Healthy living is something that we should all strive for, especially as we get older. With the ageing process comes many potential risks to your body, both physically and mentally, which is why we need to try hard to live a healthy and active lifestyle.
Today’s post takes an in-depth look at what you need to do to achieve your healthy living targets. Topics covered include eating a well-balanced diet, keeping fit and active, drinking less alcohol and ensuring that you have all your vaccinations.
A Well-Balanced Diet
The key to healthy living is to stick to a well-balanced diet. By eating healthily you are keeping your body in physical shape, which in-turn lowers the risk of several medications such as diabetes and hypertension.
A great key to follow is the Eatwell Guide, which shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. Of course, you don’t need to stick to this every single meal, but it is helpful to your well-being if you try to eat healthily as much as possible.
Some guidelines found on the Eatwell Guide include:
- Eating a least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
- Basing meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates – using wholegrain when possible.
- Having some dairy or dairy alternatives such as yogurts – choosing lower-fat and lower-sugar options.
- Eating some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins – aiming for at least two portions of oily fish every week.
- Having unsaturated oils and spreads in small amounts – such as vegetable and sunflower oil.
Alongside these options, you should also ensure that you drink plenty of fluids. Ideally you should be drinking water, lower-fat milks and low sugar or sugar free drinks including tea and coffee. The government recommend that we drink 6-8 cups/glasses a day.
Taking part in sport and exercise activities can have a wide range of benefits for older people, and it is something that we need to take seriously. According to the NHS:
Many adults aged 65 and over spend, on average, 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down, making them the most sedentary age group.
This inactivity is causing huge problems, with higher rates of falls, obesity, heart disease, and early death compared with the general population. With this in mind, now is the perfect time to take up a new sport or to start visiting the gym and leisure centre.
It is suggested that we take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate activity every week, which can be achieved by doing just 30 minutes on at least five days a week. Examples of moderate activity include water aerobics, walking, ballroom and line dancing and playing doubles tennis.
Alongside your moderate activity, you should also try to take part in some muscle-building activities. This can include weight training at the gym, resistance exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups, yoga and heavy gardening. Alongside your fitness regime you should try to ensure that you spend less time sitting down.
Having a fitness regime can lower your chances of being diagnosed with conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Alongside the health benefits, joining the gym or a sports group can also improve your social life as you will meet new people who have similar interests to you.
Everybody knows that smoking is a terrible habit, one that has huge implications on your health. Healthy living just isn’t possible if you smoke as it can cause you and those around you to suffer from various long-term medical conditions. Did you know that smoking can cause at least 14 different types of cancer?
In fact, around 96,000 people die each year in the UK from a medical condition which has been caused by smoking. Around half of all regular smokers will eventually be killed by their addiction. Stats from the NHS show that there were around 474,000 hospital admissions attributable to smoking during 2015/16.
Other negatives of smoking include:
- Second Hand Smoke – This causes over 11,000 deaths in the UK each year. Think about your friends, family and colleagues.
- Cost – Smoking isn’t cheap, with smokers spending thousands each year on cigarettes. Just imagine what you could do with that spare cash.
- Appearances – Smoking can lead to yellow nails, stained teeth and it can also leave a lingering smell of smoke on all of your clothes.
- No Taste – Smoking covers your mouth and nose with toxic chemicals, making it hard to enjoy the taste and smell of your favourite foods.
It’s never too late to quit either, as the body begins to benefit almost immediately. After only 48 hours your body will have removed any carbon monoxide from your system and your lungs will have begun to clear out mucus and other debris. A year after quitting, your risk of heart disease will have halved compared to somebody still smoking.
We understand that quitting can be difficult but the sense of achievement that you will feel once you have stopped will be worth it. You will feel great knowing that not only have you reduced the risk of several medical conditions, but that you have also potentially saved those around you from becoming unwell.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol also puts your body under a lot of pressure, and can lead to medical conditions such as liver disease, diabetes and cancers of the mouth, throat and bowel. Alcohol can also have a huge impact on your personal and professional life if things get out of control.
There are guidelines which we can follow to ensure that we drink responsibly and can still enjoy a drink during our healthy living strategy. The guidelines are as follows:
- Men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units pet week. That’s equal to:
- Six pints of 4% beer.
- Six glasses of 13% wine.
- 14, 25ml glasses of 40% spirits.
Just like smoking, too much alcohol can also influence your physical appearance. Beer can lead to obesity and what it known as a ‘beer belly’, due to the high number of calories. The more that you drink, the more bloated your stomach and face will become. Drinking too much can also lead to financial problems, with more and more taxes being added to the cost of alcohol.
Cutting down on the amount you drink can lead to so many healthy positives. This includes losing weight, having more spare cash, having better long-term health and an improved relationship with your friends and family.
As we get older, our eyes and ears can begin to struggle and cause problems. It is highly likely that people will require glasses or contact lenses by the time they reach the age of 65, however the more care you have for your eyes the better chance you have of your sight remaining intact.
Our first tip for healthy eyes is to have regular eye tests. These tests act as vital checks for the health of your eyes. Even if you don’t require glasses it is important to have a check-up as they can detect disease such as glaucoma and cataracts. General conditions such as diabetes and hypertension can also be detected through your eye test.
