As a senior citizen, you’ve learned how to manage your life for many years now. Later in life, health becomes even more precious than ever before. You don’t want to “coast” with any bad habits you’ve picked up or stop doing the healthy things you’ve always done.
Here are six ways to keep yourself healthy as a senior.
Eat a balanced diet
The adage “You are what you eat” has staying power because it rings so true. The food and drink we consume are what feed our body’s cells, so maintaining a balanced diet of nutritious foods is key to living a long and healthy life.
For seniors, it’s particularly important to eat a wide variety of foods rich in antioxidants, which protect your cells from damage. Typically, there’s no one “magic” food that will fix every problem, but eating a range of fruits and vegetables, eating more lean protein, and minimizing fatty or sugary foods are good baseline habits.
Physical activity during your senior years provides so many benefits: it helps you maintain a healthy weight, promotes sleep, boosts your immune system, improves your mood, and strengthens your bones and muscles.
For seniors, lower-impact cardiovascular activity is best (rather than punishing high-impact exercise). About 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week is optimum. And don’t forget about strength training. We lose bone density and muscle mass as we age, and resistance training can help minimize those losses.
Get sufficient sleep
Everyone should prioritize sleep at any age. As you grow older, your sleep patterns may change, especially after years of waking to an alarm clock. A period of adjustment to life changes is normal, but be sure to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep nightly.
Sleep is not only beneficial but essential because the body uses sleep to repair itself overnight, increasing your immunity to viruses. If you struggle to get enough sleep, try getting more exercise or adjusting your diet (perhaps limiting caffeine, for example).
Build an active social life
The importance of an active social life cannot be stressed enough. At every stage of life, we need to have other people we depend on and interact with on a regular basis. Friendship and social engagement can help reduce depression and anxiety, improve self-esteem, and stimulate your mind.
It can be challenging to maintain social ties as you get older and people move away or face health problems. And if a spouse has passed away, or anyone else in your inner circle, that’s a painful hurdle to deal with.
However, you can seek out new connections by getting involved with religious organizations, local groups or nonprofits, or activities at the senior center. Make an effort to meet people and reach out. Call your children or grandchildren (and try out virtual means of connection like Zoom with loved ones who are far away).
A key way of maintaining your health well into your older years is getting annual physicals. Your primary physician monitors important health metrics like blood pressure and weight. They can also keep an eye on any potential health problems, beginning treatment before they become worse.
Take supplements and get vaccines
Eating a fully-balanced diet is not easy, and most of us can’t get 100% of the nutrients and vitamins we need from food. Taking a multivitamin and other supplements recommended by your doctor can help you fill in any nutritional gaps.
On top of vitamins and supplements, be sure to get vaccinated. A yearly shot to prevent influenza is essential, and your physician may also recommend other vaccines based on your age and health history.