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Healthy aging: A health and wellness guide for seniors

No matter how old you are, living a healthy lifestyle and taking care of your body is important to maintaining optimal health and preventing illness. But as you age, even the simplest of illnesses you’d normally be able to fight off easily can begin to lead to other complications — and a not-so-fast recovery.

This is important to keep in mind, because these days, we’re living longer! Today, right now, 10,000 people are celebrating their 65th birthday. (If that’s you, happy birthday! Have you enrolled in Medicare?) And, the average life expectancy for Americans is 78.7 years.

They say the second half of your life brings gray hairs and more visits to the doctor, but it also can be pretty rewarding — and we want to help you make the most of it. Keep reading for our easy tips on how to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle as you age.

 

Diet and exercise tips for seniors

Researchers have found that 1 in 4 older Americans are malnourished, which could lead to becoming overweight, underweight, and vulnerable to disease. Eating a well-balanced diet is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight, staying energized, and getting all the nutrients you need — and should be supplemented with physical activity too.

Eating whole foods that are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals is an excellent place to start. Swap things like veggies, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy in place of processed sugars, fats, and salt. This advice generally goes for people at any age, but as you get older, your needs do change in a few specific ways, making it all the more important to be conscious of what you consume.

 

Your dietary needs and habits change as you age.

  • Calories: You may find you have less energy and less mobility as you get older. Because of this, you’re burning fewer calories and don’t need to eat as many to keep you feeling fueled. If you continue to eat more calories than you burn, it could lead to weight gain. Check out this calorie calculator for a better idea on what you should be consuming. (But always make sure to check with your doctor before making any big changes.)

  • Appetite: Since you might be moving and eating less, you may also experience a loss of appetite. Some even lose their taste and smell as they age, too. However, eating too little might lead to malnutrition and health problems, so it’s important that the food you are eating is fresh, wholesome, and nutritious.

  • Medications: If you’re on prescription medications, some side effects might include loss of appetite, and some might even interact with certain foods and supplements. If you’re taking medication, be sure to check with your pharmacist or doctor to find out if you should make any changes to your diet.

  • Medical conditions: As you get older, you become more at risk of chronic health problems. To help prevent or treat these issues, changes in your diet might be recommended by your doctor. For example, if you have diabetes, you should avoid processed sugars, excess calories, and eat nutritious foods.

  • Food sensitivity: Notice your favorite curry recipe (although delicious) causing heartburn or stomach sensitivity lately? Foods with onions, dairy, spices, and peppers might begin to cause irritations you’ve never had before. It might be worthwhile to cut these foods from your diet.

 

Here’s the simple way to stay active if you’re over 65.

A walk around your neighborhood, backyard, or even around your home has a world of health benefits that can keep you healthy. If you’re not comfortable with high-intensity physical activity, all it takes is 30 minutes a day, some supportive footwear, and if you’re feeling up for it, maybe a set of dumbbells or ankle weights. (And for a change of scenery, we love checking out the AllTrails app for nearby walks of all intensity levels.)

Walking can:

  • Deliver more blood and oxygen to your brain cells.

  • Control your weight.

  • Boost your mood.

  • Help you sleep better.

  • Keep your body strong.

  • Make you less likely to develop heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

  • Delay or improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Routine medical tests seniors need

Remember how we mentioned more visits to the doctor? This isn’t the most exciting part of getting older, but it’s a crucial one. By maintaining a proactive care schedule throughout the year, you can keep your medical costs low, and be able to focus on what matters most.

These tests vary by individual, but some of the most common to keep up with include:

  • Blood pressure check: 1 in every 3 adults has hypertension, or elevated blood pressure. This is known as a “silent killer” because symptoms may not begin to show until it’s too late. It’s essential to have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. To see if your levels are in a healthy range, check out this resource.

  • Blood test for lipids: Testing your cholesterol levels decreases your risk of heart attack or stroke. If your doctor notices your levels are increasing, he or she may recommend changes to your lifestyle or prescription medications to reduce them.

