People today are living longer than ever. While retirement typically marks the beginning of the senior years, new retirees could have several decades of life ahead of them. To enjoy the highest quality of life throughout those years, older adults must pay careful attention to their health.
Certain physiological changes are an expected part of aging. Bones and muscles shrink, skin thins, hearing and vision dim, and joints lose flexibility. However, an individual's lifestyle influences how severe and limiting such age-related health changes can be.
From optimizing your exercise plan with wearable tech to understanding your health care plan, these are four things all new retirees should do to maximize their health during the senior years:
Exercise for Function and Mobility
Exercise helps seniors maintain a healthy weight and stay flexible, mobile and strong. It fights age-related decline in muscle and bone density, improves cardiovascular function and increases stability so older adults are less likely to suffer a fall. Exercise also improves cognition, mood, and sleep for better mental health during the senior years.
A healthy exercise plan for older adults should include aerobic, strengthening, flexibility-training, and balance-training exercises. Seniors can learn more about physical activity guidelines and the benefits of exercise at MedicineNet.com.
Since committing to a workout plan can be challenging, seniors should consider an activity tracker. Wearable fitness trackers are an excellent tool for assisting workouts, and they offer useful health and safety features. For example, the latest models in the line of Apple Watches include an SOS feature for emergencies, fall detection, and an ECG. For Android fans, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active2 is water resistant and provides a heart rate monitor.
Understand the Health Care Options
Adults are eligible for health care coverage through Medicare beginning at age 65. However, original Medicare, also known as Medicare Parts A and B, might not provide the same coverage people are accustomed to with private health insurance. Original Medicare does not cover prescription drugs, vision care or dental care.
Seniors can supplement original Medicare with Medicare Part D prescription drug plans or Medicare Advantage Plans. These plans include all the coverage of Medicare Parts A and B with additional benefits that may include dental care, vision care, and prescription drugs. Medicare Advantage is an attractive option, because all benefits are managed under a single health plan.
Keep Up With Preventive Care
The immune system weakens with age, making preventive health care of particular importance for older adults. Regular health screenings are also key for early identification and intervention of emerging health conditions.
Vaccines.gov recommends older adults receive zoster (shingles) and pneumococcal vaccines. Seniors should also receive an annual influenza vaccine. A senior's physician may recommend additional vaccines based on health and vaccination history.
Regular screenings for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, diabetes and colorectal and breast cancer should also be part of a senior's preventive care regimen.
Eat a Balanced Diet
A diet high in fiber, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein promotes good health in the later years. Unfortunately, many older adults experience decreased appetite and barriers to shopping and cooking that make a healthy diet more difficult than when they were younger. Scheduled meals and grocery delivery services are two tools seniors can use to achieve proper nutrition.
Older adults must be mindful of what they drink in addition to what they eat. Sense of thirst declines with age, but staying hydrated is no less important. Individuals should make a point to sip water throughout the day and avoid overconsumption of alcohol, as the body's tolerance for alcohol decreases with age.
Ultimately, the measures older adults must take to stay healthy aren't much different than the advice given to their younger counterparts. However, as people age, the consequences of poor health management become more severe. By making these changes early in one’s senior years, older adults can improve their health and enjoy an increased quality of life as they age.
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