How to Stay Healthy at Every Age: 50+
You’ve seen the idea of “healthy” change through the years. In fact, in many ways, your generation has helped shape and transform the definition. The Health + Wellness 2017 study reports on how even now different generations think of health and wellness in unique ways. For Boomers, being healthy generally means “having the energy for an active lifestyle.”1
But health isn’t just one thing – it is a combination of physical and mental well-being. It is also completely subjective, meaning that healthy to you may not look the same as healthy to your spouse or neighbor. The diet that worked for your friend may not yield the same results for you, and that’s ok! No weight, look or diet can make you “healthy” and finding what works for you is key!
If you’re wondering how to stay healthy, think about your life in two categories: physical and mental. Aspects of physical health include things like your activity level, stamina, and body health. Mental health can include your emotional wellbeing, happiness and satisfaction with life.
Your physical health
Most people assume an active person is a healthy person. But what does that look like for you? If you are new to physical activity (or it has been many years), start slow. The physical activity you need to get started with a healthier lifestyle is different from someone who has been running marathons for years.
To start, try spending more time moving and less time sitting. This could mean taking up a new hobby, like swimming or gardening. There are numerous activities for seniors to stay healthy. If you already lead an active lifestyle, there are other ways to focus on your health.
Think about what you regularly eat. Do you get a mix of nutrient-rich foods? Do you eat sweets regularly? If you feel OK, then what you’re doing might be fine! If not, try something new. As you age, your body metabolizes things differently so you may need to rethink nutrition. While most advice says to eat more fruits and vegetables, you tend to digest the sugars in fruits more slowly so you may need to focus on vegetables, proteins and fiber. Remember that eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive.
Try keeping a log of what you eat and drink for a week or two. Then, analyze that log and see if you can make some small changes. Are you drinking sugary drinks at every meal? Try limiting it to one a day. Are you eating 2-3 big meals a day? Try switching to 3-5 smaller meals to keep your metabolism up and help your body absorb more nutrients.2 Small changes can have a big impact on your health.
While some recommendations apply to everyone, like the American Heart Associations’ tip to exercise 20-30 minutes a day, much of the health advice you receive should be tailored to best suit you. Work with your doctor to find the right combination to fit your specific health goals.
Your mental health
An aspect of health often overlooked is mental health, and this one can be tricky. Everyone experiences mood changes and has ups and downs but added stress factors can have an effect on your mental wellbeing. All types of stress can wear you down! Take some time think about your main stressors and see where you can alleviate some of that pressure.
- Do you have a lot on your plate at work? Talk to your leader or team to see if there are ways to think reduce stress.
- Do you worry about making monthly payments on time? Create a budget to understand more about where your money is going.
- Do you worry about taking care of your loved ones in the future or what will happen to them after your death? Consider a life insurance policy.
- Do you spend time thinking about whether or not you’ll be ready to retire? Use free tools to help plan for the future.
- Concerned that your physical health may leave you unable to provide for your family? Look into disability income insurance and other options that can help support financial uncertainties.
Let your physicians help
Regular health exams and doctors’ visits can often help lead a healthier life and prevent future health problems. At or around age 50, you should talk to your physician about the following if you haven’t already:
- Blood pressure – annually
- Heart health screening – every 2 years
- Diabetes – every 3 years
- Thyroid test – every 5 years
- Cholesterol test – discuss with your doctor
- Mental health screening – discuss with your doctor
- Skin health – monthly self-exam
Specific to women:
- Mammogram – every 2 years
- Clinical breast exam – yearly
- Bone density screening – discuss with your doctor
- Pelvic exam – yearly
Specific to men:
- Colonoscopy – every 10 years
- Prostate exam – discuss with your doctor
- Testicular exam – monthly self-exam
Remember, it’s never too late to start living a healthier life.
1 Smartbrief (August 2, 2017). Web page: Understanding today’s aging consumers: Healthy living and adventures with food. Retrieved March 7, 2018, from https://www.smartbrief.com/original/2017/08/understanding-today’s-aging-consumers-healthy-living-and-adventures-food.
2 Fitness Together – Central Georgetown. Document: 13 Things You Need to Know About Nutrition as You Age. Retrieved March 7, 2018, from https://fitnesstogether.com/centralgeorgetown/site-downloads/13ThingsYouNeedtoKnowAboutNutritionasYouAge.docx.