heart care, medical, care

9 ways to stay super healthy at 65+

The key to enjoying your retirement is to stay healthy both physically and mentally. This means pursuing a lifestyle that is focused on a nutritious diet and exercising your body and mind. Here’s how you can stay super healthy at 65+

Taking care of your health, ie keeping fit and active, is important no matter what age you are. It becomes even more important as you reach retirement.

Once you hit your 60s, your immune system starts to weaken and your chances of picking up an illness begin to increase. Thus, becoming and staying healthy becomes vital if you are to enjoy your retirement.

Most people retiring these days can expect a long retirement of 25 to 30 years … provided they keep healthy and strong in body and mind.

Here’s a few pointers that’ll help you:

Eat nutritious foodTake supplements as appropriate
Keep physically activeMonitor your health at regular intervals
Takes steps to avoid infectionsLearn to manage your stress levels
Get plenty of sleepSocialise as much as you can
Take care of your brain power 

Eat nutritious food

Your digestive system slows down with age. However, eating nutritious foods that are suitable for retirees does not have to be complicated. Here’s how:

  • Concentrate on fruit and vegetables. Emphasise dark green vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, sprouts etc, and orange-coloured vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
  • Eat proteins from low fat sources such as beans, peas and other vegetables, some fish species and ultra-lean meat.
  • Go whole-grain for your carbohydrates … whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice and so on.
  • Minimise processed foods as these are often full of sugar and/or fats to enhance flavours.
  • Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Drink non-dairy soy or almond “milk” fortified with calcium and vitamin D
  • Minimise you fat intake and make sure that any fats you do consume are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
  • Switch from solid fats (eg, lard) to oils when cooking.

Diets rich in vegetables, fruit and lean protein give your immune system a boost and help protect you against the viruses and bacteria that cause illnesses.

In addition, many vegetables and fruit are good sources of the antioxidants that protect your cells from the damage that can cause cancers.  

However, foods high in sugar and fats can trigger inflammation in your body and reduce the effectiveness of your immune system.

My diet .. here’s a summary of a nutritious, health-generating diet I devised to cure my type 2 diabetes. This diet has improved the health of many non-diabetics including retirees.

Eat as much as you like of: natural, unprocessed foods, mainly plants, that are low in sugar, low in fat, low in salt, high in fibre, digested slowly. You also need to exclude all dairy products and all eggs.

In addition, you need to drink plenty of water, to aid the absorption of all the fibre you eat and keep you energised and alert. Personally, I drink at least two litres of water a day in addition to the water I take in from drinking juices, coffee, tea, and soy milk.

You can find out more at beating-diabetes.com.

Take dietary supplements as appropriate

Multi-vitamins and other dietary supplements can boost your immune system and help you avoid or reduce your risk of a variety of chronic medical conditions, such as some cancers and various diseases of the vital organs.

As we grow older, taking dietary supplements such as vitamins and minerals becomes more and more necessary.

Your doctor can advise you on the dietary supplements that are appropriate for your state of health.

Indeed, before taking a supplement, always ask your doctor if it is safe.

You need to do this especially if you’re taking regular medications, because some supplements can interfere with the efficacy of certain prescription drugs.

Here’s what I take each morning with my breakfast:

(1) Multivitamins and minerals in one tablet

(2) Vitamin B12 (1,000mcg) in a separate tablet

(3) Calcium (400mg) plus vitamin D (2.5mcg) together in a separate tablet

(4) High-strength cod-liver oil capsule with vitamins D and E (1,000mg) in a separate capsule

(5) Cinnamon … one large teaspoon sprinkled on my porridge (oatmeal) or other cereal

The supplements I take are what I feel I need to maintain a full properly balanced diet. Each person however is different and has differing nutritional needs.

You need to tailor the supplements you take to your own actual dietary needs through discussions with your medical advisor.

Keep physically active

Physical activity will boost your immune system. The more you move, the more your body is able to fight inflammation and infections.

In addition, exercise alleviates depression and also improves energy and memory.

The exercises you do don’t have to be strenuous. Effective exercises for retirees include walking, biking, swimming, and low impact aerobics.

You can also strengthen your muscles by lifting weights, using exercise bands (my personal preference), or doing yoga.

Walking is key. Walk as much as you can whenever and wherever you can. Most Japanese are healthy though they never exercise as such but they walk everywhere.

On a visit to Japan, I was astonished to see how the Japanese walk in the street. They all scurry around rapidly as if they were doing some sort of powerwalking.

Received medical opinion is that you, as a retiree, need to engage in exercise that is moderately intense for about 150 minutes (2.5 hours) a week to stay fit. To achieve this target, all you have to do is engage in moderate intensity exercise for about 20 to 30 minutes a day.

That’s easy! Long walks at a strolling pace will do the trick!

You should, of course, modify your exercise routine until you find what works best for you. For example, you can break your 30 minutes a day down into 3x 10-minute sessions.

If you are inactive at the moment and have seldom exercised, it would be best to start with a few minutes of activity such as strolling gently and gradually increase your time as you get stronger.

Once you’ve got your fitness under control, through diet and exercise, you’ll be able to stay active and do more.

