The correlation between a healthy lifestyle and minimal years of disability is undeniable. People who had healthy habits when they were younger tend to become healthy elders — but it’s never too late to start living a healthy lifestyle. Those with the healthiest lifestyles have longer lives and experience fewer years of illness or disability compared to their unhealthy counterparts. Good health habits can make a difference even to elders who are prone to illness or have not made their health a priority in the past.
It is largely advised by the health experts to stay away from alcohol and smoking — even at a younger age — and this advice is emphasized as you get older. It’s better to remain safe and healthy than to overdo it and risk your own health or the health of others. Avoid smoking cigarettes or cigars as they are seriously harmful to your body. They predispose you to lung cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and bronchitis. The chemicals in cigarettes also damage the skin, making you look older than you are.
Nearly one in five elders age 65 or older have lost all of their teeth. Complete tooth loss is twice as prevalent among elders age 75 and older (26 percent) compared with elders aged 65-74 (13 percent), according to the CDC. Having missing teeth or wearing dentures can affect nutrition, because people without teeth or with dentures often prefer soft, easily chewed foods instead of foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Many elders do not have dental insurance because they lost their benefits upon retirement and the federal Medicare program does not cover routine dental care. And yet, the risk for cavities, gum disease and mouth cancers only increases with age. Many mouth infections can be linked to serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, so elders should see a dentist regularly. Cancers of the mouth (oral and pharyngeal cancers) are primarily diagnosed in elders. Additionally, about two in three (68 percent) elders aged 65 years or older have gum disease.
Now is the time to focus on preventative care visits, including health screenings for cholesterol levels, colon cancer, heart problems, cervical cancer, mammograms, checking blood pressure, and more. Elders also need to get vaccinations that can help prevent influenza and pneumonia. See your health professional on a regular basis and follow the recommendations they give on screening and preventive measures. Regular checkups can diagnosis health issues in their initial stages so treatment can be started accordingly.
Ask about and review your medications with your physician on a regular basis. Consider possible drug interactions and take note of any new symptoms (allergic reactions, drowsiness, loss of appetite and others) that may appear after changing or starting medications. Pay attention to your body and alert your health care provider immediately if something feels off. For instance, if you start to feel dizzy or unsteady it’s important to follow up on this with your doctor to avoid a fall. Elders who wear glasses should have their prescription checked every year for changes and have their eyes screened for health issues. Having the right pair of glasses can also reduce the chance of falling.
Frequent waking and insomnia in the night take can a toll on an elder’s health. Turn the lights down in the evening to spur drowsiness and make sure your bedroom is comfortable, cool and quiet. To get better sleep, try evaluating your nighttime routine. Do things that help you relax before bed. Try taking substantial naps during the day. Or replacing your mattress or bedding for more comfortable sleep.
Some of the best ways to live a healthy life are through a healthy diet, physical exercise, mental engagement, and updating your home so you can prevent falls and continue to age in place. You can explore these topics with more depth by clicking on the links below.
Southern Plains Tribal Health Board shares the stories and impact of four health and wellness programs in Indian Country, located in the urban area of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and rural areas of Pawhuska, Oklahoma and Anadarko, Oklahoma. These projects utilize American Indian methods to promote healthy living and activity with positive lifestyle changes in their communities through policy, systems and environmental changes.