April 1, 2019
5 Lifestyle Strategies to Stay Strong, Healthy, and Independent
Are you or a loved one forgetting things, feeling incapable, grappling with loneliness, or maybe not enjoying daily life? Aging is inevitable, but these symptoms don’t have to be. Simple nutrition and lifestyle changes can dramatically improve quality of life — even in older adults.
There is research on the specific factors that can help you live a healthy, enjoyable, meaningful life, longer. In a number of large-scale population studies, these lifestyle habits are consistently correlated with lower disease rates, better mood and well-being, and increased longevity.
1. Eat healthy meals
- In older age, energy needs decrease but nutrition needs increase. Because of the physical and lifestyle changes that tend to go along with aging, the need for overall calories decreases. However, nutrient-dense, well-absorbed foods and targeted supplementation, are more important than ever.
- Hydrate often. Older adults should consume 8-10 cups of liquids per day in the form of water (ideally), herbal teas, broths, or liquid-based foods like smoothies and soups.
- Protein is especially crucial because it helps to preserve valuable lean tissue (muscle and bone). Higher lean tissue reduces frailty, falls, and fractures, which are all associated with poorer quality of life and earlier death.
- Antioxidants are like the body’s defense team. Aging is partly due to an accumulation of daily attacks from free radicals from pollution, household chemicals, too much sun, or lifestyle habits like smoking, eating lots of processed foods, or excessive drinking.
- Aim for five servings of vegetables and fruits a day — and choose a variety of colors! The more variety of colors (red, purple, green, orange, etc.) you consume, the more nutrients you’re getting.
2. Keep moving
For relatively little cost or time (about 30 minutes a day), exercise is one of the most impactful things we can do for our health. Exercise improves mood and well-being. This is especially true if exercise is social, like walking with a friend or attending group classes.
Exercise signals the body to use nutrients and balance blood sugar; build and repair bone and muscle tissue; and circulate blood, nutrients, and oxygen, including to the brain. Regular exercise is correlated with lower rates of:
- Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity
- Arthritis and bone fractures
- Anxiety and depression
3. Get the right amount of sleep
As we age, it’s normal to need less sleep, and to sleep less consistently. In the older years, getting anywhere from 5 to 9 hours of sleep a day may be appropriate. Sleeping enough helps keep us healthy, but sleeping too much can be a sign of illness. Adequate sleep, at any age, is essential, and helps:
- brain regeneration, improving memory and focus;
- hormone and neurotransmitter regulation, keeping mood and appetite stable;
- inflammation regulation, keeping the immune system healthy and balanced; and
- recovery from stress, be it from emotional or physical sources.
4. Achieve or maintain a healthy weight
According to research, seniors with a BMI between 25 and 32 have the lowest rates of mortality, and recover better from illness and infection. Being overweight or underweight can pose a risk.
- Too much body fat can be harmful. Visceral fat around our internal organs is associated with higher inflammation, insulin resistance and high blood sugar, eye problems like cataracts or blindness, kidney damage, and cancer.
- However, some fat can be protective. Having enough body fat helps a person recover better from wasting diseases like pneumonia, cancer, influenza, and digestive issues. Having some body fat is also correlated with a lowered risk of fracture during a fall.
5. Connect with others
When people are surveyed about the most meaningful aspects of their lives, they list good marriages, close family relationships, rich friendships, and lively work relationships. Often, it’s the presence of other people, to love and be loved by, that enhances our reason to live. Elderly living alone may be more prone to injury, loneliness, and poor nutrition. All of these factors reduce lifespan, and more importantly, quality of life. Meaningful human interaction:
- gives a sense of purpose;
- decreases subjective age;
- improves mental health; and
- makes life more fun and joyful.
Ready to make a change? Consider your family history and your current habits. Consult the above list and focus on one thing to improve your quality of life. Practice that habit, and add more when and if you feel ready. Every positive action counts, and no healthy step forward is too small.
Need help for yourself or someone in your care? For more information, call us at (855) 867-4692 or click here for more about EveryStep Hospice or EveryStep Home Care. EveryStep’s hospice and home care programs provide care and support to patients, family members and their caregivers through chronic or serious illness, recovery or rehabilitation. Our experienced and compassionate staff can assist family caregivers in understanding the importance of nutrition, exercise, social ties, mental and spiritual health, and how all these things can contribute to wellbeing for individuals of all ages.