Few people find it easy to make healthy lifestyle changes, even if the new habits improve their lives. It can be especially difficult in your golden years, as a lifetime’s worth of routines have set in. Still, it is never too late for you to make changes for a healthier life.
Tips for healthy lifestyle changes
Here are some tips to help you establish healthy lifestyle changes as you enjoy this chapter of your life.
Stay Physically Active
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all adults should have some level of physical activity. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to go for a run after dinner. A brisk walk a few hours a week will suffice and help you work towards a more healthy lifestyle. Go for time, not for distance. As your strength improves, you’ll be walking farther and faster. Add more walking to your lifestyle by parking the car farther away from the entrance to the store or taking your neighbor’s dog for a walk.
Walking is not the only exercise available to seniors. Swimming is a great way to get and stay fit, especially for those with joint problems. Check out the local gym and YMCA to find out about accessing a pool. Many gyms today also have warm water pools, which can be especially helpful to those with arthritis. Another option is yoga. Yoga can increase muscle tone, strength and balance. Ask the local yoga studio about adaptive practices for older individuals, where props, such as chairs and blocks, support your body as you stretch. While you are checking out local gyms, find out if they offer a water yoga class.
When looking into ways to increase activity, find something you enjoy. People are better able to maintain a schedule when they’re not bored, have a variety of choices and have support. Consider finding an exercise buddy. Ask a friend or family member to throw on those athletic shoes and go with you.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Many people rely on canned foods and processed meats, such as lunch meat, when they have a hard time getting out to the store or find it challenging to cook recipes fit for a small number of people. Today there are many food home delivery options offering prepared meals or grocery delivery. Ask a family member to help you find easy access to fresh foods. Work with a friend to plan a healthy menu and think about eating with a buddy to get in the habit of making healthy choices together.
Smoking is a major risk factor of cardiovascular events and death even at an older age. Smoking cessation among older people is still beneficial in reducing the excess risk. But, it is hard to stop smoking. In fact, most people have many unsuccessful attempts before they successfully quit. The good news is that no one has to go cold turkey anymore. If you’ve tried and failed before or smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day, your health care provider can prescribe medication to help you quit. In addition, you can use over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy to help.
Avoid Drinking Too Much Alcohol
Has a family member, friend or health care worker ever expressed concern about your drinking? Sometimes trouble with alcohol in older people is mistaken for other conditions related to aging or overlooked in its entirety. In addition, alcohol may act differently in older people than in younger people. It may cause you to be more likely to fall or have other accidents.
Alcohol can also mask symptoms of some conditions and worsen others, like diabetes, hypertension and mood disorders. Speak frankly with your loved ones about your alcohol use, as they can help you determine if you are self-medicating with alcohol because of depression or other physical or psychological conditions.
Get Enough Sleep
Changes to sleep patterns are a normal part of aging. Older people tend to have a harder time falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep than when they were younger. However, your sleep need doesn’t decline with age; it just changes its pattern. Some causes of failing to sleep well are easily solved. Strive to limit caffeine, alcohol, exercise and screen time near bedtime. But other causes of sleep troubles, like depression, sleep apnea or insomnia, require a visit to a health care provider.
Practice Safe Sex
Aging brings about expected changes for men and women. Problems with erections or vaginal dryness are often easily treated by a health care provider, and there is no reason that older people cannot enjoy sex as part of a healthy lifestyle. But remember, age is not a condom, and older people can contract sexually transmitted infections, including human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. Many providers don’t ask older people about their sex lives, and many older people don’t offer the information up, either. If you can, talk about safe sex with your health care provider.
Enjoy a Full Social Life
Research shows that social isolation and loneliness are health threats for older adults. Assess what social outlets you have available to you. Many communities can transport older people to events and community centers. But social isolation and loneliness are two different things. You can be surrounded by people and still be lonely. Ask friends, neighbors or family members to be more present and help you attend events, such as family gatherings, card parties or jaunts out about town.
Get Preventive Health Care
Finally, make sure you follow up with preventive care recommendations. You’ll still need colonoscopies and mammograms, as well as trips to the dentist and optician. You may need more frequent visits to your provider for blood pressure checks, diabetes and cholesterol tests and breast, prostate and osteoporosis exams. As important, make sure you are up to date on all of your vaccinations, including their annual flu vaccine. Ask a family member to attend appointments with you to help you keep track of and understand all the information presented to you.
Following these tips can help you continue creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself.