Dr. Hal Royer
As we grow older, each new phase we enter can impact our overall health and lifestyle. From children leaving home to retirement and becoming grandparents, we are navigating significant changes that can bring both joy and stress to our lives. Proactively taking care of your physical and mental health before you experience some of these life changes will allow you to enjoy the rewarding experiences ahead and ultimately promote healthy aging.
Get moving: Research shows people who exercise live longer and enjoy more years without pain and disability. While it has many other benefits, exercise is an important way to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise helps you maintain muscle mass and prevent the decline in muscle function that is common for older adults. Try short spurts of physical activity throughout the day or set aside a specific day and time each week to work out. Gardening, walking the dog or taking the stairs instead of the elevator are all great ways to keep your body moving. As you increase your activity, you will start to feel more energized.
Make smart food choices: Fueling your body with good food can help you avoid health problems and promote brain function. As you get older you may experience changes in your metabolism or in your appetite. Healthy eating is important to maintain your energy. Choosing what to eat doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Focus on incorporating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products and lots of water into your meals and snacking. Setting good eating habits now can help improve your well-being as you age.
Aim for quality sleep: Not getting enough quality sleep can make you irritable, depressed, forgetful, and more prone to falls and other accidents. This is why it’s important to create healthy sleep habits now. There are many things you can do to improve your sleep. Try to fall asleep and get up at the same time each day. Avoid naps late in the day so you don’t wake up at night. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool and avoid screens for at least one hour before bed.
Stop smoking: You can add several years to your life if you stop smoking. It lowers your risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke and lung disease, improves your blood circulation, and increases your ability to exercise. Picking a definitive date to stop smoking can help you be successful at accomplishing this goal. Exercise can help you combat smoking cravings or situations that trigger your urge to smoke. Try scheduling activities for the time of day you’re most likely to want a cigarette. You can also talk to your doctor to get help with quitting.
Get regular checkups: Visit your healthcare provider for preventive services, not just when you are sick. This can help with disease prevention and early detection when treatment is most effective. Studies have shown regular checkups help healthcare providers identify chronic conditions early and help patients reduce risk factors for diseases, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. How often you visit the doctor can depend on your age, lifestyle, family history and existing conditions. Ask your provider what is best for you.
Take care of your mental health: Mental health affects how we think, feel, act, make choices, and relate to others. Managing social isolation, loneliness, stress, depression and mood changes through medical and self-care is important to healthy aging. Staying connected with others and maintaining meaningful relationships and a strong social network can improve your mental and physical overall well-being.
Keep your brain sharp: Keeping your brain active can help to prevent cognitive decline and memory problems. Whether it is a new instrument or craft, your brain loves to tackle fresh tasks which can help prevent memory loss as you get older. Challenging your brain by incorporating activities like music, crossword puzzles, or reading into your routine can keep your mind active and promote cognitive health.
Participate in leisure activities or hobbies: Developing hobbies or participating in leisure activities that bring you joy can help you maintain a sense of purpose and lower your stress. Research shows that people who partake in hobbies are happier, experience less depression and live longer. Consider volunteering. Pardee offers a wonderful range of volunteer opportunities and it is a great way to become more active in your community.
If you have questions about maintaining a healthy lifestyle as you age, talk to your provider. To find a provider near you, visit www.pardeehospital.org.
Dr. Hal Royer is a board-certified family medicine physician at Pardee Medical Associates Brevard.