Contrary to popular belief, many common health and mobility issues experienced by older adults are not the inevitable results of “old age.” They’re often due to cause and effect, which is good news since that means we have more control over our well-being than we might have thought.
For example, bad nutrition habits over many decades can increase the risk of disease. Likewise, a lack of regular exercise can lead to muscle weakness and poor flexibility, forcing an older adult to depend on a cane, walker or wheelchair to get around.
Reclaim your health and independence today. Here are seven healthy aging tips to get you started.
- Annual health screenings
- Regular physical exercise
- A healthy BMI
- Good nutrition
- Mental wellness
- Plenty of sleep
- Meaningful relationships
1. Annual health screenings
Regular checkups are an important aspect of healthy aging. Older adults should visit their primary care physician at least once a year, even if they feel okay. Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Annual exams give your doctor a baseline for your care, letting them record changes in your health from year to year and potentially helping you avoid certain health complications.
Doctors agree that physical exercise to maintain strength and flexibility goes a long way toward preserving mobility in later years. It can even prevent the need for devices like walkers and canes.
Strength training with weights and cardiovascular exercises like fast walking and dancing improve blood circulation and heart health. They keep muscles strong to help you avoid falls that can lead to needing a walker or even a wheelchair. Working in a few balance exercises for seniors could help keep you steady, too.
It’s also important to maintain flexibility through regular stretching. Stretching exercises for seniors boost overall fitness and mobility, increase your body’s range of motion and can even decrease physical pain.
Body mass index (BMI) is a measurement of body fat. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this number indicates a person’s weight category and potential risk for developing health issues.
A healthy BMI can extend your life by a decade or more and help prevent cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer. Regular exercise and healthy eating habits help maintain a healthy BMI. Figuring out your own body mass index is easy using this free BMI calculator online.
Growing evidence suggests that eating fewer animal-based foods like red and processed meats and more plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains and nuts can extend your life by as much as 10 years. Plant-based diets are also associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes, making them especially healthy diets for older adults.
Many plant-based foods contain healthy fats and fiber, which help control blood sugar and lower the risk of developing diabetes. Heart-healthy foods for seniors like beans and legumes, for example, contain beneficial plant-based compounds rich in isoflavones, which are thought to reduce inflammation and act as antioxidants.
Even small changes like swapping out one serving of red or processed meat each day with lean chicken, peanut butter or another plant-based protein like tofu can lead to better health.
Small acts of self-care on a daily basis can have a big impact on maintaining a healthy mind and body. Make it a habit to include mindfulness activities like meditation, breathing exercises or gradual muscle relaxation techniques.
Mindfulness is about keeping your awareness in the present moment without judging it or wanting things to be different than they actually are. It’s about accepting “what is” without dwelling on the past or fretting about the future.
Many people assume meditation is the act of completely eliminating thoughts. The truth is that it’s impossible to eliminate all thoughts, but it is possible to better manage them, like resisting the urge to dwell on things we can’t control.
Mindfulness practices can also reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone linked with health problems. Regulating your emotions through meditation has been associated with aging and mental health resilience.
Practicing daily gratitude has also been shown to improve our mood and overall sense of well-being. Remind yourself every day of the things you’re grateful for. Be specific. Write them down at night or replay them in your mind.
Lastly, aim to focus on positivity. Identify and challenge negative or pessimistic thoughts. It only gets easier with practice.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the Sleep Research Society (SRS), getting fewer than seven hours of sleep a night can cause higher levels of stress hormones, blood sugar and blood pressure.
Regular exercise improves sleep quality and quantity. Keeping your bedroom dark, quiet and slightly chilly while you’re sleeping helps, too.
A social retirement is a healthy retirement. Studies continue to show that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community develop fewer health problems, live longer, and experience less depression and cognitive decline later in life.
Need guidance on getting out there and meeting new people? We’ve got you covered. Click here for helpful advice on making and keeping friends as you get older.
Getting better with age, one healthy habit at a time
As you can see, healthy aging habits like these can lead to greater wellness, happiness and fulfillment. Start slow and gradually build better habits to make the most of every single day. And remember to have fun! To try out a free exercise class at a Holiday community, find a location near you and ask about their event calendar.