It’s not too late to reverse some health issues you may be experiencing.
As we older adults know too well, our brain, muscles, appearance and health change in our seventh decade and beyond — but the good news is that making healthy changes now will reap great benefits in the years ahead. It’s not too late! Here are 10 steps for improving your memory, fitness, looks and health today and in the years to come.
1) Stay active. A University of Texas Southwestern study (https://www.utsouthwestern.edu/newsroom/articles/year-2018/exercise-aging-heart.html) found that “exercise can reverse damage to sedentary, aging hearts and help prevent risk of future heart failure – if it’s enough exercise, and if it’s begun in time.”
To reap the most benefit, you should begin exercising by late middle age (before age 65) and you should perform four half-hour workouts a week — two devoted to strength training, one that combines fast and slow interval training, and one that’s done at a steady pace — plus one 1-hour workout done at a moderate pace. Senior author Dr. Benjamin Levine, Director of the Institute and Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern, says the benefits to the heart in a person who does this exercise regimen can be like comparing “a stretchy, new rubber band versus one that has gotten stiff sitting in a drawer.”
2) Play mental-skills games to keep your memory and thinking skills sharp. You may have noticed that your brain’s mental-processing speed is not as fast as it once was — that’s a natural part of aging. But while you can expect some decline, it is important to exercise your brain as well as your body.
To boost your memory and exercise your brain, do crossword puzzles, learn a foreign language, play an instrument, do Sudoku. Also, another benefit of regular physical exercise is that it may slow cognitive decline and perhaps even dementia, according to University of Texas Southwestern researchers. This study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (https://www.iospress.nl/ios_news/poor-fitness-linked-to-weaker-brain-fiber-higher-dementia-risk/). “Evidence suggests that what is bad for your heart is bad for your brain. We need studies like this to find out how the two are intertwined and hopefully find the right formula to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Rong Zhang of UT Southwestern.
3) Consider getting hearing aids. According to the National Institutes of Health (https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-older-adults), “approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.” This can cause embarrassment and frustration, but it can also be dangerous. Put aside your vanity and tell your co-workers, friends and family about your hearing loss. Ask them people to speak louder and more clearly. And it may be time to invest in a hearing aid. Today’s hearing aids are barely noticeable.
4) Lose weight. Being overweight increases your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, but losing just 5% to 10% of your weight can help prevent those diseases from developing and can positively impact issues such as degeneration of cartilage in your knees. “That small tip of the scale can also lower your blood pressure and improve your insulin sensitivity,” reports a study in the journal Cell Metabolism (https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/pdf/S1550-4131(16)30053-5.pdf).
5) Take care of your bones. Older people are at risk for brittle-bone breaks and osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking and strength training, and eating dairy, leafy greens and salmon can help guard against your risk from suffering a bone fracture.
6) Wear sunscreen and a broad-brimmed hat when outside. You’ll have fewer wrinkles and thus look younger, but more important, reduce your risk of developing basal or squamous cell carcinoma.
7) Get a decent night’s sleep. Make an evening bedtime routine a priority in your life.
8) Spend time with people you love — your spouse, children, parents, and close friends. Avoid feeling isolated or lonely — which can lead to depression — by being with people who can offer support and help.
9) Read. Pick up a book or download one that’s interesting, educational or enjoyable.
10) Play outside. Remember encouraging your kids to go outside to play? Now it’s time for you to reap the benefits of getting outside! Most cities, towns and counties have at least one green space — a park or hiking trail. Go to a local park or just take a walk around the block — it’s free, will improve your mood and just a 10-minute walk can help you stay physically fit.