By Sowmya Iyer, MD, MPH, Geriatrician
This May, VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) celebrates “Older American’s Month” to acknowledge the contributions of the Veterans and staff aged 65 years and older. This year’s theme is “Engage at Every Age,” which is a great reminder that we can care for our physical, mental, and emotional health at any age.
Here are some tips for healthy aging:
- Live an active life any way that you can and participate in regular exercise. If you use a cane or walker, try to find safe ways to keep your body moving. Regular walking can be great for overall health and doesn’t cost a thing!
- If you cannot walk, do chair and arm exercises to maintain your strength.
- Work on maintaining your balance and flexibility as you age. This helps to prevent falls.
- Work to maintain your “functional” fitness. This is going to be different for each person, but in addition to doing all your essential daily activities, this may be playing with grandchildren, shopping, doing laundry, or yard work. If needed, adapt activities to make them work for you but continue to do everything you can to stay active and independent.
- People naturally lose muscle mass as they age. Strength training with resistance bands or light weights can help to maintain your muscle mass while preventing fractures and falls.
- Eat healthy foods. As you age, you may need to follow diets more specific to heart health, maintaining blood sugar, or your medications. If you can, eat with others to maintain socialization and keep meals enjoyable.
- Get adequate sleep. Most people need at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
- Quit smoking.
- Take all your medications and take charge of your health!
Mental and Emotional health
Loneliness has been shown to be negative effects on people as they age, so connecting with friends and family can not only be fun, it can help keep your mind engaged and improve your mood. Even if you don’t have friends or family around, you can volunteer, or join senior centers or other social groups to expand your social network.
Here are some other ways to maintain mental and emotional health:
- Physical exercise has been shown to slow down memory loss over time, so exercise helps improve your brain health as well.
- Learn ways to manage your stress.
- Play board games, do crossword puzzles, or learn a new skill. Anything that you enjoy and makes you think is good for your brain health.
These are just a few tips to help you stay healthy this year. We hope you continue to engage in your health and wellness. Talk to your doctor about what works with your medical condition or check out one of the Health and Wellness classes available from VAPAHCS!