We all want to stay vibrant, active, and healthy in our senior years. Unfortunately, that rarely happens through luck alone. It takes effort and dedication all year long to ensure today’s good health lasts into the future.
The keys to healthy aging aren’t a scientific mystery. Adopting a lifestyle that includes good diet and exercise habits—and excludes substance abuse, social isolation, and chronic stress—can prevent many disabling health conditions. Unfortunately, while most people understand these principles, many struggle to execute them.
If you want to improve your health for a better aging experience, try these 13 practical solutions for a healthier lifestyle.
Eating a Healthy Diet
Specific diet recommendations change as you age, but the principles remain the same:
Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and fish. Avoid ultra-processed foods, and too much sugar, salt, or saturated fat. Older adults should take extra care to maintain a healthy weight, stay hydrated, and get enough fiber, calcium, and vitamin D.
Changing your diet is hard work, but the benefits are worth it. A balanced diet not only promotes a strong, healthy body, it also sets the stage for good mental health. These tips will help you make sustainable changes for healthier eating:
- Make small changes; gradual adjustments are more sustainable than crash diets.
- Make a grocery list and stick to it. If you can’t resist impulse purchases, use grocery delivery or online ordering with curbside pickup.
- Eat well despite obstacles. If you face mobility challenges, try a meal delivery service that delivers either meal kits you cook yourself or pre-made meals that only need to be reheated. Homebound and food insecure seniors may be eligible for meal delivery through Meals on Wheels.
Preventing Substance Misuse and Abuse
Substance-use disorders are more common among seniors than you might think. Not only are seniors vulnerable to alcohol abuse, in part due to declining tolerance to alcohol, but they’re also susceptible to prescription drug problems. Keep yourself free from dependence and addiction by following these tips:
- Don’t drink more than three drinks on a given day, or seven drinks in a week, per NIH recommendations.
- Manage medications. Avoid taking too much, too little, or triggering a dangerous drug interaction.
- Keep a list of your medications and provide health care providers with an updated copy.
- Don’t change how you take a prescription without talking to your doctor.
Physical activity is great for both physical and mental health at all stages of life. Older adults should aim to be active every day for a minimum of 150 minutes per week. These tips make that benchmark achievable:
- Exercise for 10 minutes at a time. Short workouts are easier to commit to when you’re starting out.
- Adapt exercises for safety. Many exercises can be done using a chair or wall for support.
- Schedule workouts to encourage follow-through. Exercise with a friend if it helps your motivation.
Nurturing Social Connections
Spending time with friends probably isn’t what comes to mind when you think of health-promoting activities. However, research has proven that social connection is highly important for good health. Social connectedness reduces stress and negative thinking, increases your sense of purpose and self-worth, and even protects your physical health. If you need more friends in your life, take this advice:
- Schedule time to call friends and family to maintain connections.
- Join a hobby group or religious community, or start volunteering to meet new people.
- Connect online. While not a substitute for face-to-face interaction, the internet is a great tool for reinforcing established relationships and forming new ones. However, be wary of online scams. Stay Safe Online names some of the most common scams.
Changing long-standing habits is never easy. But when it comes to your health, it’s always worth it. When you make these important changes to your lifestyle, you’ll be rewarded with better health throughout your senior years.
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