Staying Healthy as We Get Older

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Looking for five easy ways to boost your health? Not so fast! A list of quick health hacks makes for an attention-grabbing title. However, real health improvements aren’t about eating the latest trendy superfood. Instead, you need to make smart changes to your daily habits.

One quick disclaimer: you should always talk to your doctor before jumping into a new eating plan or workout – you can usually get a comprehensive physical conveniently at any urgent care center. That being said, here are some areas where small changes can have big results on your daily wellness:

Active Habits

The CDC recommends that adults aged 65 and older get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate activity. These are ideally a mix of activities that build strength, improve balance and flexibility, and give you a cardiovascular challenge.

The key word here is ‘activity.’ This doesn’t have to be structured workouts like yoga routines, lifting weights, or jogging a 5k. If you love to work out in a structured way, keep it up. However, you can also get those 150 minutes in through simple activities such as these:

  • Parking at the far corner of the lot and walking to the store.
  • Taking the stairs, not the elevator.
  • Tending to the garden.
  • Taking a dance class.
  • Walking tours of the historic district.
  • Riding bikes with the grandkids.
  • Playing Frisbee with your dog.
  • Moving boxes from the garage into the attic.

What you do doesn’t matter as much as consistency. Keep looking until you find activities you like enough to build into your everyday life.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Although we poked fun at the idea that one superfood can cure all that ails you, your eating habits and weight do impact your overall wellness. If you’re over a healthy BMI, losing just 5% of your weight can improve your blood pressure and other health metrics.

How do you do this? Slow and steady. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, aim for a half-pound to two-pound weight loss per week. It’s also okay to slow down the loss or even stop at a plateau for a while. This gives your body time to adjust while giving you the chance to cement healthy eating habits.

What do those healthy habits look like? Weight loss isn’t just about denial. Instead, it’s a mindset shift. Delicious food is not an enemy. The problem is often the portion size or frequency you eat it. Sustainable healthy eating may include drinking plenty of water, cooking healthier versions of your most-loved dishes, or adding high-fiber foods like produce, beans, and grains to every meal. 

Challenge yourself to try a fruit or vegetable you’ve never heard of, and keep healthy snacks around, or treat yourself with high-quality versions of your favorite indulgences.

Stay Connected

Humans are social animals. We’re at our best when we have a social network of friends and family. However, not everyone is living right now with that so-important human connection.

Loneliness isn’t just a difficult emotion to deal with. It can also lead to long-term issues with our physical and mental health. Studies have found that people who report feeling lonely over long periods of time have higher levels of stress hormones, and a reduced immune system, and are at higher risk of depression and anxiety.

Ironically enough, the first step to battling loneliness is to know that you aren’t alone in feeling this way. One report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has found that a whopping 25% of seniors are living in social isolation – this may only increase as more seniors opt to age in place and potentially in isolation. 

This means that many older adults are in the same boat as you, looking to build new connections. How do you find them? Try checking your library or senior’s center bulletin board for fun upcoming events; take a class in your favorite hobby, or look for senior-friendly volunteering opportunities.

Other opportunities might include seeing if your place of worship organizes seniors’ events, joining Facebook groups catering to your interests, or finding local clubs for senior golfing, bird watching, mentoring programs, and more.

Finally, have patience. One study suggests that it takes almost 100 hours to turn an acquaintance into a casual friend, and a further 150 hours to upgrade to being good friends. Building friendships is a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy the journey.

Stop Smoking

Along with building new habits, there’s breaking old ones, and smoking is one habit you need to break. Easy to say and harder to do, but today smokers who want to quit have more help than ever before.

You can talk to your doctor about patches, sprays, and other devices to wean you off of nicotine. There are online programs run by the government and the American Lung Association that can walk you through the process. Substituting something healthy helps. Turn a quick smoke break outside into a five-minute walk around the neighborhood. If you miss having something to fiddle with, snack on carrots or carry around a pad of paper to doodle on.

How do you build a healthier lifestyle? One habit at a time. Even little changes practiced every day can help you live a longer, richer life in your senior years.


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