Just about all of us endeavor to age gracefully. Aging well — meaning staying energized, nimble, and able to enjoy life’s everyday pleasures — is very achievable. Even better, studies show that you can start making positive changes and reap the benefits from healthy aging starting today.
Among study participants ages 44 to 84, “Those who made good-for-you changes like quitting smoking, following a Mediterranean-style diet, getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight [over the course of seven years] decreased their risk of death in the time period by 80%,” according to John Hopkins Medicine.
Whether a healthy lifestyle is par for the course or you are just starting your journey to form healthier habits, it is best to do it armed with knowledge. Do these things to ensure healthy aging and wellness.
Take Another Look At Your Community
There are many reasons to take a closer look at your local community as you age. For example, socialization plays a critical role in healthy aging and wellness. As we age, it is also important to ensure proximity to resources, like a grocery store, urgent care center, and an orthodontic clinic. For many, one of the simplest ways to do that is to take advantage of senior housing and senior living communities.
Senior living communities are optimally designed to promote socialization while granting homeowners or residents easy access to medical services, transportation services, and food.
The benefits of regular socializing and strong relationships and friendships cannot be understated. “Seniors who report feeling left out and isolated have more trouble with everyday tasks like bathing and climbing stairs. They also die earlier than less-lonely folks do. Researchers found that lonely people have higher levels of stress hormones that cause inflammation, or swelling, linked to arthritis and diabetes,” WebMD writes. Plus, those who describe themselves as lonely are more prone to depression and cognitive disturbances, like dementia.
Whether you choose to live in housing for those 55 and up or an assisted living community, both setup community events for their residents. Events may include games like trivia and bingo, team sports, group exercise classes, or group lessons, like art classes or gardening lessons. All of these events are great places to start and build new friendships that may turn out to be (literally!) life-sustaining.
Further, these communities have critical services nearby and/or reliable transportation to services that may be slightly out of the way. As you age, your eyesight might suffer, making it all-but-impossible to drive. Or you may simply have more medical appointments and want to make it as convenient as possible to get to them. Communities with services on-site or with public transportation services address this important need.
Know What Your Health Care Covers
Another essential tip for healthy aging and wellness is to know your health care plan or plans inside out.
Unfortunately, the average Medicare plan does not cover all health care services or medications. If you are uncertain whether your Medicare plan will cover a particular treatment or prescription, use the free tools available to you to get to the bottom of it. Medicare.gov provides a free search function, for example, where patients can plug their medication or treatment into a search bar and receive pages of results in regard to that service.
If your Medicare plan or your private health care plan does not cover the medications or services you require, you can often purchase supplemental insurance to bridge that gap. Ask a local insurance agent about your options.
Speaking of health care red tape, it is also wise to have the number of a trusted medical malpractice lawyer handy. You may never need that number, but it is best for you to have it on-hand should you need it. After all, if you are dealing with the stress of failed surgery and extra medical bills, you may not be in the optimal headspace for legal research.
Healthy aging and wellness is within your grasp. Start with the basics, like knowing what you can get out of your health care plan and what may require supplemental coverage.
Be Proactive About Your Dental Health
Too few people realize that their dental health is often analogous to their overall health. The two are deeply intertwined with poor dental health or oral hygiene predicting health disease or cancers — or even contributing to them.
According to the Mayo Clinic, poor dental health or lacking oral hygiene may be related to cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, endocarditis, and certain cancers. In fact, some of these conditions may be directly or indirectly caused by bad oral health. Poor oral health leads to a buildup of bacteria in your mouth, which can ultimately travel into your bloodstream as well as into the other organs in your body.
To stop these problems in their tracks, stay on top of routine dental care. You need a professional cleaning at least twice a year. It is important to brush your teeth twice per day and floss at least once on a day-to-day basis.
It is especially important to seek out emergency dental care if you need it. If you lose a tooth, experience extreme pain, or have an abscess or infection, it is important to get treatment right away. You must replace a loose or missing tooth, for example, right away or it may lead to the deterioration of the muscles and bone surrounding that tooth.
Dental care is an essential part of healthy aging and wellness. “The mouth is a window into the health of the body,” according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Be proactive about your gums and teeth and you will stave off other health problems as well.
A list of tips about healthy aging and wellness would be remiss without talking about exercise. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can boost energy, help patients recover from illness or surgery faster, and even increase longevity.
Mobility studies show that regular exercise can help patients maintain mobility into old age, and “exercise also lowers stress and improves sleep, skin and bone health, and mood,” Healthline writes. The benefits of exercise are plentiful and obvious, so how much exercise do you need and what are the best types of exercise for aging men and women?
