As we age, it's important to take steps to maintain our health. When you were young, you may have gotten away with being a bit more carefree about life and its consequences, because youth was on your side. But as you get older, you have probably noticed that your body just doesn’t bounce back the way it used to. You may find it harder to lose weight. You may feel the effects of alcohol harder (and for a longer duration the next day). Or maybe you threw out your back after a big sneeze last week.
Whatever it was that made you search for this article, it’s important to first recognize that you’re not alone. Additionally, we hope this article answers some questions for how to age healthfully and gracefully. By prioritizing your health and longevity, you can increase the chances that you will remain strong and independent (without need for a caregiver) as you age.
What changes as we age?
Your next question may be: why does it get harder to feel good as we age? As we get older, several things happen that make it harder to stay healthy and independent.
Our bodies become less adept at self-healing as we age, which is why it's important to take care of ourselves to avoid creating or prolonging injury.
Chronic conditions become more common and likely as we get older, which is why we need to monitor our health closely and to seek medical attention when necessary.
The aging process itself can lead to a decline in cognitive function, so staying mentally active and engaged is crucial.
We also become more susceptible to social isolation and loneliness, so it's important to maintain social connections.
How can we stay healthy as we get older?
While there’s no guarantee in life that we’ll age in great health, there are some things you can do to make it as likely as possible that you will be one of the lucky ones.
Here are five tips for healthy aging:
Get regular exercise
Exercise helps to keep muscles strong, improve balance and coordination, and increase stamina. It can also help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. This can help you stay independent and avoid falls and other injuries, which are the leading cause of fatal injury in adults over 65 years old.
Exercise can include higher intensity activity such as running, high intensity interval training, boxing, dancing, or weight lifting. It can also include lower intensity activities such as yoga, walking, pilates, stretching, or swimming. All of it counts. Find something you enjoy and try to incorporate it into your weekly routine.
Eat a healthy diet
A diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help promote overall health and vitality. Eating a healthy diet provides your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly. This includes everything from Vitamin C for strong immunity to Omega-3 fatty acids for healthy brain function.
Instead of looking for ways to cut out the parts of your diet that are bad for you, consider looking for ways to add in the things that are good for you. If you really want a pizza for dinner, have pizza. But consider adding veggies, munching on a side of veggies, or chowing down on a salad before you dig in. It’s a much easier way to ensure you add nutrients without feeling restricted.
Stay socially active
As we all learned during the pandemic, isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. It's important to stay connected with family and friends as we age. Taking part in social activities can also help keep the mind sharp.
Call a friend, attend a local gathering, join a community that meets to do an activity you enjoy. If you can add social time to your schedule, your efforts will pay off over time.
Smoking is a major risk factor for many serious health problems, including cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. Quitting smoking at any age can have significant health benefits. But we all know this – it’s a lot easier said than done.
If you're looking to quit smoking, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of success:
Consider using nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches or gum. This can help to ease withdrawal symptoms and make it easier to stick to your quit plan.
Make sure to avoid triggers that might lead you to smoke, such as alcohol or being around other smokers.
Stay positive and focused on your goal. Remember that every day you don't smoke is one step closer to being smoke-free for good.
Tell yourself “I’m not a smoker.” As silly as it sounds, we can control a lot about our behavior based on our identity and/or perception of ourselves. By saying to yourself, “I’m not a smoker” when the temptation strikes, you’ll be more likely to avoid the behavior because it doesn’t align with your identity.
Get regular medical checkups.
Finally, it’s important to get regular checkups. Checkups can help detect potential health problems early on when they're most treatable. So be sure to see your doctor for regular checkups and screenings as you age. It’s also incredibly beneficial to know your family history so you have a better idea of the things you should look out for.
Talk to your doctor about what preventative checkups you should get based on your age and family history, and get them done.
By taking some proactive and preventative action, you can reduce or eliminate the risks of aging for yourself or a loved one. If you’re in need of a caregiver or are a caregiver, we’re here to help.
For further reading and resources, we invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here. You are also welcome to call us at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you on your caregiving journey.
If you are a caregiver in Orange County, please reach out to us. We would be happy to provide you with information on our Center and the many services we offer.
Additional Reading: How to Get Paid to Be a Caregiver
If you are a caregiver, we recommend you check out our article about getting paid to be a family caregiver. Becoming a caregiver is expensive–out-of-pocket costs average in the thousands each year for a family caregiver. The state of California offers several paths to receiving at least subsidized assistance, so click here to learn more about how to get paid to be a caregiver.