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Aging Gracefully … and Healthfully

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September is Healthy Aging Month, so we decided to share some tips on staying active, healthy and happy — whether you’re approaching middle age, retirement or even your golden years.
HealthCheckAgingSept2015Everyone from Baby Boomers to Millennials should take note!

1. Stay Active
You can’t escape it. At any age, regular exercise is essential to your physical and mental wellbeing. An active lifestyle allows you to stay fit enough to maintain your independence and reduce serious injury, and exercise may even provide relief from chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, depression and arthritis.

Staying active doesn’t mean you have to take up a new sport! Walking or riding your bike everyday are great ways to incorporate aerobic exercise — along with balance and strengthening activities — into your routine.

2. Eat Well
Make sure you eat nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, while avoiding excess sweet, salty and highly processed foods. Everyone has different dietary needs, so it is important to follow your doctor’s suggestions regarding any dietary restrictions.

3. Play Brain Games
You’re never too old for games! Brain games, that is. Studies have shown that cognitive stimulation through active learning slows cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. So whether you decide to take dance lessons, learn a new language or a new instrument, attend lectures or simply read a book, it’s important to always keep learning!

4. Nurture Relationships
Living alone is the strongest risk factor for loneliness. As we age, common life changes such as retirement, health issues or the loss of a spouse may lead to social isolation, so it’s important to maintain communication with your family and friends, especially after a significant loss or life change. Make sure you schedule regular time to meet with friends and family, whether it’s over coffee, during a weekly meal or to share a common interest. Think about friends who might be lonely and contact them regularly.

5. Get Some Rest
You may be surprised to hear that the human body can go longer without food than without sleep. Older adults need between seven and nine hours per night, but they often get much less, which can cause depression, irritability, increased fall risk and memory problems. Having a regular schedule with a set bed time and wake time is important. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet, and try to avoid watching television or looking at screens while in bed.

6. Relieve Stress
As we age, our stressors and our ability to deal with stress both can change. Longterm stress can lead to depression, memory loss, fatigue, and decreased ability to fight off and recover from infection. While we cannot entirely avoid stressful situations, we can manage our own reactions and learn better coping techniques. When you are stressed, make sure you get enough sleep and exercise and that you continue to eat right. Talk to someone you trust, or try relaxation techniques, such as circular breathing, yoga or meditation. Remember to always keep things in perspective by trying to accept and adapt to the things you cannot control.

7. Focus on Prevention
Many of the common health conditions that concern us as we age — such as chronic illness, depression, falls and frailty — are preventable. To prevent such illnesses, doctors recommend that people get a yearly flu vaccine and wash their hands regularly. To prevent falls and the serious injuries that can result from them, use assistive devices; wear appropriate footwear; get your vision checked; take vitamin D and calcium; and get regular exercise.

8. Take Charge
You are your own best advocate, so think about how you can improve our own health by changing your lifestyle. Schedule annual physicals or consult your physician (prepared with questions) whenever you have a concern about your health. Discuss any current prescription and non-prescription medications you may be taking, including herbal supplements. Take charge of your own well-being!