Healthy Aging month is an initiative dedicated to making known and embracing the positive aspects of aging. A national observance for the past fifteen years, it’s a time for Americans over the age of 45 to step back, look at their overall well-being, and adopt better health practices to preserve good health.
To age “well” is more than just a state of being. Healthy aging includes being well-rounded psychologically, socially, and physically, and includes taking active measures to ensure such. While some may associate being diagnosed with certain physical ailments as inevitable due to genetic predispositions, many physical maladies are actually not determined by genetics alone and can be combated with appropriate preventative measures.
Here are some general tips for aging successfully and living a healthier lifestyle:
Take the time to get your eyes checked
Slight changes in vision can be normal as time goes on, but a marked or sudden decrease may not be. Because vision is such a vital part of daily life, it is important to maintain regular check-ups with your physician and discuss any concerns with them as well. The aging population is at a higher risk of developing eye issues, including: floaters, dry eyes, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, dry eyes, and other retinal disorders.
Age-related hearing loss is most commonly caused by changes to the inner ear, although certain medications and prolonged exposure to noises that are too loud can also play a role. Hearing loss can cause someone to have difficulty hearing the doorbell or phone ring, or have trouble maintaining a conversation with a friend. However, treatments for those with hearing loss can be promising. Even for those with severe hearing loss, hearing aids (or cochlear implants), speech-reading treatments, and auditory training can produce a significant increase in the quality of one’s life.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), about 17% of American adults are affected by some form of hearing loss (1).
Blood Pressure Screening
Check with your physician every year for abnormal blood pressure. A normal reading of blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg, although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 29% of Americans suffer from hypertension, or high blood pressure, and that this condition costs the nation $46 billion per year (2)! Hypertension is a blood pressure reading above 140/90 mmHg (3) and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Based on one’s situation, a physician may suggest medication, changes in diet, and physical exercise (3) to alleviate the situation. While age, race, and genetics all play a role in developing this condition, there also steps that the average person can take to reduce the risk of developing it, including: reducing sodium intake, maintaining a healthy weight, consuming less alcohol, and not smoking (3).
Hypotension, or low blood pressure, can be dangerous as well. One of the symptoms of hypotension is dizziness, which is caused by insufficient blood supply to the brain.
Meeting with family
There are plenty of new things to appreciate as you get older and spending time with a growing family is one of them. Allocate a bit of time each week for social activities with family, as this makes for priceless memories and carefree laughter.
Volunteering is worthwhile way to spend time because it gives the person a feeling of accomplishment and is also a perfect way to give back to the community. To find out if an organization is in need of volunteers, give them a call or look on their website online.
Practice something challenging
Learning a new language or playing a challenging puzzle game, like Sudoku, is a great way to keep the brain sharp. In addition, a study called the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) discovered that a series of specific “brain exercises” were found to improve cognitive function in its 2,832 elderly participants. A CBS News article reports that participants in this study “reported that they had an easier time with daily activities such as managing their medications, cooking meals or handling their finances than did participants who did not get the training” (4).
The article acknowledges that the study’s “training course was designed to bolster specific cognitive abilities that begin to slip as people age. It does not aim to prevent dementia caused by underlying disease such as Alzheimer’s” (4).
Keep your body moving
Whether this is taking a long walk at the end of the day or spurts of short activity spread throughout the day, physical activity is important in preventing certain health conditions and strengthening the body.
The Centers for Disease Control outlines a time goal for physical activity per week, by the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, for adults here and older adults (ages 65+) here. If you have any concerns about physical activity due to a condition you may have, be sure to consult a physician first.
September may be Healthy Aging month, but taking active measures for healthy aging should be a priority no matter what time of year. As a famous person once said, “The greatest wealth is Health”.