Golden Years, Healthy Years
Let’s face it. None of us are as young as we were yesterday. And those “golden years” are getting closer and closer. But if you don’t take care of yourself, they might not be so golden.
The good news is that you can do something about it, no matter how old you are. You can choose to age well and enjoy life with energy and vigor, or age poorly and be saddled with health issues that keep you from fully living the later years of your life.
Whether you are 20, 40, 60 or older, if you focus on these four areas, you will greatly increase your chances of aging well.
People of all ages should avoid tobacco use. And as we get older, the effect smoking can have on our lungs and the rest of our respiratory system increases. Even if you are a longtime smoker, quitting can improve your quality of life and overall health. If you are 60 and have smoked for 40 years, quit today. By the time you turn 62, your risk of heart attack or stroke could be as much as 50 percent lower than if you had continued smoking.
Use alcohol in moderation. As we get older, it takes less to make us feel a little “tipsy” than it did when we were younger. Alcohol can also cause or worsen other health problems. It can damage your liver, brain and heart. You may also be at increased risk for certain cancers if you drink alcohol too often.
Eating healthy is important at all stages of our life. But once we hit 50 or so, it becomes even more important. A healthy diet for all ages includes lots of fruits and vegetables, fat-free or low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts. Talk to your doctor about changes you can make in your diet to help your body feel great as you get older.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body. Two and a half hours of moderate activity each week (or just one hour of vigorous activity) can make a difference in your overall health. You can maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and chronic diseases like diabetes or COPD. Just remember, what is moderate for a 20-year-old is not the same as what is moderate for a 55-year-old.
While starting to exercise regularly at a young age and continuing throughout your life is best, it is never too late to add some physical activity to your life. You may need to start gradually. Take a walk around the block, or around your living room. Lift some weights or just do some arm raises. Be sure to talk to your doctor first.
No matter how well we treat our bodies, it’s not always enough. Sometimes, the only way to avoid certain illnesses or diseases is through preventive treatment. This can include immunizations like the flu, pneumonia or shingles vaccines. Or your doctor may recommend regular screenings for high blood pressure, diabetes or glaucoma. Certain cancers can be detected with tests such as colonoscopies or mammograms. Early detection and treatment of these health issues can save lives.
Whether you are 20 or 75, it’s your choice to live a life that gets you to your golden years and then lets you enjoy them. Talk to your health care provider about what you can do today to make those golden years your healthy years.