By Lauren Reeves
If you developed good, healthy habits when you were young, chances are, you’ve maintained those habits throughout your lifetime. But if not, don’t fret. It’s never too late to start.
Good health practices can add quality of life no matter what your age. Now’s the time to open up your new 2020 calendar and schedule important appointments as well as make a list of healthy new behaviors you want to start and maintain. Here are ten habits essential for good health.
1. Eat healthy and hydrate
The digestive system naturally slows down with age, so high-fiber fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are crucial to a proper diet. Because seniors are prone to dehydration, drink plenty of water to stay energized and sharp. Hydration is an integral part of all body functions and processes, including the elimination of toxins. These days, we have phone apps, watches, and even water bottles with reminders to help us to drink enough water. Or, stack eight pennies a day on the kitchen counter and move one to a new pile for each glass of water you drink.
2. Focus on prevention
Schedule your preventative care visits and make a list of questions you have for your doctor well before the appointment, so you don’t forget to ask something. Follow up with any tests your doctor orders, such as blood tests for glucose and cholesterol levels and cancer screenings. Also, remember to stay up to date on your vaccinations such as influenza, shingles and pneumonia.
3. Get involved with your medication management
When talking with your doctor, review your current medications. Consider possible drug interactions and take note of any new reactions or symptoms or (allergic reactions, drowsiness, loss of appetite, etc.) you are experiencing after changing or starting medications.
4. Get some sleep
Frequent waking and insomnia in the night are common among seniors, but studies have shown that frequent sleep disturbances can lead to dementia. Turn the lights down and electronics off in the evening to spur drowsiness and make sure your bedroom is comfortable, cool and quiet. Lower caffeine intake and stop all caffeine several hours before bed. Limit alcohol. Some people think a couple of drinks help them fall asleep, but studies show alcohol disturbs sleep patterns. Try not to eat heavy or spicy meals late in the day. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual and stick to a schedule, keeping bedtime and wake up time as regular as possible throughout the week.
5. Play and socialize
Games, puzzles, hobbies, and other mental challenges will help to stimulate your mind after retirement. If you have a smartphone or computer, download free apps that offer brain games and play them regularly. Keep up with the news and local events by reading online stories or the newspaper.
Time spent with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even pets helps stimulate your brain and improve your mood.
See your doctor if you think you may have depression, anxiety, or could be experiencing a mental decline.
6. Have an annual eye exam and vision test
hether or not you think your vision has changed. These exams can help detect eye diseases such as glaucoma and other conditions as well.
7. Begin each day with an intention
Many people who strongly identified with their career suffer when that role “disappears” after retirement. It’s important to carry over your career strategies to successful aging with meaningful activities that give purpose to your life.
8. Stay physically active
Exercise not only improves health, but it also boosts energy, mood, and memory. Make sure to have your physician approve any new strenuous activities. Select activities you enjoy and will stick to, such as swimming, yoga, tennis, golf, shuffleboard, dancing or Zumba. It doesn’t need to be expensive; many Medicare plans offer the free Silver Sneakers health and fitness program, which includes free gym memberships and classes.
9. Visit the dentist every six months
Our risk for cavities goes up with age. Plus, many mouth infections are linked to serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Aim to brush, floss, and use mouthwash at least twice a day.
Even if you lead a hectic life, find time to help others. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a long-term commitment or take a considerable amount of time. Acts of kindness not only help people and organizations in need but can benefit the volunteer by helping them to make new friends and contacts; enhance leadership and social skills; and even advance a career.
Studies show that volunteerism can help protect physical and mental health, reduce stress, combat depression, provide mental stimulation along with a sense of purpose.