If we expect a good quality of life in our senior years, it is essential that we try to stay fit and keep our health for as long as possible. This can be a real challenge as we age and our bodies are not as willing as they were 10 or 20 years ago.
The worlds population is growing older. Each day, more and more of our baby boomers are turning 65. The balance of people over the age of 65 is expected to grow rapidly over the next 20 years.
With developments in science and medicine, people are living longer than they ever have in the past. To make the most of our senior years, the following 5 tips will serve you well towards a fit and healthy lifestyle.
1. Quit smoking
If you haven’t given up smoking, you should do it as soon as possible. This is critical to improving your health and combating aging. Smoking kills by causing strokes, heart failure, and cancer. The depletion of testosterone leads to baldness and can cause erectile dysfunction in men. Smoking has been proven to cause excessive wrinkling of the skin by attacking the skin’s elasticity.
Just one cigarette robs the body of 25mg vitamin C and limits the absorption of vitamin D which is the most important nutrient for healthy skin. You’ll also take six weeks longer to heal from injuries than non-smokers.
It is never too late to give up. Even if you’re a social smoker, now is the time to extinguish your habit. Did you know that your body can almost completely heal itself within a year?
The process starts the minute you stub out your last cigarette:
6 hours after your last cigarette, levels of carbon monoxide will decline, and your heart won’t have to work as hard to pump oxygen around your body.
Within 2 to 12 weeks your lung function will improve by up to 30%, resulting in a noticeable decrease in coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath.
After 3 months, 75% of smokers with erectile dysfunction are functional again.
After 9 months, your risk of having a heart attack will be half that of a regular smoker.
2. Keep active
You should do something to keep fit every day. Keep your body moving and maintain your strength, balance and flexibility. Doing something every day also improves your cardiovascular health, maintains your ideal weight, helps you sleep better, reduces stress and makes you look better (and younger)
Find an activity you enjoy and begin slowly. Try to incorporate endurance activities, strengthening exercises, stretching and balancing exercises into your exercise program. Good choices include walking, swimming, biking, gardening, tai chi and exercise classes designed for seniors.
Did you know that falls are the leading cause of death among the elderly? Regular exercise helps you maintain your balance. We become vulnerable to falls as we age. Prevent falls and injury by removing loose carpet or throw rugs. Keep paths clear of electrical cords and clutter.
3. Eat well and maintain a healthy weight
As we age, eating well can improve mental acuteness, energy levels, and resistance to illness. A healthy diet can also be the key to a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced. Many illnesses, such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis, can be prevented or controlled with a healthy diet and exercise. Calcium and vitamin D supplements can help women prevent osteoporosis.
People who eat fruit, leafy veggies, and fish and nuts packed with omega-3 fatty acids can improve focus and decrease their risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidant-rich green tea may also enhance memory and mental alertness as you age.
As you age, your digestion becomes less efficient, so it’s important to include enough fiber in your diet. Women over 50 should aim to eat at least 21 grams of fiber per day, men over 50 at least 30 grams a day. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t getting even half those amounts.
4. Stay up to date on health checks and health screening
By age 50, women should begin mammography screening for breast cancer. Men can be checked for prostate cancer. New Zealand has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the world. Free bowel screening can save lives by finding cancers early. Men and women aged 50 to 74 who live in New Zealand, can take part in the national bowel screening program.
While some of these checks are uncomfortable (or embarrassing), it is essential that you get them done. If you leave it too late, the damage may be irreversible.
Your teeth will last a lifetime if you care for them properly. You need to brush and floss them daily and make sure you get your regular dental checkups. By age 50, most people notice changes to their vision, including a gradual decline in the ability to see small print or focus on close objects. Common eye problems that can impair vision include cataracts and glaucoma.
5. Manage stress
Stress can have an enormous impact on your health and your quality of life at any age—and even more so as you get older. Concerns like: “Will there enough money now that I’m retired?” and “What will happen if I get a serious illness or become disabled?” are common in older adults.
As you age, you’re also more likely to experience emotional loss associated with the death of people close to you (friends, family members, spouse), your own health, and the loss of your independence. For many seniors, dealing with the loneliness caused by multiple losses can make you depressed and sometimes causes anxiety.
It is important that you acknowledge your feelings and express them. Talk to your friends, family and health care workers. Consider joining a support group or keeping a journal. While it can sometimes be difficult, keeping your sense of humor and having a daily laugh with friends or family can be uplifting and spiritually healing.
Never too late
It’s never too late to start leading a healthier lifestyle. Even well into their 60s and 70s, adults can take action to reduce their risk of developing chronic disease, and live a happier and healthier life.