Regardless of your age, you can achieve your personal best when it comes to your health
Getting older is a natural part of life. How you feel as you get older depends on many things including your current health, health problems in your family, and the lifestyle choices you make. Taking good care of your mind and body can slow down or even prevent problems that often come with getting older. It’s never too late to make choices that can make you feel better both mentally and physically.
As we age, our organs age with us and gradually become less efficient. For example:
- Our heart can start to show signs of wear and tear by beating slower, and may become larger in size.
- Our blood vessels become stiffer, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood.
- We have increased difficulty with our vision when focusing on objects that are close up.
- Our hearing decreases making it more difficult to understand conversation especially in a crowded room.
- Our metabolism (how fast our body can burn calories) slows over time, which means that our body needs less food energy than before.
- Our bones lose strength, and our muscles lose both strength and flexibility. Muscle mass gradually decreases, and is replaced with fatty tissue.
- Our memory becomes less efficient. As we become older it may take longer to learn new things or we may have trouble recalling familiar words or names.
- Our sleep patterns change resulting in more frequent sleep disruptions.
Age related physical changes will occur, however incorporating a few lifestyles changes can slow the process helping our body to work well for a longer period of time.
- Know your family health history.
Some, but not all, medical problems are common among family members. Knowing what types of health problems have developed in your relatives can help determine if you are at risk for the same problems. This allows you to be proactive by incorporating prevention measures into your lifestyle.
- Be physically active.
Being sedentary actually increases the risk of many disease conditions both physical and mental. Physical activity is one of the most important lifestyle behaviors that you can incorporate. Exercise has a positive effect on almost all of the age related changes mentioned above.
- Rest well.
Regular adequate amounts of sleep are needed for optimal brain function, physical and mental health. The typical older adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep each night for optimal daytime functioning.
- Care for your emotional health.
Your mental and emotional health is important. Stay in touch with friends, family, and the community. People who feel connected to others are more likely to thrive than those who do not.
- Stress and depression can be a problem at any age. If you are having difficulty managing stress, or if you think you are depressed, help is available. Your health care provider or MSU Employee Assistance Program are good places to start for care and/or referrals to qualified counselors.
Regardless of your age, good self-care should include the following:
- Eating a wide variety of foods from all of the food groups to support your nutritional needs.
- If you smoke, keep trying to quit. Relapse is a normal part of the smoking cessation process.
- Don't abuse alcohol or other drugs, including prescribed medications.
- Always wear your seat belt.
Informed/Shared Decision Making
Work with your health care provider to achieve more effective prevention, treatment and management of your health.
- Share your family history with your health care provider. This information will help to define your risk for certain diseases, and identify the need for special health screenings and other possible prevention measures to protect your health.
- Participate in age appropriate recommended health screenings.
- Work with your health care provider to properly manage your own medical concerns. This partnership can help to keep you healthy, active, and engaged in life.
Understanding normal age related changes and taking an active role in our own healthcare can help us remain engaged in life as we age.