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Aging Gracefully

The Path to Aging Well Can Start at Any Time

No matter which decade you start, it’s never too late to start practicing healthy habits to ensure an active and independent future.

“It’s never too late to start. There are small things we can do on a day-today basis that will lead to health benefits not just now but down the line,” said board-certified family medicine physician Dr. Michelle Folsom-Elder.

Dr. Folsom-Elder’s philosophy of health as we age is divided into two components: somatic health, which includes physical health such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer risk – and behavioral health, including anxiety, depression and grief. It’s important as we deal with aging to respond to both aspects.

Making positive changes to your health can be difficult, but it helps to have longer-range thinking to the adjustments. Start with just one thing you want to be successful at and include your entire family. Combatting smoking and obesity are great first places to start. Name what matters to you as you age and live your life now to support that. If being able to be active with grandchildren matters, stay physically active. If reading matters, keep your brain sharp.

“Whenever you are doing something difficult, it’s important to recognize the why. Being healthy and happy as you age is a great reason,” Dr. Folsom-Elder said.

Physical Activity & Aging

“Prevention of disease is one of the most important things that we can do for ourselves,” said Dr. Folsom- Elder.

A huge part of disease prevention is physical activity. It’s best to start physical activity young doing moderate exercise five days a week for 30 minutes, but if that time has passed it’s never too late.

For people ages 65 and over, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity, at least two days a week of strength activities, as well as balance activities. For adults 18-64 years old, the recommendation is 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity and two days a week of strength activities. For all age groups for those with disabilities or physical conditions, the CDC recommends as much activity as one is physically able to do in order to avoid inactivity.

Start small and work up to getting more activity in – it can even include gardening or walking. Consider smaller “micro workouts” too.

For example, Dr. Folsom-Elder said a patient would go into work 10 minutes early to do the stairs, then do 10 minutes of stairs during lunch, and stay 10 minutes late after clocking out to do stairs or walking and they were able to get a better control on blood sugar levels and their weight.

Don’t forget about non-aerobic exercise. Many Americans have issues with flexibility and balance and often programs focusing on agility and balance training can help. Feeling strong helps reduce fall risk and maintain bone density.

Your Mind & Aging

Surrounding yourself with other people is important at all stages of life particularly as you age. Local senior centers provide important community and resources for seniors, even behavioral health services.

Dr. Folsom-Elder said some seniors can get worried about health conditions worsening, are fearful of aging, or are grieving the loss of loved ones. Even the run-of-the mill adjustment to a new stage of life is plenty reason to seek behavioral health services to help you age gracefully. Aside from senior centers, Dr. Folsom-Elder challenges seniors to look for ways to engage in community in meaningful ways, especially if you can get some physical activity in at the same time. For example, take a walk at a park with a church group.

One particular concern many have about aging is memory loss. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to avoid it, but you can stave off worsening to a degree. Physical activity and a healthy diet as well as refraining from smoking and all nicotine products. Staying mentally and socially active also impacts memory loss. Activities such as reading and word games like crossword puzzles can mitigate the onset or worsening of memory loss.

Once someone starts showing signs of memory loss, it’s time to be seen by a doctor, Dr. Folsom-Elder said. It’s important to determine or rule out other factors like vitamin deficiency and thyroid problems. Sometimes what seems like memory loss is actually another condition.

“There’s a lot of shame around memory loss. There are sometimes modifiable reasons behind memory loss like partial deafness that appears to be memory loss but you’re not hearing well. The same goes for worsening vision.”

CalvertHealth: Helping You Make Positive Changes

CalvertHealth is proud to join with our community partners to bring you classes, wellness programs, health screenings and events to help you be your healthiest!

Diabetes Education & Self-Management – Our certified diabetes care & education specialists are helping to improve the lives of patients and their families through ongoing free workshops, one-on-one counseling and special classes for pregnant women.

Fitness Offerings – Go online to learn more about the variety of options for staying active such as Rock Steady Boxing for Parkinson’s, Gentle Yoga, Tai Chi, Fit for Life and Early Riser Fit for Life.

Cancer Screening Programs – Funding is available through the Calvert County Health Department (CCHD) for free colorectal, breast, cervical and lung screening and diagnostic testing for eligible residents.

Tobacco Cessation Classes – Free day and evening individual and group quit smoking classes are offered by the CCHD. The one-hour class is taught for eight weeks in person and virtually. Free cessation products are provided for those who attend.

Support Groups – Support groups are available for breast cancer, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s and stroke.

More resources for getting engaged:
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