Aging Well - The 5 Things You Can Do To Stay Happy and Healthy
Contributed by David Halpern, MD
Exercise - For many people, the word exercise sends shivers down the spine. But exercise does not need to be scary. Instead, it should be a fun and safe activity to share with friends and loved ones. In fact, exercise is one of the most effective medications we have...and it is free! Just 10 minutes of brisk walking at a time can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. Exercise can help you lose weight and can keep bones and muscles healthy. It can reduce the pain from arthritis, and can even help treat anxiety. Experts recommend that we get at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate intensity physical activity. That is the same as 30 minutes each day, 5 days a week.
Eat Well - We all eat every day, but we do not always eat well. Having a well-balanced diet is another essential part of healthy aging. Just like exercise, good nutrition can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke. Experts recommend that we eat fruits and vegetables every day and try to limit foods that are high in fat, cholesterol, and salt. Older adults should also make sure they are consuming food with enough calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12 every day. You may find more helpful tips in the My HealtheVet Healthy Eating Center.
Don't Smoke - Smoking dramatically increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Luckily, it is never too late to quit. Even if you have smoked for many years, quitting can make you feel better immediately and is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health. Quitting can be difficult, but if you are ready to stop smoking, help is available today. You may find it helpful to visit VA Tobacco and Health resources.
Visit Your Doctor - Even if you are feeling great, it is still important to visit your doctor from time to time (we do not bite, I promise). Several preventive services can help healthy adults stay that way. Experts recommend that older adults get immunizations to help protect against influenza, pneumonia, and herpes zoster. People who get these shots are less likely to get sick from these diseases and are less likely to end up in the hospital. In addition to immunizations, it is important to get screened for breast and colon cancer, both of which can be detected and treated before they make you sick.
Stay Connected - Getting older can sometimes be lonely. It is important to stay connected with friends, family members, and other important people in your life. Making sure your mind is active can help prevent depression and dementia. Use it or lose it! If you are working and you enjoy it, then keep on working. If you are retired, you can volunteer in your community, take classes to learn something new, or start a book club with some neighbors.
Healthy Eating (My HealtheVet Healthy Living Center)
Physical Activity (My HealtheVet Healthy Living Center)
Smoking and Tobacco Use Cessation (VA)
Heart Diseases (Veterans Health Library)
Physical Activity Guidelines For Americans (HHS)
Updated: July 20, 2016