We all know we’re supposed eat our fruits and vegetables, stick to low-fat foods, lose weight, and stay fit, but there are other ways to improve your health as you age. Here are some other tips that you may not have considered.
Exercise above the neck as well as below. Keeping the brain active and fit is imperative to the health of older adults. Not only does it stave off memory-loss illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia, but it also fosters executive function. Work out your brain by learning a new language or doing crossword puzzles, or come up with memory games such as recalling five red objects you saw on a walk when you get back. Don’t avoid technology. Figuring out your computer or smart phone is a fun way of keeping your brain tuned up—and your grandchildren will think you’re cool.
Pole-walk. Purchase walking poles and use them for your daily walk. Walking poles (also called trekking poles) are similar to ski poles but are made for walking. They allow for more balanced mobility and engage the muscles of the upper torso, increasing upper-body strength and cardiovascular endurance.
Floss like your life depends on it. Actually, it does. Studies have shown that the more of your own teeth you have after age 55 the longer you will live. Periodontal disease, which is rampant in older adults, causes a host of life-threatening ailments from heart disease to stroke.
Don’t dine alone. People who share meals with others eat less than those who eat alone. This is an easy weight-loss tactic and one that fosters social interaction and engagement. And not only does it help people eat less, older adults who eat with others tend to eat a more balanced diet, which improves their nutrient intake.
Keep making new friends. People with strong social connections live longer and are less vulnerable to the depression and loneliness that may come from having an empty nest or losing a spouse.
Take a different route. Staid routines limit brain stimulation. Change the times you habitually do things. Try new foods, visit places you have never been, volunteer at a food pantry, write your memoir.
Don’t ignore your feet. As people age, the fat pads on the bottoms of their feet compress, causing fatigue and pain. If your feet hurt, you’re less likely to walk or do aerobic exercise. Wear supportive shoes or foot pad inserts for better stability and comfort. You can also try socks that have extra padding and a wicking agent to keep your feet dry and comfortable. If your feet still hurt, visit a podiatrist and ask about orthotics.
Stand on your head. In addition to exercises that build strength and improve flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, make sure to add balance activities to your daily routine. Good balance requires maintaining a center of gravity over the base of support. Tai chi, yoga, hiking steeper terrain, and water exercises all enhance overall balance.
Go dancing. Older adults who get regular physical exercise are 60 percent less likely to develop dementia. Exercise increases oxygen to the brain and releases a protein that strengthens cells and neurons. Dance involves all of the above, plus the cerebral activity involved in learning and memory.