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Over 55? Stop Doing These Things Right Now, Say Experts 

Drop these bad habits to live long and prosper.

All of us would like to think we're getting better with age. But the truth is, most of us aren't getting better at avoiding certain patterns that come with aging—everyday habits that can seriously affect your heart, brain and cancer risk, some you'd never guess were that harmful. These are five things that doctors are practically begging you to stop doing after the age of 55, so you can have many healthy years to come. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


You've Got to Stop Being Sedentary

Bored guy lying down on couch eating potato chips and drinking a beer

A sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for the diseases that strike more often in later years—dementia, diabetes, cancer, heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise), plus muscle-strengthening exercise two times a week. Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of us see that much action.

Good news: even small amounts of activity can make a difference. Sarah Rettinger, MD, an endocrinologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, recommends setting a timer reminding you to get up and move once every hour, for five to ten minutes. "If you can't take a short walk outside, walk up and down stairs, take a few laps around the house or apartment, do a few jumping jacks—anything to get your heart rate up a bit, or to make you a little out of breath," she says. "Over the course of a day, these mini-breaks really add up."


Do Something About Being Lonely

Sad mature woman looking out of window.

Studies have found that being lonely can have negative health effects similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and may increase older adults' risk of developing dementia by 50%. Do everything you can to stay socially connected: Socialize regularly with friends and loved ones, join activity or support groups, or volunteer. Studies have found that mentoring younger people is particularly beneficial for brain health.

RELATED: Not Remembering This One Thing Can Be a Sign of Dementia


Stop Thinking Getting Older Means "Game Over"

Senior man in eyeglasses looking in distance out of window

Accentuating the positive can have a real impact on health as you grow older, particularly on the brain. "Having a positive view of aging is associated with both living longer and living better," says Scott Kaiser, MD, a board-certified geriatrician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Research done at Yale University found that people who had positive self-perceptions about growing older lived 7.5 years longer and had lower rates of Alzheimer's disease better than people with more negative views.

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Do Not Postpone Your Vaccinations

Doctor and senior woman wearing facemasks

COVID-19 booster shot recommendations are forthcoming, but you shouldn't wait to ask your doctor if you're up to date on your vaccines. Adults over 55 should be vaccinated against the flu annually, and against shingles, meningitis, and pneumonia as your doctor recommends. Skipping those shots could put you at risk of illnesses ranging from painful to potentially fatal.

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Do Not Accept Insomnia As Normal

Worried senior depressed man sitting in bed and suffering from insomnia while his wife sleep

Insomnia is not a natural part of aging. In fact, it can actually shorten your life. During sleep, various systems throughout the body refresh and reboot. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to a range of maladies, including cancer, heart disease and dementia. Experts, including the National Sleep Foundation, recommend that all adults get seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. If you're not, ask your doctor how you can get there—and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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