Staying healthy at 65 and beyond doesn’t look the same as it did at 25, 35, or 45 years old. Sure, the basics are the same: eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and limit unhealthy vices. But when you’re older, the day-to-day practices grow more nuanced and the stakes inch higher.
For most young people, chronic illness is a distant concern. But as you enter your golden years, illness and injury become a pressing reality. No longer does good health feel like a guarantee, but something that must be carefully guarded. Thankfully, maintaining good health as you age is possible when you adopt a few key habits.
It’s easy to eat the same meals day after day. It’s fast, it’s comfortable and it gets the job done. It’s not, however, a recipe for good health. Getting the nutrients you need to maintain a sturdy skeleton, a sharp mind and a strong immune system requires eating a wide variety of nutrient-packed foods.
Lean meats, fatty fish and whole grains are excellent sources of macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats and fiber. However, for the many micronutrients your body needs to function its best, you’ll need to turn to colorful vegetables. As Eating Well explains, different vegetables contain different phytochemicals; often, a vegetable’s color hints at the phytochemicals contained inside. That means eating a wide variety of vegetables is the best way to get the full range of nutrients your body needs.
Addiction is a growing issue among older adults and prescription drug misuse is a major cause. If you accidentally take two doses of a medication or take more than prescribed because you think you need a higher dose, you’re putting yourself at risk of developing a drug addiction. Mix the wrong drugs together or take medications alongside alcohol and you could experience a dangerous drug interaction. Avoid this by disclosing all prescription and over-the-counter medications to your doctor, always following prescription instructions, and asking your doctor before making medication changes.
Exercise is the secret to staying mobile, functional, and independent as you age. It prevents age-related bone loss, maintains your balance so you’re less prone to falls, improves moods and cognitive function, and reduces your risk of a dizzying array of illnesses and diseases. It’s also central to managing chronic diseases you already have.
If you think exercise only happens in a gym, you’re not thinking big picture. Staying active for life is about integrating physical activity into your routines, not restricting it to a separate domain. The best way to do that is by adopting active hobbies including dancing, bicycling, hiking or even playing Wii games at home.
Now that you’re retired and your kids are grown, social interaction isn’t a natural part of your days. However, that doesn’t mean it’s any less necessary. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, a lack of social connection is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Social isolation increases your risk of heart problems, dementia and depression, and it could land you in a nursing home before you’re ready.
Thankfully, the solution to this health threat is a fun one: spend more time with your family and friends. If you need more connections, join a faith community, volunteer, take a senior fitness class, pick up a social hobby, or do something else to meet new people.
When you reach the senior years, there’s no more putting off getting healthy until “later.” For better or worse, the decisions you make today will affect your health for the rest of your life. If you want your remaining years to be vibrant ones, set your sights on these healthy habits.