“You have to keep active because it can increase your mobility and flexibility and decrease the likelihood of falls, which typically affects many seniors,” said Colvin.
Among seniors, falls are the leading cause of injuries, hospital admissions for trauma and deaths due to injury. Strategies to reduce falls include exercises to improve balance and strength and medication review.
“One of the biggest issues I see from seniors is muscle decrease, which is a serious problem. There are studies that show that people with a significant decrease in muscle mass tend to have bigger medical problems and increase hospitalization stays,” said Colvin. “When you start experiencing muscle loss, that can cause balance problems, it could cause a chain reaction that leads to metabolism issues and really decrease your overall quality of life.”
Like exercise, eating habits are often not good if seniors live and eat alone. It’s important for successful aging to eat foods rich in nutrients and avoid the empty calories in candy and sweets. Being overweight or obese increases the chances of dying from hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, dyslipidemia and endometrial, breast, prostate, and colon cancers.
“Eating healthy is essential for everyone, but especially seniors. They have to make sure they eat their fruits, vegetables and lean meats,” added Colvin.
3 Jumpstart your social life
Depression is a true and treatable medical condition, not a normal part of aging. However older adults are at an increased risk for experiencing depression. If you are concerned about a loved one, offer to go with him or her to see a healthcare provider to be diagnosed and treated. One of the ways to attack or even avoid depression is having people you enjoy around you. Having an active social life really can lead to a fuller life.
“As you get older, you have important people in your life pass away. It is important to stay close with the family members and friends that you have here,” said Colvin. “Isolationism can lead to depression. It can lead to you not taking your medication or not taking care of your physical health.”
4 See your physician
While most people don’t get excited anticipating their next doctor’s visit, checkups are essential for staying healthy. Getting regular checkups can lead to physicians finding problems early. Many cancers are preventable such as colon cancer, which can be discovered with a colonoscopy. Heart disease remains the No. 1 killer overall.
“I tell my patients that you have to take care of your health and one of the areas is seeing your doctor. Speaking to your cardiologist, getting your mammograms and getting your screenings can be the difference between life and death,” said Colvin.
5 Pay attention to your finances
Money can cause all kind of pleasure and pain. Not having enough of it though feels mighty painful. Under stress we may feel tense, nervous or on edge. The stress response is physical, too. Stress triggers a surge of a hormone called adrenaline that temporarily affects the nervous system. Colvin said when people are stressed out, that is when they fail to take care of themselves properly.
“When people are worried about their finances what they tend to do is to save money — they stop buying their medication or doing anything to take care of themselves that might cost money,” added Colvin. “Plus the added stress of not having money also plays havoc on their minds and bodies.”