Over 50? Stop Doing These Things Right Now Says Geriatrician
We all age. It's an inevitable but manageable natural process everyone experiences. It is HOW we age that determines the quality of life we enjoy. The "how we age" is influenced by our choice of behaviors that ultimately affects how our aging plays out.
I live this now. I am a retired internal medicine and geriatric physician who has cared for countless patients for decades. I've witnessed their aging and enjoyment, or lack thereof, during their later years, and saw how this was impacted by their personal decisions. I provided the best care I could and, in return, my patients taught me lessons I try to apply in my everyday, now that I am in the later years of my own life.
Currently, I serve on the Senior Helpers Board of Directors, one of the nation's premier providers of personalized in-home senior care. Senior Helpers delivers on the HOW to age. Its services range from specialized care for those with diseases, such as dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, to personal and companion care to help individuals looking for a little assistance with daily activities. The company's goal is to help seniors learn how to age gracefully, which I will now share some tips for below. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Stop Acting Like You Are Still in Your 20s
The first thing I'd recommend those over 50 stop doing is acting like you are still in your 20s. Seriously, our bodies are totally different when it comes to the physiology of aging and that is something you cannot change. Instead, you must learn how to manage and deal with the inevitable changes. Our musculoskeletal system does not have the flexibility and strength like we once did in our youth, which consequently means we are more prone to falls and injury. Additionally, our senses of sight, hearing and balance begin to diminish over time. The lesson is that you must recognize you are no longer 20 years old and that it's okay. We have to adapt by doing things that recognize these limitations. Exercise should be lower impact and lower-level intensity in order to be safer and avoid risk of injury. I recommend exercises that build up your aerobic and musculoskeletal capabilities. Activities as simple as walking, cycling and swimming are good examples of aerobic exercise. Gardening, stretching exercises and other recreational activities can be aerobic as well. All of these activities engage the mind and help keep seniors alert and sharp, while also helping to improve conditioning, strength, mobility and endurance.
Stop Ignoring Your Body
The second thing to stop doing is ignoring your body and not seeking help. This is one of the most important habits someone over the age of 50 needs to break. Your body knows when something is wrong, and you must listen to it. Doing so can help mitigate the effects of growing old. The body communicates its stresses and strains via pain or discomfort. This joint hurts, that activity causes chest pain, and so on. Listen and seek regular medical care from a qualified clinician if such occurrences happen. Seeking early treatment when your body shows warning signs can lessen the incidence and severity of diseases, helping you avoid serious health problems, such as severe orthopedic injuries or a pending heart attack. The lesson: let qualified clinicians decide diagnosis and offer treatment—don't ignore!
Stop Avoiding Your Doctor
The third thing to stop doing after age 50 is avoiding the doctor. Routine checkups, even if asymptomatic, are a must for those in or approaching their senior years. Attending these appointments can help detect diseases you might never be aware of otherwise. Generally, the older you get, the more likely you will have lurking issues. A good example is a screening colonoscopy. Colonoscopies are necessary once you enter your senior years, and they are key to preventing colorectal cancer. In fact, because of the test, most colon cancers are detected in an early, curable stage. Before the exam became widely available, patients typically presented with colon cancer that had already spread, leaving patients with unfavorable symptoms like rectal bleeding, weight loss and abdominal pain, that otherwise could've been prevented or reduced. The small risk of a test removing a precancerous polyp is well worth it.
Quit These Unhealthy Behaviors
The fourth thing to stop doing is partaking in unhealthy behaviors of eating, drinking and sleeping. Balancing your nutrition, controlling your alcohol consumption and having plenty of rest is a good formula to bettering your wellbeing and brain health. Specifically, diets rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and whole grains are essential to having a healthy and happy brain. The Mediterranean, DASH and MIND diets are all worthy of consideration as they have been linked to a decreased risk of cognitive decline. That said, it is important you consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or sleep schedule.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
The fifth thing to stop doing is avoiding your mental health. This might even be the most important thing to stop doing. One can lead a happy life with a lot of physical debility, but if depression and anxiety are prominent, happy aging is near impossible. This risk can be countered with routine social interactions, strong family ties and spirituality. Go to your community game night, join a club, attend those birthday parties, etc. It is clear we individually function better when we participate in society. It is called being human.
Keep Your Brain Active
Another important thing you must consider after the age of 50 is keeping the mind active. Activities like word games, jigsaw puzzles, dancing and daily meditation all stimulate the brain and can help improve concentration, memory, hand-eye coordination, critical thinking skills and more. Not only are these activities easy to do but they are easily accessible. Find a word game on the last page of your local newspaper. Move some tables around, turn on some tunes and show off your moves. Schedule a few minutes everyday to engage in mediation, which will allow your brain and body to relax and reset after those fun word games and dancing.
The biggest secret to feeling better and living longer is staying active, both physically and mentally. You cannot let your life-long bad behaviors continue into your 50s and affect HOW you age.
Aging is a scary thing, but it doesn't have to be. Of course, some bumps may come along the way, but if you plan, take the necessary steps and break your bad habits, you can make aging favorable and turn it into the best decades of your life.And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.
Dr. James Dan, MD, is the geriatric clinical advisor and member of the Senior Helpers Board of Directors.