It’s never too late to adopt healthy habits, and for those of us heading into our golden years, it’s even more important. All of us want to enjoy good health on our back forty, and there are steps we can take to improve our health as we head into our 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond. So how can we maintain good health in our old age? Today we’re sharing our favorite health tips for seniors.
1. Examine Your Diet
Staying healthy starts with what’s on your plate. Obviously, maintaining a healthy weight is important for many reasons. It reduces your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Less weight also means less stress on your bones and joints. As we age, our bodies need fewer calories to sustain them. Because of this, it’s important to eat healthy and make sure we’re getting the nutrition we need. But eating healthy helps you do more than maintain a healthy weight. It can help you stay healthy in other ways.
Stop Muscle Loss
After the age of 50, we start losing muscle mass, and eating protein in the form of lean meats and fish with every meal can mitigate some of that loss. One geriatric specialist from Massachusetts General Hospital recommends 1-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That means a 180lb man should be eating anywhere from 82 to 164 grams of protein per day. Consider foods such as chicken, pork, salmon, tuna, and legumes.
Keep Bones Strong
Believe it or not, our bones reach their peak in our late 20’s and then start a slow decline as we get older. Seniors are especially vulnerable to falling, and broken bones are among the most common reasons for hospital admissions among the elderly. Calcium and Vitamin D are the best way to keep your bones healthy and strong. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends at least 1,000mg of Calcium for men and 1,200mg for women. Foods such as low-fat cottage cheese, greek yogurt (bonus: extra protein!) and Vitamin D fortified milk are excellent ways to add calcium into your daily diet.
Inflammation leads to all sorts of issues, including heart disease, depression, arthritis, and even dementia. It might start with joints that are a little stiff, but it can wreak havoc on older adults if the inflammation goes unchecked. The best way to reduce inflammation is to reduce the number of sugary foods in your diet. Sugar creates extra insulin in your body, which can trigger an inflammatory response. So check those labels! If you crave something sweet, stick to fruits, which are a natural source of sugar and contain healthy nutrients for your body.
Healthy Colon and Vascular System
Eating the right kinds of carbs is another step to healthy eating. Choosing whole grains helps reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer. They’re also rich in fiber which promotes a healthy environment for the bacteria in your colon, helping maintain regular bowel movements. Eating whole grains can be tricky because it’s hard to tell which foods are full of them! Here’s a hint – choose grains such as steel-cut oats, popcorn, brown rice, and quinoa.
And…Eat the Rainbow
Speaking of fruit, studies show that the more colorful your diet, the more nutrition you’re getting. Fruits and vegetables and foods that have bright colors (think blue, red, and purple) have more heart-healthy antioxidants. Blueberries, raspberries, beets, tomatoes, purple cabbage, and yellow squash. The more color, the better! A healthy diet that includes these antioxidants tend to have improved vascular function and a healthy level of good cholesterol.
2. Get Physical
Nothing makes you more tired than being inactive. Our bodies were meant to move, and the best way to keep your body used to moving is to engage in regular physical activity. But what is the best way for older adults to remain physically active? Think of a mixture of cardio exercise and strength training. Don’t go thinking you need to start training for a marathon. We’re talking about the kind of exercise that helps you in everyday life. Ways to maintain your balance, increase energy and even promote healthy brain function. Here are some of the best ways older adults can add physical activity as they age.
Walking is a great form of cardio exercise and is accessible to just about everyone. Talk to your doctor before starting a walking regimen because goals will differ from person to person based on their physical condition. But walking regularly keeps our joints moving, reduces stiffness, and gets the blood flowing. It’s also a great social activity – grab a friend and take a walk in a park or even inside your local mall! Even if you can’t walk a long distance, getting up to move at regular intervals throughout the day is highly beneficial.
Resistance Band Workouts
This falls under the strength training category, and it’s a great low-impact way to strengthen your core, promoting balance, posture, and mobility. Resistance bands don’t cost a lot, and there are many online resources for exercises you can do. If you want to get more adventurous, join an in-person class!
Water workouts have become very popular for people of all ages over the past few years. Water supports the body, putting much less strain on your joints. It also adds a natural resistance, so you don’t have to use weights. Popular water exercises include water walking, leg lifts, standing water push-ups, and flutter kicking. Water aerobics naturally help improve flexibility, balance, and strength with almost no impact on your body.
Tai Chi has been called “meditation in motion.” It’s a graceful exercise that has both mental and physical benefits for any senior. Tai Chi comprises a series of movements performed in slow motion as the participant pays attention to deep breathing. It’s calming and mentally stimulating at the same time and increases flexibility and agility. Some older adults say they notice an improvement in joint pain and even their quality of sleep.
Of course, before you start any regular exercise, it’s best to check with your health care provider.
3. Other Healthy Habits For Seniors
Healthy eating and regular physical activity go a long way toward helping us age gracefully. But there are other important factors to pay attention to as well. Here are some other ideas to help keep us young in mind, body, and soul!
This is good advice at any age. Smoking is correlated back to a host of health problems, including heart failure, stroke, and cancer. It takes the elasticity out of your skin, causing premature and excessive wrinkling, and can age you beyond your years. There are many programs that are successful in helping people quit – ask your doctor for information.
Get Some Sleep
It’s a myth that the older we get, the less sleep we need. Seniors need the same amount of sleep as adults of any age – between 7 to 9 hours. However, insomnia is a common problem among senior adults. The pain of old age often affects sleep, as can medications and other health ailments. Control what you can by sticking to a good bedtime routine. Dim the lights in the early evening, avoid watching television or using a phone or tablet 3o minutes before bedtime, and avoid taking late afternoon naps.
Visit Your Doctor and Dentist
Staying on top of your regular health care is vital to a senior’s health. Keeping your health care team apprised of all your health information will ensure good all-around health care. And don’t overlook your oral health! They say that your mouth is the gateway to good health. You only get one set of teeth, so it’s best to take good care of them. Plus, good dental health has been shown to reduce your chance of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Spending time with family and friends keeps us connected to our community and is proven to help us live longer. Social seniors are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and stress. Healthy relationships are always important, but seniors especially benefit from having a strong community around them.