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According to the National Institute on Aging, 61% of Americans aged 65 or older have multiple chronic conditions. Aging is an inevitable part of life. There’s no avoiding it, but there are things we can do to age in a healthy manner. In honor of Healthy Aging Month, we are sharing some tips for focusing on healthy aging.
There are several components to consider when thinking about healthy aging. There is the obvious one: physical health. But it is also important to focus on others like mental health, social health, and even financial health.
Exercise is one of the most important ways to care for your physical health. Scientific evidence suggests that people who exercise regularly not only live longer, but they also live better. Keeping your body moving by doing things like walking the dog or gardening can help you stay independent as you age. Practicing exercises that focus on your balance can help you to avoid falls, while stretching can improve flexibility which can help your body maintain the freedom to do everyday activities.
Making smart nutrition choices is also important in helping maintain physical health. As we age, our bodies change, and thus so do our nutritional needs. AARP’s MyPlate for Older Adults breaks down exactly what a balanced nutrition plan looks like for older adults. It includes fruits and vegetables, healthy oils, herbs and spices, fluids, grains, dairy, and protein.
Regular health screenings are also important for maintaining physical health. There are many debates about how often an older adult should see their doctor, but it’s common to hear a recommendation of at least once per year.
Another incredibly important part of our overall wellbeing – at any age – is mental health. When your mental health suffers, it can have a negative impact on your physical health, as well. Clinical psychologist Carla Manley, PhD says people with mental illnesses can experience a variety of physical symptoms, including muscle tension, headaches, insomnia, and feelings of restlessness.
So how can we take care of our mental health as we age? One way would be to participate in activities that bring you joy. Research shows that having a hobby is linked to lower levels of depression and may even prevent depression. Some examples of hobbies that are good for our mental health are playing music, gardening, fishing, yoga, and writing. Puzzles like word searches, crossword puzzles, or sudoku are great hobbies that help to keep our mind sharp.
Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to a higher risk of physical and mental conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, a weakened immune system, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. Engaging in meaningful activity with others gives us a sense of purpose which ultimately leads to a boosted mood and longer life. We can focus on several aspects of our health at once by taking our hobbies and making them a group activity. This could be in the form of a gardening or book club or simply taking a walk with a friend.
With most of the focus being on our physical health as we age, we can’t forget the importance of our financial health. This can be a little trickier to manage, and with all the information that is available online, it is tough to determine what is reliable. Senior Finance Advisor put together a list of reliable resources that help with investment advice and financial protection resources.
They also recommend finding a trusted fiduciary planner who can help you manage your money. The law requires them to always act in your best interest, and they tend to be more transparent in discussions of financial opportunities.
Remember, what we do today impacts tomorrow. It may feel overwhelming to think about changing bad habits or creating new healthy ones, but it’s the key to living a longer, healthier, happier life. Start small and remain consistent and dedicated to your goals. It will pay off!
This year’s theme of “Personalize Your Plate” emphasizes the importance of understanding there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to nutrition and health. We are all unique and our approach to healthy living should be, too!
Creating healthy eating habits can be a daunting task, with an overwhelming amount of information thrown at us, the latest eating trends, and buzz-worthy ingredients. However, good nutrition really is all about having a well-rounded diet.
Keeping in mind that we all have different nutrition goals which require different approaches, the CDC website provides the following four general tips for working towards a well-rounded diet:
National Nutrition Month® is the perfect time to learn new and healthy recipes! With the internet at our fingertips, there are endless resources available to you. Most recipes include the nutrition information at the bottom that will help you to determine if the recipe meets your nutritional needs.
For those of us who just don’t know where to begin, there are meal kit services like ‘Hello Fresh’ and ‘Blue Apron’ that delivers recipes and the necessary ingredients to your home based on your nutritional preferences at a frequency of your choosing. These services can be a great starting point and helpful resource in a busy world where we don’t always have the time to dedicate to planning our meals.
If you are still lost on who to turn to for help, Registered Dietician Nutritionists can assist with developing a customized plan tailored to our unique bodies and nutritional needs.
So let’s use National Nutrition Month® as motivation to put our healthiest foot forward and strive for a well-rounded diet. And remember to Personalize Your Plate!