Helping Your Senior Loved Ones to Age in a Healthy Way
People are living longer than ever, which is certainly great news. However, what we all agree is a goal as we age is not just to keep living, but to live healthy and well. It’s a simple fact of life that those over the age of 65 will usually develop at least one chronic condition over the course of the rest of their lives. Conditions such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, COPD, and arthritis are very common among the elderly and often what leads to end of life scenarios.
In addition to the burden these diseases can put on individuals and their families, the burden on the health care system is tremendous. As broken down by the Center for Disease Control, here are the costs of those conditions:
- Heart Disease and Stroke: $315.4 billion in 2010
- Cancer: 157 billion in 2010
- Arthritis/Rheumatism: 128 billion dollars in 2003
- COPD: $50 billion in 2010
- Diabetes: 245 billion in 2012
- Obesity: 147 billion in 2008.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to go this way. According to SeniorCare.com, a third of seniors will not need long-term care. Those who do, with the right approach, can minimize the amount of care they need and maximize their independence.
Here are some tips on how to make chronic illnesses more manageable, or how to avoid them entirely when you get older.
Diet and Exercise for Seniors
You’ve heard this many times before, but there’s a reason for that: it’s true. The right diet and the right amount of exercise is unarguably linked to better health both right now and as you grow older.
In many ways, the typical American diet is still quite terrible. For the best chance of avoiding or managing chronic illnesses as you get older, it’s wise to cut out fast food and junk food entirely.
These foods are high in calories and low in nutrients, and they fill you with things you don’t need like sodium and sugar, which can result in obesity, high insulin levels and diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
While you’re managing what you eat, don’t forget to stay active. You need to keep your muscles working and healthy, so they can take care of you as the years go by.
Regular physical activity and exercise can result in lower weight, lower blood sugar, higher energy, and reduced joint pain and stiffness. It can even help you control breathing-related issues like asthma and sleep apnea.
Brain Exercises for the Elderly
Just as physical activity can keep your body healthy, mental activity can do the same for your mind. Do puzzles, play games, and engage in lively conversations with your peers. Find ways of managing stress, and give your brain plenty of rest by getting adequate sleep every night.
While some age-related brain diseases are genetic, their progress can still be slowed by brain exercise, and other diseases may be possible to avoid entirely.
As we get older, our bones get more brittle, and when they break, it can be quite hazardous. You can help avoid this by cutting out smoking, cutting down drinking alcohol and soda, doing weight-bearing exercises like water aerobics, and getting the recommended daily allowances of Vitamin D and calcium.
None of us like to go to the doctor, but it’s important to do it on a regular basis in order to stay healthy, especially as we get older. Doctors can advise us on what we’re doing right and wrong with respect to taking care of ourselves so that we can stay on the right track in the future.
Mental Health Care
It’s easy to become stressed and depressed as you get older. Be sure to surround yourself with friendly, supportive people and don’t isolate yourself. Try to relax and cut as much stress out of your life as possible. When you are feeling anxious or depressed, reach out to family, friends, or health care professionals for support.
It’s not always easy to do the healthiest things for ourselves, but the rewards are great. If you are going to live longer, you might as well be healthy doing it so you can enjoy all the great things life has to offer as much as possible. Do it for your family, your friends, and yourself.
And if you have an elderly loved one who isn’t taking care of themselves the way they should, don’t hesitate to reach out and offer a helping hand.
For more tips and advice on health aging and elder care, please visit the Golden Placements Blog.