As anyone who works in elder care can attest to, aging hits people in different ways. Some people can stay healthy, active, and — most importantly — happy well past their 90s, while others start to feel the years weight heavy on their shoulders as early as age 60. And unfortunately, there is a certain amount of randomness when it comes to who gets to age gracefully, as even the healthiest individuals can still be afflicted by degenerative conditions in their silver years.
Self-care goes a long way towards reducing the likelihood of developing certain conditions, but others are governed primarily by genetic factors.
That said, while looking after your health can’t ensure a problem-free retirement, it can at least reduce the number of potential problems you might face as you age. After all health conditions aren’t mutually exclusive — you can find yourself dealing with a degenerative condition and dealing with the consequences of not looking after your teeth, or not managing your diet properly. And if you’d like to make sure your silver years will be as good as they can be, here are some tips that can help.
Tip #1 – Find ways to stay active
There are numerous benefits to staying physically active as you age. Exercising is not only good for your cardiovascular health, but it can also help regulate your mood and your sleep. Resistance training can also help you retain muscle mass and bone density as you age, and both of those attributes tend to wear off as sedentary people grow older. And it’s easier to maintain your muscle mass into old age than it is to build back those muscles when you are older.
Of course, trying to stay healthy as you age is a long-term investment, so it’s important that your fitness plans take that into account. If you have already started and stopped going to the gym several times, maybe try different ways to stay active. Try different sports, find exercises you can do at home, or maybe try some dancing lessons. Find ways to make exercising more fun and engaging, and you’ll be much more likely to turn it into a habit.
Tip #2 – Manage your diet
Following a restricted diet can help you manage your weight and maintain your quality of life as you age. A healthy diet can also decrease your chances of developing heart conditions, diabetes, tooth decay, high cholesterol, and more.
Ideally, we would all give up processed foods, soft drinks, alcohol, and anything else that is bad for us. But even if you are not willing to go that far, that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. You can still have a huge impact on your long-term health by making sure you stay hydrated, making healthy foods part of your routine — you can eat healthy things without giving up the unhealthy stuff — and reducing how often you eat and drink things that are bad for you.
Keeping a food journal can be a useful tool if you are looking to both track and reduce how often you eat junk food.
Tip #3 – Look after your oral health
It’s an underreported fact that looking after your oral health is the same as looking after your cardiovascular health. The mouth doesn’t exist in isolation, and when your gums or other areas of the oral cavity become infected — as is the case when you develop periodontal disease — those bacteria can find their way into your bloodstream, where they cause issues in other areas of your body.
Thanks to that connection between the mouth and the rest of the body, people who suffer from periodontal disease are significantly more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart disease, strokes, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. And periodontal disease is a pervasive problem among adults — according to the CDC, 47% of all adults over the age of 30 suffer from some sort of periodontal disease. That rate goes up to 70.1% for adults over the age of 65.
The second reason why looking after your teeth is important relates to dental work. Dental work isn’t perfect, and while your teeth can last over a century if you look after them properly, dental work will need maintenance or repair within a decade or two. This means that in essence all the damage your teeth suffer due to lack of care is permanent, and dental work today will lead to more dental work being needed tomorrow, which adds more health problems to worry about as your age.
Luckily, both issues can be solved with preventive care. Brush your teeth three times a day using fluoridated toothpaste, and floss at least once a day. Flossing is the key thing you can do to prevent periodontal disease, as food scraps left between your teeth will rot there, breeding bacteria. It’s also important to go see a dentist every six months, both for a regular check-up and so a dental hygienist can give your teeth a once-over. Staying on top of your dental appointments can be costly, but as this guide on finding affordable dental care shows, there are ways to manage those costs.
Tip #4 – Stay on top of your appointments
Dentists aren’t the only doctors you should be seeing frequently. Regular doctor appointments are a huge part of looking after your body, and they only become more important as you age. It’s a good idea to get a check-up and blood work done at least once a year, get your eyes checked every two years, and get your hearing checked every three to five years. Getting your seasonal vaccines also becomes more important as you grow older.
Tip #5 – Manage your stress levels
Stress can not only damage your health as you grow older, but it can also speed up the aging process, so it’s a good idea to keep it under control. When possible, avoid unnecessary sources of stress. And when it can’t be avoided, try to make sure you have ways to keep your stress levels under control. Whether it be through meditation, exercise, making sure you get a good night’s sleep, or just by setting time aside to engage in hobbies you enjoy.