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10 Strategies for Healthy Aging

September is Healthy Aging Month

“I like to joke with my older patients who are retiring to watch out for the three Rs: the refrigerator, the recliner and the remote,” said board-certified family medicine physician Dr. J. Michael Brooks of CalvertHealth Primary Care. “Healthy aging is all about taking care of yourself and making smart lifestyle choices.”

Dr. Brooks went on to add, “Having a good attitude and good health habits can ensure continued well-being as we age.” It’s never too late to reap the benefits of taking good care of yourself, even as you get older.

Here are some healthy aging tips to get you started:

1. Eat Smart.

The digestive system slows down with age, so high-fiber fruits, vegetables and whole grains are as important as ever. Because seniors are prone to dehydration, be sure to drink plenty of water to stay energized and sharp. “Maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent many health issues such as heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer, as well as sleep-related breathing disorders,” said Dr. Brooks.

2. Move More.

Regular physical exercise is one of the best ways to help you stay fit and to maintain your independence. “It may also help prevent or provide relief from many chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes or arthritis,” said Dr. Brooks. The most important thing is to find something you enjoy and will keep doing.

3. Stress Less.

It’s estimated that more than 90 percent of illness is caused or complicated by stress. We cannot entirely avoid stressful situations but we can find better ways to cope with it. “The key is to take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, exercising and eating nutritious foods,” said Dr. Brooks.

4. Maintain Your Brain.

Never stop learning and stimulating your mind. Do crossword puzzles, take dance lessons, pick up a new hobby or learn how to play an instrument. Activities like these can help ward off a decline in mental health.

5. Prioritize ZZZs.

Get the sleep your body needs, typically seven to nine hours per night. Lack of sleep can cause fatigue, irritability, increased fall risk and memory problems. Develop a regular bedtime routine – keep your bedroom dark and noise-free, avoid watching TV or surfing the Internet while in bed. Stay away from caffeine late in the day.

6. Practice Prevention.

Regular check-ups with your doctor, dentist and optometrist are even more important now. Our risk for cavities goes up with age. Plus, many mouth infections can be linked to serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Having the right pair of glasses can also reduce your chance of falling.

“It’s also important to review your medications with your provider on a regular basis,” said Dr. Brooks, “and to report any symptoms after changing or starting a new medication that could indicate a possible drug interaction.”

7. Stay Connected.

Reach out to family and friends, especially after a significant loss or life change. Schedule a regular time to meet – over coffee, a shared meal or around a common interest. Consider cultivating new relationships through volunteering.

8. Seek Resources.

Learn how to prepare healthy meals, exercise with confidence, find a support group and more. CalvertHealth offers a wealth of resources through its Community Wellness Department. Learn more by visiting CalvertHealthMedicine.org/Classes.

9. Avoid These.

Cutting out some unhealthy habits is just as important as replacing them with good ones. Dump the junk food. Limit alcohol consumption and cut out smoking. Reduce your sugar and salt intake.

10. Take Charge.

Keep up with your vaccinations and preventive screenings. Do a little bit better every day. Drink more water. Eat more fiber. Take a walk. Go to bed earlier.

It’s up to you – it’s in your hands.

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