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The Key Components of Healthy Aging

September 02, 2016     by Meghan Orner


The Key Components of Healthy Aging

There’s no denying that aging comes with many positive and negative changes. But getting older doesn’t have to be synonymous with a lower quality of life. Despite our youth-crazed society, your Golden Years can actually be some of your best.

Perhaps one of the best kept secrets about aging is that treating your body with respect through diet, exercise and sleep can help you remain young at heart. The key is finding ways to incorporate certain activities that promote senior health into your daily routine.

1. Exercise Regularly.

With its numerous proven benefits, it should come as no surprise that exercise is number one on our list for maintaining senior health. Not only does exercise lower your risk of early mortality, heart disease, falls and depression, but regular physical activity can also boost bone health and cognitive function skills according to WebMD. Aerobic exercises, like walking, swimming and cycling, are ideal for healthy aging. To reap the most benefits of your fitness time, however, alternate between aerobic, flexibility and strength exercises at least five days a week.

If beginning an exercise routine seems daunting, start with something fun. Whether you love taking long walks through your neighborhood, playing group sports like tennis or golf, or even ballroom dancing, you’ll be much more motivated to keep exercising if you’re doing an activity you love.

When it comes to healthy aging, exercising your brain is just as important as being physically active. Brain-stimulating activities, such as reading, puzzles and crosswords, lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and keep your mind sharp.

2. Develop a Healthy Diet.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of seniors are obese, putting them at higher risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions. Regular exercise and a nutritious diet are essential for healthy aging. The Mediterranean Diet is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and fish, and it helps prevent obesity as well as lowering the risk of stroke and dementia. Try incorporating the Mediterranean Diet into your mealtime routine with these tips:

  • Grill or steam fruits and vegetables instead of frying them.
  • Cook with olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil instead of butter.
  • Use healthier herbs and spices (think oregano, basil and garlic powder) instead of salt.
  • Instead of red meat, eat fish at least twice a week.

It may not seem like much, but making these simple dietary changes will go a long way in benefitting senior health.

3. Visit Your Doctor Frequently.

As we age, our risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and arthritis increases. Your doctor will help you determine your risk of developing these conditions and can even teach you how to you prevent them.

Prepare a list of questions for your doctor before each appointment to maximize the time you spend with your physician. In addition to your annual physical, be sure to follow up with any specialists your doctor recommends, as your health and wellbeing most likely depend on it.

Regular annual vaccines are another important element of healthy aging. Since our immune systems weaken with age, vaccines are key in preventing illnesses that negatively impact senior health. Simply ask your doctor to find out which vaccines are right for you.

4. Quit Smoking & Limit Alcohol Consumption.

Although only 8.5 percent of seniors regularly smoke according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it doesn't change the fact that it’s a deadly habit. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease and lung cancer, and even if you quit years ago you can still be at risk. On average, it takes seven attempts for someone to permanently quit smoking. Quitting this addicting habit is challenging, but it's never too late to benefit your health.

Excessive alcohol consumption is another big health threat among older adults. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 40 percent of seniors drink alcohol, putting them at risk of liver disease, falls and other unintentional accidents and injuries.

Heavy drinking can make certain health conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoporosis, much worse. It can also negatively interfere with certain medications. Older adults who consume more than seven drinks in one week put their health and safety at risk.

5. Socialize Often.

Socializing might not be commonly associated with senior health, but loneliness can have detrimental effects. For the 12.5 million seniors living alone, social isolation puts them at a much greater risk of dementia, elder abuse, depression, high blood pressure and early mortality.

To promote socialization and healthy aging, try these activities for seniors that fight loneliness:

  • Attend events organized by community centers.
  • Create an exercise routine with a family member or friend.
  • Organize a weekly game night with some friends or neighbors.
  • Volunteer in your community.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to feel social aside from these suggestions. Building connections that keep you feeling like a vital part of your community--whether it’s with family, friends or your neighborhood--can have a positive impact on senior health.

6. Promote Your Safety In and Around the Home.

As we age, we are more likely to experience limited mobility, anxiety and depression, causing many seniors to remain in their homes during the day. After spending so much time indoors, it can be easy to overlook safety hazards, which is one reason why 60 percent of falls happen within the home according to the National Institutes of Health. Luckily, these home safety tips for seniors will help you prevent accidents:

  • Remove tripping hazards like uneven flooring, loose carpeting, electrical cords and area rugs.
  • Clean up spills right away.
  • Improve the lighting in your home so you can properly see.
  • Place non-slip mats and grab bars in the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Attach non-slip treads on steps, and make sure stairs are sturdy.

In addition to these home safety tips for seniors, the best way to maintain your health and safety as you age is with a medical alert system from Medical Guardian. Whether you experience a power outage, house fire, fall or medical emergency, you can rest assured that you are protected both inside and around your home, 24/7.   

by Meghan Orner


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