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New year a time for healthy habits

Thanks to breakthroughs in medicine and nutrition in recent years, we are living longer than ever before. But this increase in life expectancy also brings an increase in the number of diseases, injuries and impairments that affect older adults. With this in mind, we at the local Visiting Angels office in Salem have created this series of articles to keep our older population and their families informed and to offer some practical advice for meeting the challenges faced by seniors and those who care for them.

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The new year is upon us, and with it comes the tradition of making our resolutions for the coming year. While many resolutions are made – and broken – by young and old alike, the new year is a good time for older adults to commit themselves to a healthier, happier lifestyle – one which will allow them to continue making new resolutions for years to come.

Eating healthier is at the top of many resolution lists, but it can be especially important for seniors. It isn’t just enough to stay away from sweets and fatty foods; older adults should be choosing foods with more nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are especially important, and at least five servings a day is recommended by the USDA. Whole grain breads and pastas should be chosen over refined grains, and lean meats like chicken and turkey are a healthier choice over fattier meats. It’s also important for older adults to make sure they’re drinking enough water to stay hydrated.

Exercise is another resolution that can be important for seniors. Even a little daily exercise – as few as 10 minutes each day – can have a drastic effect on a person’s health and happiness. Activities such as walking, swimming and riding a bicycle can all have a positive influence on blood pressure, heart rate and muscle mass, and these can lead to a longer lifespan. Not only can activities such as low-impact aerobics and yoga improve balance and muscle mass, leading to fewer fall, but they can elevate a person’s mood, giving them a better outlook on life.

Getting enough sleep is a good resolution for people at any age. Sleep aids the immune system and can help improve memory and cognitive functions in older adults. It is recommended that seniors get seven to nine hours a sleep a night. Naps during the day can confuse the body’s internal clock and make it hard to get a restful sleep at night. Things like caffeine and the electronic screens of cell phones, televisions, tablets and computers should also be avoided in the evening. Keeping active during the day also helps the body feel more tired at night.

Cutting out unhealthy habits such as smoking and excessive drinking is always a popular New Year’s resolution. Quitting smoking at any age can help reduce the risk of smoking-related health problems, such as trouble breathing, low energy, certain cancers and high blood pressure. Smoking and alcohol can both lead to problems sleeping, and excessive drinking can lead to feelings of depression and can interfere with the effects of prescription medications. Drinking alcohol can also lead to falls, which can result in serious injuries like hip fractures and head traumas.

Older adults looking for more of a challenge may want to set a resolution to work their brains. Many seniors find that taking classes online or through a local college or university gives them a new lease on life. Many times, these classes are free for people 65 and older. Some keep their minds active by taking up new hobbies such and photography or painting, while others find stimulation in books, movies or puzzles. New hobbies, especially those that involve the arts, are a great way to boost cognitive function and improve mood.

Many of these activities can also be done with a group, and staying socially active is another New Year’s resolution common with older adults. Social interaction and group participation give many seniors a sense of purpose and belonging. Some may find benefit in volunteering their time to a worthy cause, while others thrive through interacting with friends or family members. Whether it’s making new friend with common interests or visiting with the grandchildren, many older adults find socializing helps them feel less depressed and helps them to focus on the positive things in their lives.

Older adults may also want to consider making a resolution to see their doctor regularly. While many age-related health problems cannot be prevented, many others can, and regular physicals and health screening can help detect many chronic conditions before they become serious. Regular checkups can also allow a doctor to determine if any medication changes need to be made.

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Information provided by Visiting Angels, America’s choice in homecare. Visiting Angels non-medical homecare services allow people to continue enjoying the independence of their daily routines in familiar surroundings.

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