Health is always a priority heading into a new year, but amid a winter in which we’re experiencing rising cases in COVID-19, flu and RSV, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is more important than ever.
Caring for an older adult? Helping them to set some realistic goals on January 1 can instill a sense of confidence and accomplishment throughout the year and promote healthy aging and longevity. Here’s six important and realistic New Year's health tips that can really make a difference.
- Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
- Include nuts, beans, and/or legumes in your daily menu. These “healthy” fats are clinically proven to decrease our risk of developing heart disease.
- Choose fiber-rich whole grain bread, brown rice, and whole grain pasta.
- Pick less fatty meats like chicken or turkey. Have heart-healthy fish, like tuna, salmon, or shrimp, twice a week. Include sources of calcium and Vitamin D to help keep aging bones strong - two daily servings of low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese are a good way to get these nutrients. By encouraging your loved ones to consume a diet with less red meat, their blood cholesterol levels will drop, decreasing their risk of chronic diseases, including top killers like heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and obesity.
- Use healthier fats, such as olive and canola oils, instead of butter or lard. Use herbs and spices to add flavor when cooking, which reduces the need to add salt or fat.
- Avoid consuming excess sugar, as this leads to a condition called insulin resistance, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes, a fatty liver, and cardiovascular disease. It has also been associated with cirrhosis, neuropathy, kidney disease, general inflammation, and cancer.
The USDA’s Choose My Plate program is a great resource to help your and your family make good food choices.
Physical activity can be safe and healthy for older adults, even those who have heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis. In fact, many of these conditions get better with mild to moderate physical activity. Exercises such as walking, stretching, water aerobics and tai chi can help to control weight, build muscles and improve balance, posture, and mood. Check in with your loved ones, as they may have an insurance plan that makes them eligible for the SilverSneakers program, which can provide access to local fitness centers.
“What if my loved one struggles with mobility?”
Whether they’re recovering from surgery, dealing with a debilitating disease or disability, or need assistance because chronic illnesses are affecting their mobility and physical abilities, in-home physical therapy can provide your loved one with the support they need to remain active.
Visit Healthcare Providers
Seeing a doctor regularly is a vital health investment. Regular examinations catch problems early, when they are more treatable. This is particularly important for older adults, as susceptibility to illness increases with age. If you are present with a loved one at a visit, talk to their provider about all the medications they are taking, and find out if they should be getting any new or booster immunizations/shots.
Similarly, good senior dental care is a must and could help prevent common problems, like toothaches, gum disease, and tooth loss. Healthy teeth also help older adults enjoy food and eat better. During the month of January, Interim HealthCare of the Twin Cities will be giving out mints in order to remind seniors and their families of the importance of good oral hygiene, so we can all stay minty fresh as we start a fresh year!
Get Plenty Sleep
It’s critical for older adults to keep a regular sleep schedule and get about eight hours of sleep a night. Having a strong, healthy immune system will give them a little more of a barrier against developing infections such as COVID-19, so it’s important to prioritize sleep.
Try establishing a regular bedtime and wake-up time, avoiding caffeine later in the day, turning off electronics before bedtime, setting boundaries around media consumption, exercising regularly, avoiding naps, cutting out alcohol, and paying attention to the possible signs of sleep apnea. Visit the National Sleep Foundation’s website for more tips on how to sleep better.
Reduce The Risk of Falls
If you have an aging parent or another senior loved one in your family, you likely worry about their safety at home. And with good reason - falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans and can compromise their ability to live safely and happily at home.
Exercises such as walking or working out with an elastic band can increase strength, balance, and flexibility and help them avoid falls. Look at eliminating items in their home that are easy to trip over, like throw rugs, insert grab bars in the bathtub or shower, and install night lights so it’s easier to see at night.
Prioritize Mental Health
Did you know about 1 in 5 older adults suffers from depression or anxiety? Some possible signs of depression can be lingering sadness, tiredness, loss of appetite or pleasure in doing things they once enjoyed. You may also have difficulty sleeping, worry, irritability, and wanting to be alone. If you, or someone you care for, have any of these signs for more than two weeks, talk to your healthcare provider and reach out to friends and family.
Remember, socializing and staying connected with the outer world helps those of all ages fight off depression. Considering the risks of isolation for seniors, it's particularly important they stay engaged with the world around them. Try setting a schedule for your loved ones to call a friend or family member regularly, get together with friends, volunteer in the community, or join a book club or other social group.
Here’s to a Happy New Year with successful resolutions!
Contact us today or call us at (651) 917-3634 to learn more - we are always happy to help.