The good news for those of you over the age of 60 is that you can have free NHS eye tests as often as you need them. Commonly, this will be every two years, but they may be more frequent if you have any problems.
Alongside regular eye tests, you can protect your eyes by:
- Wearing Sunglasses – Strong sunlight can damage your eyes, leading to cataracts. Ensure you wear sunglasses or contact lenses with a built-in UV filter during the summer months.
- Not Smoking – Smoking increases your risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
- Sleeping Well – When you sleep, your eyes are continuously lubricated and irritants such as dust and smoke are cleared out.
- Eating Well – Vegetables and fruit will benefit your overall health and may help protect against some conditions such as cataracts and AMD.
- Using Good Lighting – To see well, your eyes need three times as much light when you’re 60 as they did when you were 20. Increase the amount of daylight in your home and ensure that you have good electric lighting throughout.
Just like your eyes, you may also begin having problems with your hearing as you get older. Losing your hearing is a natural part of the ageing process and you may begin to gradually notice the signs. This can include:
- Having to turn the television volume up to hear your programme.
- Finding it difficult to hear others clearly, possibly misunderstanding what they are saying to you.
- Asking people to repeat themselves on a regular basis.
You can reduce the future risk to your hearing now by ensuring that you take care of your ears. As with eye tests, NHS hearing tests are free of charge and can be booked through your doctor. If you work in a noisy environment, such as a building site or factory, you should ensure that you wear ear defenders. You should also use ear protection at loud events such as a motorsport event or a music concert.
The older we get, the weaker our immune system becomes. This can put you at risk of the flu, shingles are several other medical conditions. Fortunately, there are several vaccinations which are available for free on the NHS.
The most common vaccination is the flu jab, which is available every year to protect those most at risk of flu and any further complications. It is free for anybody over the age of 18 who is at risk, and for everybody over the age of 65.
Having the flu jab is the best way of fighting off the extreme cases of the flu, as the NHS explain:
Studies have shown that the flu jab will help prevent you getting the flu. It won’t stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free, but if you do get flu after vaccination it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been.
Another important vaccination for those over the age of 65 is the pneumococcal (PPV) vaccine, which protects against serious and potentially fatal pneumococcal infections. The good thing about this jab is that you will only require a single vaccination, as it will protect you for life.
People with a long-term health condition may need just a single one-off pneumococcal vaccination or five-yearly vaccination, depending on their underlying health problem.
If you’re in your 70’s, you should consider the shingles vaccination. For those who may be unaware, shingles is a painful skin disease which can leave some people with lasting pain years after their initial rash has healed. Shingles is fatal for around one in 1000 over-70s who develop it.
The shingles vaccination is available all year round and you can still have it even if you have the condition in the past. Research has shown that the vaccine should protect you for at least five years. The shingles vaccine is not available on the NHS if you are aged 80 or over.
Stay Safe in all Weather Conditions
The weather can be a dangerous foe for older people, whether it’s freezing temperatures during the winter or heat waves in the summer. The latter can lead to dehydration, heat strokes and overheating.
Older people should try and remain out of the sun during hot days and remain in the shade or inside, especially during the hours of 11am and 3pm when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Whilst at home, you should also make some changes to ensure that your home isn’t too hot. These include:
- Closing curtains and blinds to keep the direct sunlight out.
- Have a cold bath/show.
- Splash your face with cold water.
During the winter months, your health can be put at risk due to the low temperatures. Your blood pressure can rise, and your blood can thicken, which can cause a higher risk of a heart attack. The flu can also spread throughout communities during the winter.
Again, just like summer, you should avoid going outside during the coldest parts of the day. If you do have to go outside, make sure that you wear warm clothing. Don’t leave the house with your scarf, gloves and hat, and make sure you have a nice thick jumper and coat on.
Back at home, keep your slippers on in order to keep your feet warm. You should have your heating on as much as possible so that the radiators are hot throughout your home. In the living room, be sure to turn your fire on if you are feeling chilly.
At bed time, you should use a hot water bottle or, if you have one, an electric blanket when you go to bed – remember to ensure these are switched off when not in use.
Your mental well-being is just as important as your physical health. Loneliness is a huge problem among older people in the UK, with an estimated two million people over the age of 75 currently living alone.
In fact, more than a million people have admitted that they go more than a month with speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. This is a serious issue which can lead to several mental and physical health problems, such as depression and heart disease.
Fortunately, there are things that we can all do to combat loneliness. One example that we already touched on in this blog post would be to join a sports club or another hobby group. This will introduce you to others who have something in common with you, which can lead to further social meetings during the week.
Another tip would be to give modern technology a try. This is particularly useful if your family live far away, as you can video call them using apps such as WhatsApp and Skype. You can also use the internet to play games with others and to pass the time on shopping websites.
If your family or friends do live relatively close, take advantage of discounted public transport. Anybody over the age of 60 can purchase a senior railcard which will give you a third off rail fares across the country.
Healthy Living = Happy Life
By following some or all the advice shared in today’s post, you are giving yourself the best chance of a comfortable, healthy life as you head into your older years. The ageing process can take its toll, but by taking control and remaining active you can slow down this process.
Being older doesn’t mean that you should stop doing things that you enjoy and looking after yourself. If you’re concerned about your well-being, please visit your doctor as soon as possible for a medical.
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