Healthy aging tips from Roper St. Francis Healthcare
In our own ways and on our own time, we all face the challenges of aging.
While aging is inevitable, not all age-related health issues are. By being mindful of your lifestyle, activities and diet, you can minimize the health issues you face as you get older. At Roper St. Francis Healthcare, you can find the support to be proactive about prolonging your good health.
“Doctors and nurses trained in geriatrics can help patients make sure they are taking the right medications for their age and maintain a high quality of life, even if they have multiple conditions that need attention,” says Dr. Chase Yonce, a primary care doctor specializing in geriatric medicine at Roper St. Francis Healthcare.
Get moving with exercise that feels good to you
Exercise and physical activity are good at every age. They help you live longer, and they help you live better. Staying physically active by walking the dog, gardening and choosing the stairs over the elevator can help you maintain the lifestyle and independence you love.
Dr. Yonce says regular activity that you can easily work into your day-to-day routines can help prevent age-related diseases and other health issues.
- Balance exercises like Tai Chi or a simple heel-to-toe walk can help you avoid falls.
- Strength exercises like lifting weights or using a resistance band can help build muscle mass and prevent osteoporosis.
- Flexibility and stretching exercises, whether yoga or just simple muscle stretches, will keep you limber and help you move with ease.
- Endurance exercise, like walking, swimming and cycling, reduces fatigue and breathlessness, increasing your stamina, improving lung health and supporting your circulatory system and heart.
Regular exercise can also help with chronic conditions like arthritis, high blood pressure and diabetes. It lowers your resting heart rate and increases the amount of blood pumped, reducing the risk of a heart attack. These benefits extend to patients who begin exercising later in life, making exercise an important step in improving heart health.
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese can lead to or exacerbate other health problems, putting you at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, stroke, some types of cancer and osteoarthritis. But this does not mean that thinner is always healthier. Being thin or having unexplained weight loss later can be the result of disease or frailty. If you are concerned about your weight, let your doctor know.
Make healthy food choices
Eating well is not just about weight. A healthy diet helps keep your body strong at every age. Your diet impacts body mass index (BMI and waist circumference), which are risk factors for many diseases. Additionally, a poor diet can cause low concentrations of micronutrients or a vitamin deficiency, which can lead to a decline in health.
“The choices you make about what to eat will help protect you from health problems that are more likely to affect older adults,” says Dr. Yonce. “A nutritionist can provide a framework for eating that allows you to enjoy food that you like that works within your budget.”
Dr. Yonce recommends following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommended guidelines:
- Set calorie limits that are right for your gender and activity level.
- Keep a food diary and review it for healthy and unhealthy patterns.
- Reduce your sodium intake and avoid calories from added sugars and saturated fats.
- Swap high-calorie foods for nutrient-dense foods.
- Positively support healthy eating choices for your family, friends and coworkers.
Supplement when you need to
After you turn 50, you may need more vitamins and minerals than what you can get from your food, even if you are following a healthy eating plan. Consult with your doctor about what supplements to take and at what dose you should take them, as too much of some vitamins and minerals can be harmful. The USDA recommends following these general guidelines:
- Vitamin B12: 2.4 micrograms a day.
- Calcium: 1,200 mg a day for women over age 50. 1,000 mg for men between age 51 and 70 and 1,200 mg after 70.
- Vitamin D: 600 IU for adults age 51 to 70 and 800 IU for adults over 70.
- Vitamin B6: 1.7 mg a day for men and 1.5 mg a day for women.
“Always consider how much of these vitamins you are getting from your diet before taking them daily,” says Dr. Yonce. “Then, check with your doctor or dietitian for their recommendations on dosages and what brands to take.”
Stay focused on your vision
If you find yourself straining to read as you get older, you are not alone. For most, vision changes are a normal part of aging, but some eyesight issues can be a concern.
What vision changes are considered normal? Many of us will find ourselves struggling to focus up close. You may also experience:
- Difficulty distinguishing colors or seeing the difference between an object and its background.
- A need for more light and more time for your eyes to adjust when going from darkness into bright light.
Once you turn 50, it is important to have a regular dilated eye exam every two or three years. These are exams where your doctor uses eyedrops to dilate your pupils to check for signs of eye disease.
While some vision changes are a normal part of aging, vision loss is not. But everyone has a risk of developing eye conditions and diseases as they get older. Some of the most common include age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.
There are steps you can take to protect your vision and lessen your risk of these conditions.
- Don’t smoke.
- Maintain healthy blood pressure.
- Treat and manage diabetes if you have it.
- Protect your eyes from the sun with sunglasses and a hat.
- Eat fish and lots of green, leafy vegetables.
Make skincare a priority
Everyone experiences some fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation changes, and we often chalk them up to aging. But they result from photoaging, which is skin damage caused by sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) light. Photoaging accounts for 90 percent of the changes you see in your skin, and it is a result of sun damage you accumulate throughout life.
While you can’t fight the wrinkles of time, you can fight photoaging and prevent skin cancer. Wear an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen every day — it is the ultimate anti-aging tool.
“Look for a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide,” says Dr. Yonce. “These provide broad-spectrum coverage for UV rays.”
If you already see the signs of photoaging, use skincare products formulated to address sun damage. Look for ingredients like vitamins C and E and other antioxidants that help brighten and even out skin tone. If you need something stronger, retinol — available in over-the-counter and prescription-strength concentrations — can minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Find a doctor
To find a primary care doctor that can help you navigate aging, call 402-CARE or visit rsfh.com