Did You Know | Health

Healthy Living Habits For Your Golden Years

Growing older is a natural part of life, and any American citizen today can expect to live well into their 70s, if not longer. Old age is not necessarily something to be dreaded; many seniors have a good time in this phase of life, which is why it's often called a person's "golden years." Everyone's experience will be different, but it can be said that with healthy living habits and a good outlook on life, a person can reach their 60, 70s, and 80s with grace and make the most of their retirement years. True, many seniors do face chronic health conditions or need assisted living services; four in five older adults experience chronic conditions such as arthritis or heart issues. Chronic diseases are the major cause of death and disability worldwide. In Canada, chronic diseases are projected to account for 89% of all deaths. Still, anyone can adopt some smart and healthy living habits to maintain their health both now and in their golden years later on.

Properly Manage Pain

Chronic pain is quite common around the world today, and often, it takes the form of back pain or joint pain. Many senior citizens experience chronic pain such as spinal issues, arthritis in the joints, sore hips and knees, and sore back muscles. How can someone deal with all this? Often, Americans visit their doctors to get referrals to experts, such as yoga instructors, massage therapists, and chiropractor offices. All of this is non-invasive medicine, meaning no injections or scalpels are necessary. Rather, a patient may have a chiropractor use their bare hands and basic adjusting tools to readjust the bones and muscles, and relieve pressure on distressed bones, joints, and muscles, not to mention pinched nerves. This can also help loosen up the joints and restore flexibility and arc of motion. Practicing yoga with an expert during private sessions can have a similar effect, not to mention expert massages for the spine and neck.

Get Physically Active

Within reason (and safety), senior citizens are encouraged to maintain an active lifestyle and get the blood moving every day. The Canadian 24-Hour Movement & Activity Guidelines suggest adults, including seniors, should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. This may be easier for those who spent their younger years being active, from martial arts classes to sports teams to bicycling and weight lifting. Seniors can scale down these activities to their needs, and reap the many benefits of exercising. These include lowering the risk of heart disease (very relevant), improving mood and sleep, preventing obesity, and even lower stress levels. A senior's body is much different than that of someone in their 20s or 30s, though, so a senior is urged to consult their doctor to see which exercise types will be safest and most effective for them.

Quit Smoking (and other unhealthy habits)

This is a fairly straightforward category of healthy living for seniors. Simply put, avoid harmful substance use, ranging from tobacco (smoked or chewed) to excessive alcohol and any hard drugs. Unfortunately, many Americans abuse drugs every year, and this can even include seniors. In 2015, for example, 20.5 million Americans aged 12 and over had a substance abuse problem, and two million of them had problems involving prescription pain relievers. Besides, many seniors live alone, and if they suffer a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning, there might not be anyone around to help them, and that is a scenario to avoid at all costs. And on a more cosmetic note, smoking wrinkles the skin, something that is never desirable.

In 2017, the overall prevalence of smoking in Canada was 15.1%, equivalent to approximately 4.6 million Canadians. This represents a significant increase from the 2015 estimate of 13%. Additionally, roughly 10.8% of Canadians (3.3 million) were daily smokers, while 4.3% (1.3 million) were non-daily smokers.

Eat Healthy

A good diet is essential for everyone, from children to middle-aged adults to seniors. The body always needs good nutrition, and a senior may consult their doctor and a nutritionist about what their diet should look like (and what should be excluded). Fast food and highly processed foods are a bad call for anyone, including seniors, due to excessive fats, sugars, and oils in those foods. What is more, a highly nutritious diet can help prevent many health issues that seniors face, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, and even Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Vitamin supplements may also be taken, such as calcium supplements for elderly women (who are at particular risk for osteoporosis).

Stay in Touch with Medical Professionals

This has been mentioned a few times so far: make sure to stay in contact with doctors, nutritionists, and other medical experts regularly. A senior's body has different needs (and risk) than the body of someone in their 30s or 40s, and regular checkups are essential so any developing problems can be spotted and addressed right away. Seniors are, generally speaking, hospitalized more frequently than younger adults, and they often have advanced medical insurance policies as a result. An elderly patient should inform their doctor of any sudden problems or changes, and look into any and all options for medical insurance. This can save a lot of money in the long run.

Maintain Your Appearance

A senior can, and will probably want to, put an effort into looking their best. Seniors can be healthy for their age and look it, and this even includes cosmetic surgery for the skin, teeth, hair, and more. Many seniors get dentures to replace their many missing teeth, but they also often get dermal fillers, which are 1 of the top 5 cosmetic minimally-invasive procedures people undergo each year that can help slow down signs of aging. Thus, dermal fillers prove quite popular today. Otoplasty, or surgery for the outer ear, is also common for patients young and old. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has stated that on average, the price for otoplasty is $3,154, and a senior who wants to look their best may be quite happy to have this operation done. Seniors can keep their skin looking good if they avoid tobacco (as mentioned earlier), and a good diet and exercise can have similar effects.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Insomnia can happen to anyone, from adolescents to seniors, and elderly Americans may often run into trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep until their intended wake-up time. Why? Sometimes, certain medications can interfere with sleep, or chronic pain in the back or joints or muscles may prevent the necessary relaxation for sleep. As for solutions, these range from getting non-invasive surgery for pain all the way to keeping the bedroom dark and cool, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine later in the day, and checking with a doctor to see if certain medications are having anti-sleep side effects.

Focus on Mental Health

This is a tricky topic, but it is not one to be neglected. Adults enter their golden years with various attitudes and perspectives, varying from "I lived a good life so far" all the way to panicking at the thought of having a few years left to live. Some seniors may lament having most of their life behind them instead of ahead of them, and this might even lead to depression or other mental health troubles. That, and they may be agitated and frustrated about the limitations of their physical bodies. But a senior is entitled to happiness like anyone else, and many self-improvement strategies may work just fine to fix this problem. For serious cases, a senior can visit a therapist and talk out their problems, and for more minor cases, home remedies are in order.

Good exercise can boost a person's mood, and a senior can also keep a gratitude journal. In fact, gratitude journals are a good idea for anyone to keep, and a senior, having lived many years and experienced many things, will likely have a long list of fond memories and sentimental items in their lives. A senior who makes a serious effort at this may even surprise themselves by how much material ends up in that journal, and it can put a fresh perspective on just about everything. Meditation and yoga can go a long way toward lowering stress, and the mental benefits of meditation have been scientifically verified. It's not just a lifestyle; it's medicine.

Socialize

Many seniors face a great deal of loneliness as they age, but regular face to face contact can greatly cheer up a senior, and even digital communication such as e-mail, live video chat, and even social media can help make a difference. Many seniors now have Facebook and Twitter accounts, for example. What is more, a senior who moves to a retirement community will have plenty of neighbors their age with whom to chat and share experiences with, and some seniors choose to do volunteer work. This will keep them in face to face contact with fellow volunteers of all ages.

For Canadians, at least 80% of premature heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, and 40% of cancer could be prevented through a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and avoidance of tobacco products. Overall, good health habits are for a lifetime, and retiring from a job doesn't have to mean retiring from a good lifestyle. A senior can live their golden years in comfort, dignity, and happiness as long as they get regular attention from their doctors and make a real effort to maintain their standard of living. Good health takes many different forms, at any age.

Head of Content, reality TV watcher and lover of cookies. emma@shared.com