How does Health and Wellness Change as we Age?
Despite beingin the midst of a global pandemic, health and wellness is still at the forefront of many people’s routines, specifically seniors. Even with gyms being closed for most of the year, keeping up a fitness routine was a simple way to provide some semblance of normalcy in these unprecedented times. It’s no wonder seniors are living longer and more healthily than ever before. As we know, health is not a given and those who are living longer are actively putting work into their routines.
Of course, what works for athirty year old is much different than what will work for someone who is 60+. However, the major boxes to tick off are much the same: exercise, sleep, nutrition, and for seniors specifically, dental health.
This one is obvious, and exercise is important for anyone of any age group, but exercise plays a different role for seniors than it does for the younger population. Many studies have shown that exercising improves brain health and can even reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s late in life. Furthermore, one of the leading causes of senior hospitalizations is falling and exercise is the best weapon against a fall. Working out with strength, mobility, and balance in mind can drastically decrease a person’s risk of falling and lessen the injury is a fall does occur. Even more interesting, high intensity interval training has been shown to reverse some effects of aging at the cellular level!
Many seniors believe forgetfulness is an inevitable part of aging, and while this could partly be true, inadequate sleep is a majorly overlooked factor when it comes to memory. Not only does proper sleep improve memory function in general, but lack of sleep has been shown to cause a buildup of plaques in that brain called beta-amyloids. Excess buildup of beta-amyloid has been found in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. More research is currently being conducted on the connection of sleep and Alzheimer’s. So if you can’t sleep, try cutting back on alcohol, limiting naps, taking medication and vitamins at the right time of day, and create a schedule for physical activity. It should go without saying, but also avoid sugar and caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
For younger people, nutrition is mainly thought of as a way to keep weight in check, and while this is important, proper nutrition has many more benefits as we age. Proper nutrition keeps blood pressure in check, diabetes risk low, heart disease risk low, and with certain foods, can even boost memory. Likewise, hydration becomes increasingly important as we age. Also, since we are more likely to undergo surgery as we age, diet can also be important to how we experience the surgery and in how we recover.
Memory boosting foods include:
- Anything with omega 3 fatty acids (olive oil, fish, chia seeds, enriched eggs, etc.)
- Berries and Cherries because they include anthocyanin, which is an antioxidant
- Walnuts – great for heart health and memory
- Cruciferous vegetables (think leafy greens like kale, cabbage, bok choy, arugula, brussels sprouts, etc.)
- And again, water, water, water! Keep hydrated.
Keeping up with dental health has more of an impact than simply what can be seen in the mouth. For people with preexisting health conditions, dental health is extremely important. Dentists know that underlying conditions (unrelated to the teeth) can worsen a person’s dental health and also that certain dental issues can make underlying health conditions worse. Dentists also know that oral examinations are oftentimes the first sign that something is wrong somewhere else in the body. Seeing the dentist regularly can help detect undiscovered health issues. A person’s oral health can provide evidence of liver disease, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, arthritis, and more.
The correlation between gum and heart disease has long been observed, but that’s not the only part of the body impacted by gum disease. Periodontic disease may also affect blood glucose levels, which would contribute to the development of diabetes. Beyond physical connections, dental health has also been connected to brain health. There is clearly a two-way street between overall health and dental health and if you are a senior, dental care should be included in your overall health routine.
The most important part about any health routine is sticking to it. Some changes are easier than others to implement, but it’s never too late to get started. Incremental changes to diet, sleep, nutrition, and dental health, will have far reaching consequences for the long term.
Max Gottlieb is the content manager for Senior Planning. Senior Planning offers free resources to seniors and those with disabilities.