September is a month that is known for change. Whether it’s the changing seasons or heading back to school, for many people September represents a time of transition. So, it makes sense that September is also designated as Healthy Aging Month. This annual observance is designed to focus attention on the positive aspects of another kind of transition – growing older.
Of course, health is important at every age. But thanks to advancements in medicine and technology, we are living longer lives, making health even more important as we get older. Fortunately, it’s never too late to make changes that lead to a healthier you. Here are seven tips to help you take control of your health as you age.
1. Move your body
There are many reasons why we tend to slow down as we age. From fear of falling, to weight gain, to aches and pains, it’s easy to become more sedentary in our 50s and beyond. But the truth is that an active lifestyle becomes increasingly more important as we grow older.
Exercise helps to increase metabolism and build muscle mass. It also leads to better immune and digestive functioning, lower blood pressure, and lower risk of diseases like diabetes and heart disease. It also improves flexibility, balance, and coordination, which reduces the risk of falls. It improves sleep, is a mood booster, and even improves brain function! It’s never too late to get your body moving. Start with a brisk daily walk. You might be surprised where it leads!
2. Eat right
As we age, our metabolism slows, and we require fewer calories. But our bodies still need nutrients, which is why it’s important to choose nutritionally dense foods that deliver more nourishment in fewer calories.
Things to consider when eating healthy after age 50 are to choose lean proteins and eat more fruits and vegetables (the more colorful the better) and whole grains. Also, look for foods that are high in fiber and low in sodium. Being careful about what you eat is about more than maintaining a healthy weight. It’s also important for heart and digestive health and overall wellbeing.
3. Keep balanced
Balance begins to decline progressively unless you take steps to prevent it. Fortunately, working on your balance as you age can pay off big in the long run. In the same way that cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart, exercises that improve balance can prevent a serious fall. Considering that 3 million older adults are treated in the ER for a fall injury every year, improving and maintaining balance as you age is definitely worth doing.
Exercises like yoga or Tai Chi improve agility, flexibility, and balance. But there are also simple balance exercises you can do at home. Try standing on one foot for ten seconds and then switching to the other or walking across the floor as though you are walking on a balance beam, heel to toe.
4. Get Social
It’s no surprise that social connectedness is important to healthy aging. Studies show that people with close relationships not only live longer but live better. They have a more positive outlook on life and experience less depression. It can be hard to maintain social connections over time so it’s important to put yourself out there and try new activities. Volunteering, taking a class, or joining a community center are great ways to meet new people.
5. Stay Positive
Keeping an optimistic outlook can help you enjoy your life more fully. Research shows that a mental attitude of positivity can increase longevity and provide health benefits such as a boosted immune system and lower blood pressure. Focus on the good things in life, no matter how small. You might be surprised at how a small shift can change your whole attitude.
6. See Your Doctor
It might seem minor to miss an annual checkup here and there, but skipping even one could mean missing the early signs of certain health issues. As you age it becomes more important to get regular preventative health assessments. Early detection is important when it comes to discovering and managing disease. If you haven’t seen your doctor in a year or longer, pick up the phone and make an appointment today.
7. Don’t Neglect Your Eyes
When scheduling your annual checkup, don’t forget about your eyes! An eye exam goes well beyond checking your current glasses prescription. In fact, certain eye conditions, such as cataracts, become more common after age 50 and finding them early is important. A cataract can only be diagnosed with an eye exam by a qualified eye doctor. See here for tips on what to ask your doctor about cataracts.
Even the smallest change that aims to improve your body, mind, or spirit can help to make the aging process more enjoyable. This Healthy Aging Month, what steps will you take?
References and more information on healthy aging: