By Colleen Scott, Advocacy Specialist, NYS Office for the Aging
We are aging from the very moment we enter the world. The decisions we make, the resources we have access to, and the type of care we receive all play a role throughout our lives in the way we will age. As we enter the New Year, here are some tips for being proactive on your path to healthy aging.
Get rid of junk food, including saturated fats, high-sodium foods, and prepackaged foods. Focus on eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and lean or low-fat protein sources while limiting added sugars, sodium and trans-fats.
Hydration is an essential part of overall nutrition and dehydration is especially concerning for older adults as it can lead to a host of health complications ranging from mild to life-threatening, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), heat stroke, heart problems, kidney failure, and blood clot complications.
Being hydrated simply means that your body has enough fluids to function properly. According to the American Heart Association, the amount of water each person needs can vary. A quick way to tell if you’re drinking enough is to check the color of your urine. If it’s pale in color and clear, you are likely well-hydrated. If it’s dark-colored with amber or brown tones, you may be dehydrated.
Older adults are more prone to becoming dehydrated for a number of reasons, including a diminished sense of thirst. Finding simple ways to increase your water intake can help individuals of all ages avoid the complications of dehydration and stay healthy. Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic.
The recommended activity guideline from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion is 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days per week plus muscle strengthening activities twice per week. The 30 minutes doesn't have to be all at once — you can break it down into smaller increments of time. Working physical activity into your daily life will help ensure success.
Go for regular physical exams and screenings. According to the Harvard Medical School, the following health screenings are recommended, though your doctor may recommend more frequent screenings depending on your health:
- Blood pressure: Every two years for blood pressure of 120/80 mm Hg or lower; every year if it's higher.
- Cholesterol: Every one to two years.
- Blood sugar: Every three years.
- Colonoscopy: Every 10 years.
- Comprehensive eye exam: Every two years.
- Pap smear: Every three years until age 65. (Not recommended for women 65 and older who've had normal Pap tests for several years, and not for women who've had their cervix removed as part of a hysterectomy.)
- Mammogram: Every one to two years.
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests are controversial, according to the Harvard Medical School, so discuss the pros and cons with your doctor.
Get enough sleep! Sleeping fewer than six hours a night is tied to heart disease, obesity, and many other chronic health conditions.
Prioritize mental and emotional wellness
The way we care for our bodies should also extend to the way we care for our mental and emotional health whether through meditation, scheduling time for social interaction, or listening to music that lifts our mood.
Did you know?
Some cultures share beliefs that affect their ability to participate in their own health care; one example common to both the Hispanic (“respeto”) and Asian cultures (“hierarchy, filial piety”) is respect for authority figures. This may lead to individuals not asking questions in medical settings out of deference to the medical professional, leading to miscommunication and misunderstanding of health-related information.
Although deaths from prostate cancer have dropped substantially in recent decades among all men, Black/African-American men are twice as likely as White men to die of prostate cancer and continue to have the highest prostate cancer mortality among all U.S. population groups.
Social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. It is also associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia. Research suggests that immigrants, as well as lesbian, gay and bisexual populations, experience loneliness more often than other groups.
Keeping track of crucial medical information is helpful when attending a doctor’s appointment or when an emergency occurs. The Managing My Own Health Website has a form you can use to document your own information.
Mental Health challenges can affect anyone of any age. Help is available through SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service.
Getting appropriate screening and preventive care is essential for maintaining health as we age. Here are some tips from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.