As we get older, it becomes increasingly important to take care of our health and well-being. Living healthier is not just about living longer but also about living better. Maintaining good health can help us stay active, energetic, and independent as we age.
However, neglecting one’s health can lead to chronic illnesses, disabilities, and a lower quality of life. According to the National Council of Aging, around 80% of adults over 65 have at least one chronic condition like heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis, while 68% have two or more.
Taking preventative measures and making healthy choices is key to enjoying your later years to the fullest. This comprehensive guide outlines ways you can take care of your physical, mental, and financial health as you get older.
7 Ways to Look After Yourself as You Age
1. Breathe Clean Air for Better Health
Air quality plays a pivotal role in our overall health, especially as we grow older. Clean air is not just free from visible pollutants; it’s also devoid of toxic fumes and harmful inhalants. Prolonged exposure to these can lead to various respiratory diseases and conditions.
Despite many health-conscious initiatives, regions like California have faced challenges related to air quality. From 2016-2020, California’s age-adjusted incidence rate for lung & bronchus cancer was 37.6, below the USA average of 54.0, yet indicating persisting issues.
One notable concern is exposure to asbestos, which can lead to mesothelioma. But beyond asbestos, there are other pollutants like vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions, and even second-hand smoke, which also pose health threats. It’s essential to be aware of the environment around you, avoid areas known for poor air quality, and take precautions in workplaces where harmful inhalants are prevalent.
If diagnosed or suspecting exposure in California, especially related to asbestos, it’s advisable to consult a California mesothelioma lawyer for potential legal support.
2. Look After Your Teeth
Oral health is important at every age. Commit to brushing your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and floss once a day to remove plaque buildup. Additionally, rinsing daily with antimicrobial mouthwash also prevents gum disease.
Regular dental checkups are also a must for cleanings and exams to catch cavities, infections, and other issues early. If you wear dentures, clean them daily, use denture adhesive if needed, and ensure proper fit to prevent sore spots.
Untreated dental problems can cause tooth loss, pain, and impact overall health. So make sure to schedule dental work if needed and follow daily hygiene habits for a bright, healthy smile.
3. Give Yourself Vitamin Boosts
As we age, our bodies’ ability to absorb nutrients declines, making vitamin deficiencies more common. Getting adequate amounts of key vitamins through diet, sunshine, or supplements becomes essential. Vitamin D is crucial for bone health, as it helps the body absorb calcium. Older adults are at high risk for vitamin D deficiency since the skin produces less vitamin D from sunlight with age. Taking vitamin D supplements can fill this gap.
Vitamin B12 is also required for proper nerve and blood cell function. Since vitamin B12 is found mainly in animal foods, vegetarian seniors may require supplementation. Similarly, Vitamin C boosts immunity and wound healing, while vitamin K promotes proper blood clotting.
Always consult your doctor before taking new supplements, as high doses or interactions could be harmful. A daily multivitamin tailored for seniors can provide a balanced vitamin boost.
4. Take Care of Your Bones
Keeping bones strong is vital as we age. Osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle, affects over 14.1 million Americans aged 50 and older. To keep your bones healthy, practice weight-bearing exercises. Walking, Tai Chi, and strength training all stimulate your bone-building cells. Additionally, consuming calcium and vitamin-D-rich foods or supplements helps bones retain calcium. Make sure to get a recommended bone density test to check for thinning bones.
In old age, falls are also a common issue that poses a great risk to bones. You can prevent falls by removing tripping hazards, installing grab bars, improving lighting, and reviewing medications that may cause dizziness. And make sure to report any fractures, sudden back pain, or height loss to your doctor promptly. These could indicate osteoporosis or fractures. With proper diet, exercise, supplements, and treatment if needed, aging bones can stay healthy and strong.
5. Get Recommended Health Tests
Routine wellness exams and tests allow early detection of age-related health changes. Schedule an annual physical with your primary care doctor, who can assess your overall health.
Get recommended cancer screenings like mammograms, colonoscopies, prostate exams, and skin checks. Also, have your vision and hearing tested yearly since sensory loss is common with aging. Ask your doctor if you need bone density, cholesterol, or diabetes screening based on your risk factors. And make sure to stay up to date on immunizations like the annual flu shot, shingles vaccine, and COVID-19 boosters.
Tracking your health through routine exams, tests, and vaccines helps diagnose issues in early, treatable stages.
6. Stay Close to Friends and Family
Maintaining social ties has cognitive, emotional, and physical benefits as we age. Face-to-face interactions release feel-good hormones and stimulate the mind.
Schedule regular visits, activities, or meals with close family and friends. Join clubs, volunteer groups, senior centers, or faith communities to expand your social circle. If mobility issues make in-person visits difficult, stay connected by phone, video chat, writing letters, or social media.
Reminiscing about positive memories can boost mood, and expressing gratitude and affection deepens relationships.
7. Give Up Bad Habits
Unhealthy habits like smoking, excessive drinking, and drug use are detrimental at any age. However, the impacts intensify as we get older.
Nicotine addiction and smoking exacerbate heart disease, cancer, lung conditions, and mobility issues common in seniors, while heavy alcohol use worsens diabetes, liver problems, memory loss, depression, and interactions with medications. Those addicted to illicit drugs carry a high risk of overdose due to age-related changes in metabolism and organ function.
Quitting unhealthy habits, even later in life, can significantly improve health, quality of life, and longevity. Discuss smoking cessation aids with your doctor and limit alcohol to moderate levels. Replace bad habits with healthy stress relievers like physical activity, socializing, or enjoyable hobbies. It is never too late to benefit from positive lifestyle changes.
Taking proactive steps to care for your physical, mental, and financial health is one of the best investments you can make as you get older. A focus on healthy lifestyle habits, preventative care, social connections, and wise financial planning helps ensure you can enjoy your later years to the fullest. While aging brings changes and challenges, taking good care of yourself allows you to make the most of this stage of life. The tips in this guide provide a roadmap to maintaining vibrancy, independence, and quality of life as you age.