10 healthy habits to put in place by age 70
As we approach our golden years, we become heterogeneous – much more diverse in our health and wellbeing than we were in preceding decades. Some 70-year-olds are in prime condition, running marathons. Others are feeble and confined to wheelchairs.
There’s a huge range of health in this decade and, as people get older, they’re more prone to diseases. But not everybody gets those diseases. Some get none, while others get some or all.
I believe the key to remaining healthy in our 70s is to remain vigilant in maintaining the good habits that guided us this far.
Here are 10 tips that I believe can help any septuagenarian stay healthy:
1. Be active
From my experience, the No. 1 thing that separates healthy from non-healthy people is exercise. Studies show that people who exercise 150 minutes or more per week are healthier than those who don’t. Why? As you get older, you can’t tolerate things as well as when you were younger. In addition to diseases, you’re more likely to be frail. If young people don’t exercise, they’re going to be fine, but if people in their 70s don’t exercise, things aren’t going to be fine.
That doesn’t mean you have to practice formal exercise routines, although some people in their 70s are aggressively working out. You should just be active. If you’re mowing your lawn and four other people’s lawns, you’re being active. If you’re walking around the store, that’s not being active. You should be exercising enough to work up a sweat. If you’re going to the mall and briskly walking around mall, that’s fine.
2. Eat right
People who are healthy are eating well. They’re not overeating. They’re eating lots of fruits and vegetables. They’re not eating out at restaurants often, and not frequenting fast-food restaurants. They’re minimizing snacks and sweets and eating lots of fruits and vegetables. If you’re eating properly, you won’t have to take vitamin supplements, as you’ll be getting enough appropriate supplements through your diet.
3. See your doctor and seek their advice
Everyone has health issues at this point in their lives. An unhealthy habit is to have a disease and not do the right things to correct it. For example, if you have diabetes, you need to address it and not ignore it. Whatever health issue you have, you need to figure a plan and follow it.
4. Avoid stress and readjust your life
This is a bit of a hodgepodge category. For people who’ve stopped working, they want to be useful. Others want to relax and travel. Some people who are getting closer to end of life want to fulfill a bucket list. Find appropriate answers and the balance that’s right for you. At the same time, find ways to relax if you’re not accomplishing all of the items on your bucket list. Find ways to not stress out if you’re not being as useful as you’d like. And don’t make a goal that’s going to make you more stressed.
5. Minimize medicines
A lot of people have side effects from their medicines. Polypharmacy is taking too many medicines that have bad effects. Take an inventory of your medications, and have a plan to take as few medications as possible. Work with your doctor to minimize the amount of medications you’re taking. Some medicines impact other medicines.
6. Build and use a support system
People have smaller support systems as they age. Friends, spouses and relatives might start dying off. Coworkers have most likely gone away as a support system, too. Children have families of their own. Work on your support systems, whether through church, Facebook, Meetup groups or other means. Develop a network of people to call if you need help.
7. Plan for the future
Yes, even in your 70s, you should be looking forward. Have discussions with families about your plans for a living will and power of attorney. Discuss with others what your wishes are regarding financial planning.
And remember that if your health status changes, you’re allowed to change your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan each year. You must understand how Medicare and Medicaid work. There are plenty of resources online, as well as telephone and in-person help centers you can access.
8. Exercise your mind
Keeping mentally active is the biggest thing that can help with decreased cognition. Do Sudoku, Cryptoquip, crossword puzzles and word searches. Or read or watch TV and discuss what you’re reading and watching with others.
The incidence of dementia increases with age – 25 percent of all people who reach 85 will already have or will develop dementia. Mental exercises won’t stop dementia, but it can slow down the progression.
9. Avoid excess alcohol
Alcohol is an issue with the 70s population, because they grew up in a time when the cocktail party was a common social practice. A fair number of people in this population have a drinking problem. No one – men or women – should have more than seven drinks in a week in their 70s.
10. Don’t smoke
The percentage of older people smoking is low. When this group was younger, they smoked, but for some reason, many have quit by now. It’s never a good argument to say, “I’ve gone this long without a problem.” One cigarette can cause your arteries to spasm. If you smoke today, it could have negative effects tomorrow.
Robert Murden specializes in geriatric medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. U.S News & World Report named him one of America’s Best Doctors, and he rated in the top 10 percent of physicians in the nation for patient satisfaction in 2017.
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