As health needs change with age, one thing remains the same: healthy living is the best way to avoid disease, prolong life, and live happier. Living a longer, healthier life can be made easier with these simple steps.
Eat Natural Foods
Processed foods are often full of sugar, sodium, unhealthy fats, and calories. Avoid the fake stuff and opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fiber-rich foods—bean, spinach, and romaine lettuce, for example—lean cuts of meat, fresh fish, and poultry instead. Easy grocery-shopping tip: Shop the perimeter of the store where the fresh foods are—avoid the inside aisles where many of the boxed and processed foods reside.
Visit the Healthy Eating Learning Center to find out more about nutrition.
Get Your Vitamins
You can get your vitamins with a daily multivitamin designed specifically for seniors, but eating vitamin-rich foods can serve extra benefits—many foods flush with vitamins also provide plenty of healthy fiber and minerals. Pack your meals with vitamin-rich foods, but keep taking the multi, just for backup.
Physical activity is vital for developing the strong bones and muscles you need to help avoid falls or accidental injuries. Plus, exercise (as part of an overall healthy lifestyle) is the best way to avoid obesity and many diseases in people of any age. If you haven't been physically active in recent years or have concerns about beginning exercise again, talk to your doctor before you start. He or she may suggest a structured or supervised exercise environment, such as a rehabilitation clinic. Many hospitals have this type of clinic for patients and those with health concerns. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity each day. You can break it up into three 10-minute sessions and get the same benefits.
Dump the cigarette habit. And stay away from those who do smoke. Second-hand smoke can be almost as dangerous. Once you stop, your risks for heart disease and some cancers will begin decreasing right away. And the longer you go without smoking, the better—the risks continue to fall over time.
The risk for falls increases as we age, and morbidity and mortality rates connected to falls are also much higher in the older population. Furthermore, older adults are more prone to injuries from falls or accidents, so it's important to anticipate potential hazards in your home (stairs, high bathtub walls, and slippery floors, for example—and fix them). Also, exercise can improve your strength and balance, and if you were to fall or have an accident, the fact that you are physically active may make recovery easier.
Have Regular Checkups
Seeing doctors on a regular basis, for annual screenings or just to discuss your general health, will help them and you stay on top of any potential problems. As an older adult, you may need to take a number of different medications, so it's also helpful to review your prescriptions regularly so that your doctor can keep abreast of any changes or side effects.
Be Realistic About Driving
Older drivers aren't always bad drivers. But things that come with aging—changes in vision and slower reaction times, for example—make driving trickier and can increase the chances of an accident. Don't ignore any new problems you notice. Talk to your doctor about your difficulties, and see whether there are any solutions.