Looking After Your Health in Late Life
It can be relatively simple and easy to look after your health as you get older and it is often a case of following simple good habits rather than having to have a strict regime and deny yourself enjoyment or the little pleasures in life. Following these simple guidelines will help keep you fit and active:
1. Keep exercising regularly
You don’t have to join an exercise class or the gym – things like gardening, playing tennis or bowls, or going for a brisk walk can be just as effective. Whatever the activity you decide to do, try to do for it for 30 minutes a day, several days a week. If you haven’t exercised for a long time, or have a health problem such as diabetes or heart disease then get a check-up from your doctor first.
2. Eat a healthy diet
Aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day and keep your salt intake low, since too much salt in your diet increases your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Make sure you do not have too much saturated fat either - this raises cholesterol levels, and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Foods high in saturated fat include biscuits, cakes, pastries, sausages, meat pies, fatty meat and cheese.
3. Don’t smoke
Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health at any age and it’s never too late to feel the benefits of giving up smoking. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about ways of stopping smoking and anti-smoking medication.
4. Keep a positive attitude about ageing
Older people who have a positive attitude to ageing tend to have better health and live longer than those who see only the negatives. One of the ways you can do this is by devoting time to old friends and favourite hobbies as well as exploring new interests and meeting new friends. Make an effort to make new friends. As you lose people in your circle, it is vital to make new connections so your circle doesn’t dwindle. Make it a point to befriend people who are younger than you. Younger friends can re-energize you and help you see life from a fresh perspective.
5. Have regular health check-ups
Speak to your doctor if there is a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis or glaucoma. This could help identify any problems before symptoms arise. Regardless, it is good to have regular health check ups in any case, even if you have no family history of the above – at the very least once a year.
6. Protect your eyes
Make sure you have regular eye checks and sight tests at your local optician every two years, or annually if you are aged 70 or over.
7. Avoid excessive sun exposure
While it's good to get outside and enjoy good weather, it's important that you take precautions when the sun is out. Try to keep out of direct sunshine when it is at its strongest – typically between 11am and 3pm – and wear a hat whenever possible. Use a sunscreen with a high skin protection factor (SPF) on areas of skin exposed to strong sunshine.
8. Get sufficient good-quality sleep
Getting a decent night's sleep isn't just about beating tiredness. Good-quality sleep has additional health benefits, such as reducing your risk of depression, lowering inflammation, helping stress and even improving your heart health. Artificial lights at night can suppress your body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy. Use low-wattage bulbs where safe to do so, and turn off the TV and computer at least one hour before bed. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool, and your bed is comfortable. Noise, light, and heat can interfere with sleep. Develop bedtime rituals since a soothing ritual, like taking a bath or playing music will help you wind down. Go to bed earlier - adjust your bedtime to match when you feel tired, even if that’s earlier than it used to be.
9. Take your medication as prescribed.
If you are prescribed medication to help control your blood pressure and cholesterol, it’s because in combination with changing your diet or taking up a new exercise regime, it will reduce your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Taking medication is as much about you taking control of your life as losing weight or stopping smoking is – there’s no shame in it, and there’s no shame in talking about it. Side effects sometimes happen, but when they do it’s important to keep taking your medication until you can get back to your doctor. If you need more immediate help, your local pharmacist can provide qualified assistance.
Remember - healthy ageing is about much more than staying physically healthy. It's about maintaining your sense of purpose and your zest for life!