Facing aging is not a new concept. But our views on older age are changing. Experts on aging now know that poor health and loss of independence are not a natural and normal part of getting older. And there are many steps that you can take now to help maintain your health, vitality, and independence throughout your golden years.
You’re never too old to live healthy
Adopting healthy behaviors—even later in life—can help prevent, delay, and control disease. In fact, research has shown that a healthy lifestyle mat-ters more than your genes in helping you to avoid poor health as you age. A healthy lifestyle can protect you from frailty, too. Preventing health problems also saves money. The cost of providing health care for an older American is 3 to 5 times greater than the cost for some-one younger than 65. So why wait?
Take these steps to boost your physical health and self-esteem:
Get moving! By age 75, about 1 in 2 women does not engage in any physical activity. But physical activity can help people of all ages—even those with serious health problems. For instance, muscle-building physical activity can help people with heart failure in ways that medicine cannot. Talk to your doctor about safe ways for you to become active.
Eat healthy food. Nutrient-rich foods are vital to our health as we age. If shopping for or preparing good food is hard for you, contact your local Area Agency on Aging (the number is in the phone book) or Eldercare locator . You may be able to enjoy free or low-cost meals for older people at a community center, church, or school or have meals delivered to your home.
Quit smoking. If you have smoked for many years, you might think it’s too late for you to quit—that the damage is done. But quitting has immediate health benefits even for lifelong smokers and people with smoking-related diseases. For instance, smokers have twice the risk of dying of heart disease as nonsmokers. But this risk begins to drop after quitting. After 15 years of not smoking, past smokers’ risk of heart disease is similar to those who have never smoked.
See your doctor regularly for health screenings and vaccines. Tell your doctor about any health changes you notice. Also, tell your doctor if you feel sad, lonely, or like you don’t have the energy or interest in doing things you once enjoyed.
Be safe when drinking alcohol. The body responds differently to alcohol with age. Even a small amount can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction time. And many medicines do not mix well with alcohol. Talk to your doctor about your alcohol use and the medicines you are taking.
Stay connected. You can protect your-self from isolation and depression by interacting with others. Get involved with a volunteer, hobby, or special interest group. Local senior centers offer social programs. Your local Area Agency on Aging can help you connect with outreach programs if you are homebound.