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Aging Gracefully

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Aging Gracefully

Here at Cooper Aerobics, we know a thing or two about healthy aging. It’s never too early to start the process.
See what Laura DeFina, MD, Medical Director at The Cooper Institute, says about the best healthy aging practices.

5 Principles of Healthy Aging

See a physician. It’s never too early to begin preparing medically for healthy “Golden Years." Routine preventive health care including evaluation for cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or diabetes, cancer screening and immunizations is important to aging with less debility and medical illness (disability). Good control of cardiovascular risk factors leads to fewer heart attacks and strokes which in turn allow better function (aka - more golf!). Historically, men often avoid “unnecessary” screening medical care until they are ill. Break this cycle and get your preventive health care now!  Help your physician help you by:

  • Having regular preventive care and follow-up appointments.
  • Bringing a list of your medications prescribed by both your primary care doctor and any specialists you see. This list should also include your supplements and over-the-counter medications as these can interact with prescription medications.
  • Bringing a list of your medical questions. This helps your physician focus your appointment to address both your active concerns and your preventive care. You should also include information about any other doctor visits or emergency room trips.

Regular exercise helps you now and later. The numerous medical benefits of exercise, including less high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, can be realized from starting and maintaining regular exercise early in life. This “head start” on wellness then translates into less disease in the “Golden Years” and better function. Exercise is beneficial even to those who have significant medical conditions. Generally, individuals over the age of 55 to 65 years old should discuss beginning an exercise program with their primary care doctor or cardiologist to ensure it is safe. It is also important to speak to your orthopedic surgeon if you have had lower extremity surgery recently to ensure you are cleared for exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has helpful information on exercise for older adults in the “Physical Activity for Everyone” section. Exercise not only prevents disease but keeps seniors active, maintains muscle bulk, helps prevent falls and has been shown to decrease memory loss. Remember, regular activity should include:

  • Aerobic activity, such as walking or stationary cycling, for at least 150 minutes per week
  • Strength training at least two days per week

Healthy eating does matter in senior citizens. It is not time to “throw care to the wind” and eat whatever you want. An appropriately balanced diet with low fat, low sodium and adequate protein and carbohydrates is important in preventing and treating high blood pressure, diabetes and other medical conditions. In addition, ensuring you get enough vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet and/or by supplements helps to maintain strong bones and strong minds. Seniors should avoid tobacco and only use alcohol in moderation, if at all.  Both of these bad habits can lead to worse medical health and memory!

Significant memory loss or dementia (or senility) is not a “given of aging." Keeping good control of cardiovascular risk factors, getting regular exercise and eating well all lead to improved memory and activity in elderly. Memory loss occurs with many conditions of aging including low thyroid function, low vitamin B12 level, active medical conditions, depression and with many medications. 

Depression is absolutely not a normal symptom of aging. Appropriate treatment of depression can improve memory and activity levels. Remember that staying socially and intellectually active also helps to maintain your memory. 

Enjoy your Golden Years!

Again, it’s never too early to start preparing for the aging process. With these five tips in mind, you are sure to be running into your Golden Years.