Thanks to constant innovations in modern medicine, people are regularly living longer than they ever have before.
Be that as it may, older adults are nonetheless often plagued by health problems like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. Although it is impossible to control some of the factors that increase your chances of suffering from these illnesses, it is important to note that poor health is not simply something we should expect as we age.
Although if you have lived the high life for much of your middle years and not looked after your body then you can certainly expect some repercussions.
But on the contrary, by being responsible and taking an active role in promoting your own mental and physical health, it will have a profound influence on your quality of life in older age.
Keep the following six tips in mind if you want to have a healthy and active life long after you have you reached retirement age.
1) Adopt a smart exercise program that suits your needs:
This one is really important and unfortunately I come across it almost daily – people reaching their sixties then starting to think it is way too late for exercise to have any worthwhile impact on their general wellbeing.
This is totally wrong and if your current thinking is going down this path then you need to put steps into place to change it.
You may be surprised to know that regular moderate exercise will help keep your body fit and strong yielding multiple benefits to anyone at any stage of life. It will even improve your ability to ward off the numerous illnesses doing the rounds each year.
Ideally, both men and women should combine cardiovascular exercise with strength training, but this does not mean you have to start pounding the pavements or lifting weights like a bodybuilder or go and find a box and start Cross Fit training. But don’t let me stop you if that’s the path you would like to follow.
For us baby boomers, low-impact aerobics, swimming or regular, brisk walks can help to improve fitness without putting a huge strain on the body. Stretching routines are great too as they can reduce chronic pain, and yoga can help to boost your flexibility and regain that stretch we used to have in our long lost youth.
If you have trouble staying or even getting motivated when it comes to physical fitness, try to encourage a partner, family member or friend to accompany you when you want to exercise.
Some friends of mine have found by joining the local gym and working out with other like-minded people has helped them to keep motivated plus it is a nice little social outing (or maybe it is the cup of coffee and a chat or a read of the morning paper after the workout that keeps them coming back for more).
Also, remember that there is an increasing body of evidence suggesting that those who stay active in later life are less likely to suffer from dementia so as you can see some regular moderate exercise is well worth the little bit of effort it takes.
2) Take good care of your mental and emotional health:
It’s amazing the number of people I run across around my own age who find it really hard to stay in a positive and optimistic frame of mind especially as they tend to notice changes about themselves that make them feel unhappy.
For example, you may lack confidence in your own body because you believe only younger people are attractive, or, you may feel a sense of helplessness because your own children are beginning to feel like they should be taking care of you.
In addition to making your life more enjoyable, it has been proven that maintaining a positive mindset is actually associated with an increased life expectancy of up to three years, so you can see it is in your best interests to try and combat these periods of depressive thoughts.
A key part of staying happy and motivated so you can enjoy life to the fullest involves socializing and doing things with your family and friends. You can also try and meet some new people by joining clubs or activity or exercise groups.
Doing some voluntary work in your community is another good way to have more contact with the outside world and elevate your feelings of self-worth. Also, make sure you use plenty of your free time to indulge in your favourite hobbies.
If you ever find that you feel consistently down in the dumps and are no longer enjoying the things you used to love doing, then it is very important to discuss this with your doctor in case you are suffering from clinical depression (which is generally highly treatable).
3) Stick to a healthy diet:
In older age, many bodily processes start to slow down, and your metabolic rate is one of these processes. As a result of having a slower metabolism, older adults burn fewer calories and at a slower pace, meaning it can be a lot easier to put on weight and harder to get rid of excess kilos/pounds.
Keep this in mind when choosing what to eat and when deciding on portion size.
Also try to limit your intake of any extremely fatty or sugary foods. If you stay slim well into old age, you are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even some types of arthritis so slow down on the grain fed red meat and top up on plenty of good quality fresh fruit and vegetables. (Note: when buying red meat always ask for grass fed – you will probably have to go to your local butcher but it will taste better and be a much better choice for your health).
4) Try to stick to a consistent sleep pattern:
As we age, people often complain they have trouble falling asleep at night or difficulty staying awake during the day. While certain medications and illnesses can play a role in sleep problems and may be more difficult to control, there are things you can do to increase your chances of a restful night’s sleep.
For example, try to relax before going to bed instead of doing anything that is too physically or mentally demanding. Many people enjoy reading a book, taking a hot bath, or doing a meditation exercise. In addition, make sure your bedroom is a peaceful place where you feel safe and comfortable. You can influence the room’s atmosphere by choosing softer lighting and cozier bed linen.
(Note: Don’t drink coffee after 3pm in the afternoon unless there is a good late movie playing and you want to be up for half the night).
5) Work to protect your body from common health problems:
While people of all ages should try to remember that preventative healthcare can end up saving lives, being cautious about your health becomes even more important as you age.
It’s important to take advantage of any screening programs that test for common cancers (like malignancies of the breast, colon or prostate), and you should keep a close eye on your blood pressure to make sure your heart is not being placed under unnecessary strain.
One thing I religiously do every year to reduce the chances of developing potentially fatal complications of flu is to make sure I have a flu vaccination. I suggest you do the same especially if you do much overseas travel.
6) Keep your body well hydrated:
Dehydration is one of the most common health problems encountered by older people, and it can damage your kidneys (as well as reducing your energy levels).
To combat this problem you should always try to make sure you keep your body well hydrated. If you don’t like plain water, try it with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. Teas are good too. Try white or green tea – these are a great choice because of their excellent antioxidant qualities.
Do these six things on a consistent basis and you will be amazed how good you will feel.
Let me know how you go with it.