Being fit is important for your overall sense of well-being and your ability to enjoy your retirement.

Monitor your health at regular intervals

Your immune system weakens with age, so your focus must be on prevention. This means having a full medical check-up at least once a year.

It is always easier to treat a disease when it is discovered in its early stages. Starting treatment of a disease as soon as it is discovered can often avoid long-term complications.

Your annual check-up should include screenings for cholesterol levels, heart problems, colon cancer, and high levels of blood pressure and blood glucose.

Chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney problems can go undetected for several years unless your doctor specifically checks for them.

In addition, should you develop symptoms that worry you between your annual check-ups you should visit you doctor without delay.

You also need to be vaccinated against influenza, pneumonia, and covid-19 during the winter season. It takes about two weeks for a vaccine to become effective.

Getting vaccinated reduces you chance of catching the flu by 40 to 60% provided the vaccine matches the strains that are circulating in your community.

The efficacy of most vaccines lasts less than a year. In addition, viruses evolve continuously so new strains appear every year. Thus, you must be vaccinated every year.

Because the flu virus changes from year to year, you should get it early. You should also consider asking you doctor for pneumococcal vaccines that protect against meningitis and pneumonia.

Be aware that the flu virus can lead to complications once you are aged 65+. So, if you have any cold or flu symptoms, see your doctor immediately.

If you see a doctor within the first 48 hours of flu symptoms, he or she can prescribe an antiviral drug to reduce the severity and length of symptoms.

Teeth … our risk of developing cavities goes up with age, so you should visit your dentist every six months.

In addition, you should note that many mouth infections can be linked to chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Eyes … if you wear glasses you should have your eyesight checked every year for changes in your prescription. Wearing a pair of properly prescribed spectacles can reduce your chances of a fall.

You should also have your eyes screened once a year for problems such as retinopathy, glaucoma, and other damage caused by aging and high blood pressure.

Medications … in addition to the above, you need to take control of your medications to ensure that you don’t forget to take them.

If you take several drugs every day to control chronic diseases, if is easy to become confused as to which drugs you have taken already and which are due later in the day.

The simplest remedy is to get a pillbox which has 14 or 21 compartments, 2 or 3 for each day of the week for pills you take in the morning and evening or morning, afternoon and evening.

Put your tablets for the week in the appropriate compartments and you’ll be able to take the correct tablets at the times required.

Most regular medications are taken around mealtimes or on getting up or going to bed. Make sure you place you pillbox in a place where you’ll see it around the time you need to take your meds.

Most pharmacies provide these pillboxes free of charge to their regular customers.

Take steps to avoid infections

If the covid-19 pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that we should always adhere to the basic rules of hygiene.

A little knowledge, a modicum of common sense and respect for hygiene are the most effective ways to avoid all sorts of infections.

The structure of viruses vary, but those such as influenza, pneumonia, and corona viruses are essentially assemblages of proteins surrounded by a protective layer such as fat. Fat melts at 28 or 290C.

These viruses are good at surviving. In fact, they can survive on many surfaces for up to 24 hours.

There are three main ways a virus can enter you body … through the mouth, nose and eyes.

The rules we learned to fight the covid-19 pandemic can help us fight the flu and pneumonia virus:

  • frequent hand washing at high temperatures to destroy the protective layer
  • use hand cream
  • use of hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
  • minimize touching objects and your face … eyes, nose and mouth
  • coughing or sneezing into your elbow or disposable tissues
  • disinfecting surfaces
  • wearing a mask outdoors and especially in crowds
  • social distancing
  • touching elbows rather than shaking hands
  • using zinc lozenges
  • staying out of the way when sick
  • seeking medical attention as needed

Handwashing … fat melts at just under 300C. Washing your hands in hot water, ie over 300C, will melt the virus’s surrounding layer of fat. Without that protective layer of fat, the virus dies. It’s best to wash your hands in water that is as hot as you can stand for at least 30 seconds.

You should wash you hands as often as possible because viruses can live on hard surfaces such as door handles, wooden chair backs and so on for a whole day.

If you touch a virus-covered surface, you could contaminate your hands. Then, when you touch your face, you could in turn infect your mouth or eyes.

Hand cream … there is a chance, small though it is, that viruses can survive in the cracks and lines of your hands despite frequent washing at high temperatures.

However, if you massage ordinary hand cream between the palms of you hand, the cream will smother the virus so it remains in those cracks until it dies.

Hand sanitiser … as an alternative to washing your hands can be very effective in destroying viruses provided they contain more than 60% alcohol by volume.

Most commercial hand sanitisers contain 70% alcohol (but check the label). The alcohol destroys the protective layer of fat around the virus and the virus dies instantly.

Minimise touching … you should avoid touching objects with your hands as much as possible. For example, to open a door you can use you elbow if the door has a handle and not a doorknob.

When touching objects is unavoidable, you can use plastic disposable gloves and dispose them carefully when you are finished whatever you were doing.

You should also avoid touching your face with your hands as far as possible lest you infect your mouth, nose or eyes.

Social etiquette … when you cough or sneeze you should do so into your elbow or use disposable tissues which you can throw away or (preferably) incinerate.

