Staying fit and healthy changes as we age and this can be a challenge. Some medical risk factors increase as we get older and some are also linked to our body mass and lifestyle. Heart disease, some cancers and even mental health and capacity can be impacted by how we live. The good news is that we now know so much more than we used to about the measures we can take to keep our bodies and our minds healthier for longer. To mark World Health Day we’ve compiled some top tips to keep us in healthy in retirement and beyond.
According to neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker in his book, “Why We Sleep”, lack of sleep is linked to weight gain, lower energy levels, lower concentration, lower libido and a higher risk of cancer, depression, Alzheimer’s and heart attacks. His research highlights that sleep changes as we age. “Older adults do not have a reduced sleep need, but instead, an impaired ability to generate sleep.” How do we combat this? Walker recommends “good sleep hygiene” including avoiding caffeine from afternoon onwards, cutting out alcohol, cutting back on late night screen usage and keeping a sleep diary to track the changes in daily habits and the sleep outcome at night.
Government guidelines recommend that older adults do 150 minutes of “moderate intensity” activity per week and strengthening exercises twice a week. This helps to keep energy levels up as well as muscle tone. It is also linked to increased well-being. A pedometer or health app on your mobile device is a great way to monitor your progress and health.
Try to follow NHS guidelines for a balanced diet including whole-grains, a variety of fruit and vegetables – particularly leafy greens, protein and carbohydrates. Don’t be afraid of the good fats including eggs, salmon, avocados and nuts. Try to cut out or at least heavily cut back on fizzy drinks, sugar, empty carbs (white bread and pasta), saturated fats and alcohol.
Water is the best option as it doesn’t carry unnecessary calories and caffeine.
Your doctor may advise you to take vitamin supplements including vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is common and has been linked to cognitive impairment, bone problems and also cardiovascular disease.
Make sure you take care of your teeth and see your dentist regularly. Don’t allow for deterioration. If you spot a problem, book an appointment sooner rather than later.
Do stick to appointments made for you by your GP and other medical professionals including breast screening, prostate examinations and cervical examinations. Don’t hesitate to book an appointment if you feel that your hearing or eyesight is deteriorating. There are simple fixes that are far better than struggling and possibly making things worse in the long run.