Submitted by: Jason Lewis
Health Tips for Seniors: Taking Care of Yourself Mentally and Physically
It’s important to take care of your health at any stage of life, but in our senior years, it is even more important. Our bodies go through many changes when we reach our later years, and it’s more than just skin losing its elasticity. Stem cells begin to deteriorate. The body’s circadian rhythm shifts, which affects sleep. The brain begins to slow down, and it’s more difficult to recall information and focus on a topic. Muscle mass and bone density decrease. Older people are also more susceptible to mental illness and depression. While you can’t stop the passage of time, there are things you can do to support your health mentally and physically.
As mentioned above, your circadian rhythm shifts at some point in your senior years. Seniors actually need less sleep than their younger counterparts, but that shift means they get tired earlier in the day and are able to wake up earlier, as well. If you do not adjust your sleep schedule to reflect that change, it can lead to sleep disorders such as insomnia.
- Consider investing in a new mattress that supports your body’s new needs. The right mattress provides relief to pressure points while promoting healthy spine alignment. The softer models you enjoyed in your youth may not provide that support.
- Avoid napping during the day. If you just can’t seem to stay awake, try moving more. A short walk around the house every hour can rejuvenate you. You may also want to try an energy-boosting supplement that is formulated to keep you alert without making you jittery. Pick a supplement that works well with your symptoms and lifestyle, and talk to your doctor to make sure it won’t interact with your existing medications.
- Take a warm bath or shower right before bedtime. The heat raises your body temperature, and after you leave the bathroom, the cooler air instigates a drop in body temperature, which leaves you feeling drowsy and ready to hit the hay.
- Drink less fluids at night to reduce your chances of waking up needing to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Your senior years are no time to sit on the couch watching television all day. Exercise is a vital part of your health plan. Not only does regular exercise help prevent many common diseases, it also balances hormones and neurotransmitters to help prevent or ease symptoms of mental illness. When you combine cardio exercise with light weight lifting, you’re fighting back against the loss of muscle mass and bone density. When you exercise during the day, you expel enough energy to help fight restlessness and anxiety so you fall asleep faster and stay that way longer. Finally, taking exercise classes or meeting up with friends for your morning power-walking session keeps you social well into your senior years. Being social is the key to preventing senior isolation, which has health risks all its own.
The digestive system is just another part of your body that changes in your senior years. It slows down a bit and you need more high-value foods to provide the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein you need to keep your body running at its optimal level. Be sure to include foods and drinks that are high in calcium and vitamin D to protect your bones. Keep energy levels up with dietary sources of vitamin B12 such as fortified cereals, beef liver, mackerel, sardines, red meat, and yogurt. Dietary fiber doesn’t just keep you regular, it also slows down the release of sugar into the bloodstream to stabilize your glucose levels. Fiber can also help maintain a healthy weight while lowering cholesterol. It’s not just about what to include in your diet — there are also things you want to leave out. Cease adding unnecessary salt to dishes to prevent high blood pressure. If you are overweight, limiting calories and focusing on whole foods can help you shed those extra pounds for happier and healthier golden years.
The body goes through many changes in your senior years, but you can maintain your health with simple daily practices. To catch up with the shift in your circadian rhythm, go to bed and wake up earlier. Regular exercise helps you feel better and look younger. Finally, avoid cheap processed food in favor of dietary sources of essential nutrients you need to support mental and physical health. By doing so, you’ll make your golden years as healthy as possible.