Disinfect surfaces … you should disinfect surfaces around your home and workstation frequently using commercial disinfectants that contain more than 60% alcohol.

Mask up … when outdoors, on the streets, in shops, in all places where you are likely to meet people and interact socially.

Use a medical grade mask, preferably an N95 or N99 which will prevent 95% or 99% of all matter entering with the air you breathe. The mask will also stop you from infecting others.

Social distancing … practise standing at least one metre (yard) away from others to minimise that chance that droplets due to coughing, sneezing or just talking loudly can pass from one to the other.

Touching elbows … you should not shake hands during the flu season or other periods of infection. Instead you can touch elbows while wearing a mask.

Zinc lozenges … as soon as you feel a cold or flu like symptoms coming on, allow a zinc lozenge to dissolve in your mouth.

The zinc fluid will coat the membranes of your mouth and throat, and will cause any viruses on their surfaces to trickle down your throat to your stomach where you digestive juices with get rid of them. 

Stay out of the way … if you are sick, avoid contact with others. If others are sick, avoid being close to them also. It’s only common sense.

If there’s a flu outbreak in your area, limit contact with people who aren’t feeling well and avoid crowded areas until conditions improve, even though it’s easier said than done.

If you have to care for someone who has the flu, wear a face mask and gloves, and wash your hands frequently.

Medical attention … as soon as you feel sick, seek medical attention.

There is no need to go to your doctor’s office, which can spread any infection you might have, as a simple phone call describing your symptoms will be enough for you doctor to advise you on what to do. 

In most countries in the Western world, testing for covid-19 and for influenza is usually free of charge.

Learn to manage your stress levels

Chronic (continuous) stress increases your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can disrupt different functions in your body, including your immune system.

Thus, to promote your health, you need to minimise your stress levels. Studies show that chronic stress can suppress protective immune responses and exacerbate pathological immune responses…

For example, a study published by the US National Library of Medicine (NIH) in 2014, Effects of stress on immune function, summarised the various effects, good and bad, short-term and long-term stress can have on our lives.

To reduce stress, you must increase your physical activity, get plenty of sleep, set achievable expectations for yourself, and explore relaxing, enjoyable activities.  

Not get your stress under control can shorten your life.

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep is how your body repairs itself.

For this reason, getting enough sleep can strengthen your immune system, making it easier for your body to fight off viruses. And, as you get older, it can improve your memory and concentration.

Aim for at least seven and a half to nine hours of sleep a night. Make sure you are getting a minimum of 7 hours sleep a night.

When you are not getting enough sleep, your immune system cannot function properly.

A study published in Sleep in 2014, Behaviourally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold, found that adults who slept less than 6 hours a night were 4 times more likely to get a cold compared to adults who slept for more than 7 hours.

Frequent waking and insomnia in the night are common among retirees. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor to find the underlying cause.

Causes of insomnia can include inactivity during the day and too much caffeine. Or it can be a sign of a medical condition like sleep apnoea or restless leg syndrome.

You can help yourself to fall asleep by turning the lights down in the evening to spur on drowsiness and make sure your bedroom is comfortable, cool and quiet.

Socialise as much as you can

We all need to feel connected, worthy of attention, to feel we are part of society, and thus to feel loved.

Spend time with your family and grandchildren. If you have mobility issues, ask them to visit you. Visits will make you feel more upbeat, which is the best medicine at any age.

Resurrect old friendships and catch up on life’s events.

Join groups, such as sports clubs, walking clubs, hobby clubs etc, to combine friendships with enjoyable activities.

Sharing you common interests will boost your sense of wellbeing, and will ensure you have an enjoyable retirement.

Take care of your brain power

Our brain power is what makes us human. However, like everything else, it tends to decline gradually as we get older.

Some of us slide gently into dementia and grow more unaware of your surroundings.

Your risk of developing dementia is increased if you suffer from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, depression, HIV, etc.

Your risk is exacerbated if you smoke or engage in substance abuse.

But dementia only affects a small minority of retirees.

For most of us our ability to acquire knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses, which is what our brain power is, continues albeit at a slower pace.

This slowdown can be slowed or even paused by exercising our brains.

As you grow older, you should take up doing crossword puzzles, reading, writing, and other mental exercises, as these activities require plenty of thinking.

Like any muscle, your brain needs exercise if it is to be fit.

Taking up new hobbies and sports will also stimulate your mind. Engaging with the world around you, such as discussing current affairs, is another way to slow down a decline in your brain power.

Learning a new skill is one of the best ways to keep your brain power up to speed.

At 74, I am learning digital marketing and the effort has certainly improved my thinking skills. I now understand quicker and remember better.

Outro

Hopefully, you are now in a better position to understand what you have to do to lead a healthier and therefore more enjoyable life in your retirement.

People who had good healthy habits when they were younger tend to enjoy a healthy retirement. But if you didn’t lead a healthy lifestyle when you were younger, be aware that it’s never too late.

Good habits built around a nutritious diet and plenty of exercise can improve the health of retirees who did not make their health a priority in the past and are now prone to illness.

If you have any questions or need more information, email me on paul@paul-kennedy.com

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