Here are some of the most important things you can do to stay healthy, active and independent through the years. No matter how old you are, it is never too late to begin taking care of your health.
Be Physically Active
Older adults need to be physically active in order to stay healthy and independent. Physical activity can help prevent heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. It can also help prevent falls and fractures. It is important to understand how much physical activity you need.
Good nutrition, especially in combination with regular physical activity, is key to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. As you get older, it is important to understand how your nutrition needs change. If you are over 60 years old and have a low income, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program may help you get fresh fruits and vegetables.
Avoid Tobacco Use
It's never too late to quit smoking! No matter how old you are or how long you have been smoking, by quitting you can significantly lessen your risk of smoking-related illness and death. It is also important to avoid secondhand smoke. Call Washington's confidential and toll-free Tobacco Quitline for support: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
Get Enough Calcium
Calcium can help to keep your bones strong and healthy to prevent fractures. The current recommendations are for men and women over age 50 to get 1200 mg of calcium and 400-600 IUs of vitamin D each day. Vitamin D allows the body use calcium properly. To help with getting enough calcium, read food labels when you go shopping.
Many people enjoy the opportunity to get more involved in their community as they get older and volunteering can be a great way to improve your wellbeing, make friends and help others.
Recognize and Treat Depression
Depression is not a natural result of aging, and it can happen to anyone at any age. DSHS offers resources that can help older adults recover from depression. If you are depressed, you may feel more tired, experience increased pain or have an overwhelming sense of sadness. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the 24-hour toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help: 1-800-273-8255.
Manage Chronic Conditions
Take care of yourself by managing chronic conditions that impact your health. Working with your healthcare provider and participating in educational opportunities are great ways to ensure that you stay as active and independent as possible. If you are a caregiver for a spouse or family member with a chronic condition, DSHS Caregiver Support is available to help.
Falls are not a normal part of aging, and they can be prevented. There are simple steps you can take to improve safety in your home and practice balance exercises that will decrease your risk of being injured by falling.
Have Your Hearing Checked
Age-related hearing loss can increase your risk of falls and contribute to problems with thinking and memory. If you or your loved ones notice that you are having more difficulty with hearing, have your hearing checked by an Audiologist. You can take a brief quiz on the National Institutes of Health website to see if you might be experiencing hearing loss. For resources in Washington State, visit this website for the Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to serious health problems or injuries. Most men should limit their use to two drinks per day. Most women should limit their use to one drink per day. One drink equals: one beer (12 oz), or one glass of wine (5 oz), or one shot of 80-proof hard liquor (1.5 oz) in a mixed drink. If you are concerned about your drinking, call The Recovery Helpline: 1-866-789-1511.
Take Care of Your Teeth
Tooth loss is not a natural part of aging, it is caused by untreated mouth and gum disease. Taking prescription medications can cause dry mouth, which can also increase your risk of tooth decay. Taking care of these problems help you keep your teeth healthy. Regular check-ups allow your dentist to catch problems early. Stick to the schedule of visits your dentist recommend for you. Find a dentist or dental provider in Washington State.
See a Healthcare Provider Regularly
Visiting your health care provider regularly helps catch problems early, making them easier to treat. You can also find out about screening tests, including cancer screenings, and immunizations you might need. You and your health care provider will decide together how often you should be seen. Make sure to have your vision checked yearly and have your hearing checked if you are having problems.
Take Medications Properly
Aging may mean taking more medications. Many medications and supplements can interfere with each other or may cause negative reactions when taken together or with certain foods or alcohol. For more information on managing your medications, read Stay Active and Independent for Life: An Information Guide for Adults 65 and Older.
Make an Advanced Care Plan
Individuals of all ages should have an advanced care plan, and it becomes especially important as we age. Ensure your voice is heard, even if you are no longer able to speak for yourself, by utilizing free, simple resources from End of Life Washington.