Every week, adults need two-and-a-half to five hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or one-and-a-quarter to two-and-a-half hours of vigorous activity. Doctors also recommend strength training at least twice per week.
Walking, running, swimming, dancing, and cycling are examples of aerobic exercise. To strengthen bones and muscles, lift weights, use resistance bands, or do bodyweight exercises.
What about exercising as an older person? In many cases, people can continue to exercise with reasonable accommodations or adjustments. These accommodations may include physical therapy to treat injuries and prevent future foibles. Take advantage of local physical therapy to continue doing the things you love to do. If you enjoy hiking or jogging, for example, you can do it well into old age if you take care of yourself.
If exercise was not part of your day-to-day routine up until now, take it easy. Try exercises that are especially safe and effective for seniors. To start, try your hand at water aerobics, pilates, walking, or resistance band workouts. According to Senior Lifestyle, “One study found that walking 10,000 steps lowered the ten-year outlook for mortality by 46%. Walking promotes a healthy lifestyle while strengthening muscles, lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and colon cancer.” Walking is accessible. It can be done anywhere, although some seniors stick to scenic forest trails for even greater mental health benefits.
Regular exercise is the key to healthy aging and wellness. It promotes overall well-being, good physical and mental health, and longevity. Moreover, it even makes seniors, who are at risk of falling and sustaining fall-related injuries less likely to trip or lose their balance. “Regular exercise reduces the likelihood of falling by 23%,” Senior Lifestyle continues.
Have The Appropriate Medical Equipment On-Hand
Another key to healthy aging and wellness is to always be prepared. If you plan on aging in plan and enjoying life’s simple pleasures for years to come, it is wise to have any medical equipment you may need on-hand. Where can you get this equipment? A medical supply store is a good place to start.
Medical supplies or equipment that come in handy as we age range from weekly pill organizers to wheelchairs. You may be able to purchase some supplies directly from the medical supply company of your choice. Others may require a prescription or written notice from your doctor.
To make life easier, average seniors should consider purchasing pill organizers, digital assistants, iPads or physical medical records organizers, medical alert systems, anti-slip bath or shower mats, and/or shower chairs. Items that promote organization and help patients keep tabs on medications, medical appointments, and treatments, like pill organizers, iPads, or medical records organizers are important for consistent, quality care. Grab bars and anti-slip mats prevent seniors from slipping, and medical alert systems notify the authorities should a senior fall while inside his or her home.
Watch What You Eat
Healthy aging and wellness are heavily dependent on a nutritious diet. Eating well can prevent health conditions like chronic inflammation, heart disease, high cholesterol, clogged arteries, and high blood pressure.
For a nutritious diet, eat a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and foods rich in vitamin D. Avoid packaged or processed foods and foods with lots of salt, refined sugar, and/or bad fats.
Doctors recommend preparing healthy food items with care. Use spices to enhance the flavors of lean proteins and vegetables. Learn how to plate or arrange your food on dishes so as to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Looking forward to eating healthy meals can help you stick to the habit.
Complement your healthy diet by drinking plenty of water. “Be sure to hydrate even when you do not feel thirsty, water keeps your energy levels up while also making your skin smooth and looking young,” Aging.com reveals.
Eating a healthy diet and drinking water will help you keep your weight in check as well. Maintaining a healthy weight can, in turn, lower your chances of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and certain types of cancers.
Get Curious About Your Mental Health
As previously touched on, your mental health can have a big impact on your physical health. Regular socializing is just one part of maintaining good mental health. Learning more about your mental health and doing what you can to practice self-care goes a long way toward healthy aging and wellness.
Healthline recommends taking part in activities that bring you purpose and joy. For example, volunteering can help promote a sense of meaning, and helping others makes us happy. Similarly, art can be a fun and relaxing pastime, while also giving aging Americans a sense of purpose.
Further, do your best to embrace aging and stay positive. Research shows that approaching aging with acceptance helps patients age more healthfully. Similarly, reflecting on the things we are grateful for –instead of our troubles — trains the brain to focus on the positive.
Get Some Sleep
“Children and adolescents need more sleep than adults. Interestingly, older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults — seven to nine hours of sleep per night,” Sleep Education writes. Sleep is a restorative and healing process. It is important to get enough sleep at all stages in our lives, and it is especially important when it comes to healthy aging and wellness. A restful night’s sleep reduces inflammation, reduces stress and depression, lowers risks of stroke and heart disease, and helps aging Americans maintain a healthy weight.
A healthy lifestyle can have an incredible impact on your overall health. Better yet, it is never too late. If you are in your 50s, 60s, or even 70s, now is the perfect time to begin looking after your health. Small changes in your day-to-day life can make a tremendous difference, improving your quality of life and increasing your chances at a long life as well.