As we age, we grow wiser. Part of the knowledge we gain is knowing how to better care for ourselves through the ups and downs of life. Things like eating well, managing our mental health, and taking steps to ensure our bodies stay strong are all ways we learn to keep ourselves healthy and happy.
Unfortunately, as the body ages, it becomes harder to ward off health conditions and recover from injuries. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, more than half of older Americans experience multiple chronic conditions including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, bronchitis, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Even if you don’t have a family history of any of these diseases, your risks increase with age. However, certain factors, such as how you eat and exercise (more on those below), also play a part. Knowing what potential issues lie ahead gives you an opportunity to take preventative measures.
An unfortunate side effect of age is how commonplace it becomes to lose people we love. No matter how many times we experience loss, it doesn’t get any easier. Since depression is common among seniors, and especially those who have experienced the loss of a spouse or partner, we must learn how to cope with grief in a healthy way. Friends, family, and your church and clergy are excellent resources for support. Keeping up with your mental health is just as critical as your physical health.
Communicate with your doctor
There are times in life when the doctor-patient relationship is most valuable. Now is one of these times, and your health care provider is your biggest ally when it comes to maintaining your health. Always communicate with your doctor about any supplements or OTC medications you’re taking, changes to your routine, your sleep patterns, and anything else that’s changed in your life since your last visit. Don’t be embarrassed to open up about uncomfortable topics such as addiction or cognitive decline. Further, talk to your doctor if you plan to remain sexually active. They can provide screenings for STDs and offer advice on sexual wellness. Your physician isn’t there to judge; they are there to ensure you have the tools you need to enjoy your best years. Everyday Health offers more advice on things you should talk to your doctor about.
Expand your insurance
Speaking of seeing your doctor, you want to make sure that your Medicare coverage works for your unique needs. If you have not yet enrolled, know that you have choices. Find a licensed Medicare agent to help you decipher the different options. Open enrollment, which happens once per year in the fall, is the only time you can change your plan once it is in place. If you cannot afford your Medicare premiums, Medicaid may be available, and is based on your income and assets at the state level.
Stay off the couch
Physical activity is just as important now as it was 20 years ago, and maybe even more so. SparkPeople recently put together a list of more than 60 reasons exercise is essential for people over the age of 65. Many of these revolve around the idea that physical activity increases joint flexibility, improves balance, and can control – or delay – certain diseases. You don’t have to join a gym to get in a good workout. You can exercise at home by using exercise videos on YouTube or playing Wii games.
Watch what’s on your plate
As with many things, your metabolism probably isn’t what it used to be. As a senior, your body, and therefore its needs, will change. You may also experience perceptual changes, such as a lowered ability to taste or smell your favorite foods. That doesn’t mean you should stop enjoying a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. These meals, plus a few snacks when you’re hungry, can help you stay energized.
Silver in your hair, wrinkles in your skin, and other signs of age don’t mean it’s time to slow down. Now more than ever, what you do each day matters. You owe it to yourself – and your family – to do everything within your power to remain happy and healthy for the long haul.
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