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Celebrate Healthy Aging Month by Staying Young. Here’s How

Health Hub
Author name: Lee Health

In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the Earl of Kent says, “Sir, I am too old to learn.”

No one is too old to learn how to improve their health and wellness in our so-called golden years. In fact, if you’re grateful (having gratitude is one of our tips, by the way) about being right-side-up of the soil, every year is golden, even in youth.

National Aging Month in September focuses on the positive aspects of growing older. Dr. Cristina Larrazaleta, an expert in Geriatric Medicine and Memory Disorders with Lee Physician Group, shares some tips on how to take control of your health and live your best years yet.

Take that first step, literally!

Move. Studies show that physical activity can help you live longer and improve your quality of life. If you haven’t exercised in a long time, start small. Maybe walk around your neighborhood a few times a week. As you become accustomed to your new level of activity, increase the distance. If you’re more active, join a health club where you can swim or take group exercise classes.

“During physical activity, our heart beats faster, which means we’re engaging in aerobic activity,” explains Dr. Larrazaleta, who is board-certified in both geriatric medicine and internal medicine.

“If you challenge yourself every day with aerobic activity, you’ll strengthen the heart and improve your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to all its cells. That’s a good thing because it means you’re improving your fitness level.”

Being fit, Dr. Larrazaleta says, helps the body perform more efficiently at work and play, as well as making it more resistant to a number of diseases.

“Fitness involves not only physical activity or exercise but also eating healthier and getting enough rest,” Dr. Larrazaleta adds. “Regardless of age or gender, people can enjoy the benefits of being fit.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Physical Activity Guidelines recommend adults should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every day, five days a week. Health experts recommend this level of activity to reduce the risk of chronic disease later in life.

Before starting an exercise routine, consult your doctor first, Dr. Larrazaleta adds.

Eat the rainbow

Healthy eating is a big part of staying healthy. Nutrition experts recommend our diets include a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables because they’re high in vitamins, minerals and fiber and low in fat and calories.

“Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and your blood pressure,” Dr. Larrazaleta says. “As we age, our metabolism slows down and we need fewer calories. Adding the amount of fresh vegetables in our diet is an easy way to feel full without a lot of calories.”

Dr. Larrazaleta advises avoiding overly processed foods, which tend to contain unhealthy levels of salt, sugar and fat.

“Not all processed foods are bad choices,” she notes. “Some foods need processing to make them safe, such as milk, which needs to be pasteurized to remove harmful bacteria. Reading nutrition labels can help you choose between processed products and keep a check on fat, salt and sugar content.”

To learn more about nutrition labels and how to understand them, click here.

And don’t forget to stay hydrated! Drink a lot of water, at least 6-8 glasses per day, Dr. Larrazaleta advises.

Finally, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and HHS, can help you make healthy food choices that will make every bite count.

Keep it regular: get those annual check-ups and physicals!

Dr. Larrazaleta says regardless of your age, it’s important to have a physical every year.

“An annual physical examination matters because many diseases can be prevented when caught early if you remain diligent about your health,” Dr. Larrazaleta says. “Also, following through with any health screenings your doctor recommends is an important part of staying healthy.”

Dr. Larrazaleta notes that depending on your age and medical history, you may need to be screened (tested) for things like:

  • Certain types of cancer
  • High blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis or weak bones
  • STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
  • Mental health conditions, like depression
  • Hearing loss

And remember to stay up to date on your shots, Dr. Larrazaleta says. Find out which shots you may need if you’re 50 or older.

“Your screenings and shots may be free,” Dr. Larrazaleta says. “The Affordable Care Act requires most insurance plans to cover many preventive services. This means you may be able to get screenings and shots at no cost to you.”

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan.

The mind and the body: 50/50

Healthy aging not only includes focusing on your physical health but also your mental health. Balancing both your body and mind will go a long way toward improving your quality of life.

“Science has shown that keeping your mind active may ward off changes in your brain chemistry that could lead to Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Larrazaleta notes. “Doing puzzles, reading books, playing board games, really any activity that challenges your brain with mental exercise all benefit the mind, not to mention will help reduce stress that comes with aging problems.”

Staying engaged with the world around you may help preserve your mental abilities as you age.

Make your life interesting, Dr. Larrazaleta advises.

Find a doctor you can talk to

Find a Lee Physician Group doctor here.