  • Bone density scan: 75 million people are affected by osteoporosis in the United States, Japan, and Europe. A bone density scan measures bone mass, which can reveal a lot about bone strength. These scans are recommended (especially for women) after age 65.

  • Colonoscopy: Once you reach the age of 50, it is recommended to get a colonoscopy every 10 years. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or if your doctor detects polyps, you might want to get them more frequently.

  • Eye exams: As age increases, so do your chances for glaucoma or cataracts, your annual visits to the eye doctor are still important to schedule.

  • Hearing test: It is recommended to get an audiogram every 2 to 3 years, as hearing loss is a common part of aging.

 

Improving and managing mental health in seniors

Depression in older adults can be more impactful and severe — and could even result in heart disease, diabetes, or stroke. Not to mention, depression can make it difficult to seek treatment when needed due to loss of interest, or lack of resources (like a spouse or caregiver) to aid in getting care. Here are some ways to maintain positive mental health for those 65 and older:

  • Play mind games: Crossword, anyone? Activities that keep the mind engaged contribute to positive brain health. (Check out these free online games here!)

  • Exercising: Physical activity boosts confidence and wellbeing — no matter if it’s a walk or yoga class. And if you want some company or accountability, we recommend posting in your neighborhood Facebook group or bulletin to see if anyone wants to join in!

  • Staying connected: Loneliness is harmful to your health, and can cause not only mental health problems, but physical ones too. Keeping in touch with important people can be the ultimate mood-booster — from Zoom sessions to an old-fashioned phone call, make it a priority to connect. Schedule them in advance so you can plan around it — plus, it’ll be something to always look forward to!

  • Picking up a new hobby: Knitting, gardening, cooking, you name it — retirement is the time to revisit that personal wish list of “one day” tasks. Plus, if you find a few friends that are into the same hobbies as you, it can increase your sense of belonging and comfort. Need some inspiration? Here’s 40 ideas.

Most importantly, remember to take inventory of your mental health (and of those around you). Some common warning signs of depression include:

  • Changes in mood, energy level, and appetite.

  • Difficulty sleeping.

  • Irritability.

  • Sadness or hopelessness.

  • Unusual thinking or behaviors.

  • Increased worry or stress.

  • Difficulty concentrating or feelings of restlessness.

How can a Medicare Advantage plan help me live a healthier, better life?

When you compare Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, your coverage options will be pretty similar, with one big difference — supplemental benefits. These benefits include dental care (think cleanings and dentures) to vision care (where would we be without our eyeglasses?), and other important benefits that help us stay healthy. Here are some other common types to look for in a Medicare Advantage plan:

 

Gym memberships and fitness programs

Like we mentioned, an important part of living a healthy lifestyle is staying active. Physical activity, no matter what your age, is an immune system booster. That’s why many Medicare Advantage plans offer gym memberships and fitness programs as a benefit. It can make a big difference in your day-to-day life, and contribute to an overall healthier, better life.

 

Acupuncture and chiropractic services

Chronic pain is common as you age, and can severely affect your everyday routines, your mobility, and your overall health. Clinical services like routine foot care to acupuncture and chiropractic services can help manage any pain you’re experiencing.

 

Non-emergency support services

An (unfortunate) part of getting older means that sometimes the simplest of tasks can become seemingly impossible, especially if you don’t have family or a support system nearby. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer home meal deliveries after a hospital stay or transportation to post-surgery appointments.

 

A Medicare Advantage plan takes a more well-rounded approach to your health and wellness — because it’s so much more than routine doctor’s appointments. If you’re starting your search for Medicare soon or considering switching to an Advantage plan, check out Kasasa Care™. We’ve partnered with KindHealth to bring you a free concierge service to assist you with all of your Medicare needs — from decoding the ABCs (and D) of Medicare, all the way through to a fast, easy enrollment.

Whether it’s chasing after grandkids or tending to your vegetable garden (or both), your senior years can be incredibly rewarding. So go on — live them well!

Tags: Health, Care, Medicare

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