Being proactive in taking care of your joints, heart and head will boost your chances of having a strong body and healthy mind as you age.
Keep your bones happy
It’s never too late to adopt simple lifestyle changes that will strengthen your skeleton and help delay bone breakdown. “It’s important to have regular screenings with a radiologist to ensure bones are strong and to get any necessary treatment,” explains geriatric specialist Dr Kathryn Ross. Eating a healthy diet and supplementing with vitamins B12 and D, and calcium is advised.
As you age, you may experience difficulties with both sight and hearing that can affect your day-to-day life – both of which can be treated. “By having your eyes checked annually, changes in vision can be addressed. Also problems such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration can be picked up early and treated – before they significantly affect your eyesight,” says Dr Ross.
Similarly, hearing loss is common in older people. “I strongly advise those whose hearing is impacted by old age to have a check-up and get fitted with a hearing aid, if necessary,” says Dr Ross. Failing to do so could lead to social isolation and mental-health issues.
Lower your blood pressure
An ageing heart has to work harder as the heart rate slows down and the arteries and blood vessels become stiffer. Hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) and cholesterol don’t only harm your heart, they can affect libido, memory, vision and kidney health.
“Be sensible. If you require medication for chronic illnesses, take it. Live a healthy lifestyle, do things in moderation and quit smoking,” advises Dr Ross. A simple way to lower your blood pressure is to flavour your food with heart-healthy herbs and spices instead of salt.
Eat well, live well
A recent study found that people who consistently consumed a Mediterranean diet were both physically and mentally healthier as they aged. “The highly regarded diet traditionally consists of fresh fruit and vegetables, olive oil, nuts, plenty of fish, a small amount of wine, and minimal red meat and saturated fat. Even if people take to a Mediterranean diet in older age, it can have health benefits,” says Dr Ross. “I also advise goal-directed vitamin supplementation: in other words, take only what is needed, as well as a good daily multivitamin.”
Maintain muscle strength
Although osteoarthritis and muscular atrophy are accepted as an inevitable part of the ageing process, exercise helps to strengthen the muscles around joints to give them extra support. Weight-bearing activities – walking, running and even dancing – are some of the most effective ways to keep your body strong. “Exercise also helps to maintain a healthy weight, as any excess kilograms put additional strain on the joints and may cause them to wear out faster,” says Dr Ross. Regular exercise will also help to reduce insomnia.
Feed your brain
Reading, or learning a new language or hobby can all help to slow down cognitive decline. “As you age, blood flow and nerve connections decrease, slowing down your thinking processes,” explains Dr Ross. Every time you learn something new, the nerve cells in your brain form new connections. There is evidence that this creates a safety net that protects against memory loss and possibly Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
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Clicks Pharmacies offer a Seniors Health Check, which includes blood pressure, BMI, glucose and cholesterol, as well as a breast check for women and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) for men. Call 0860 254 257 or go to clicks.co.za for more info.
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