Is ageing the sole cause of chronic diseases? This has unfortunately been a longstanding belief and it’s difficult to change the perception of many people, including doctors. Chronic illness is not a consequence of aging. While old age may be associated with increasing disease burden in many individuals, we also find several 80-year-olds who are fit and capable of performing high-level tasks. So is there any specific formula, or mantra, to improve our health as we age?
Recent research suggests that people with a poor lifestyle, over a period of time, are likely to be affected with illness. Here are some simple steps, which an individual can adopt to live a fulfilling and healthy life during old age:
Taking Responsibility for Your Own Health
Take steps to educate yourself on health issues and follow the advice of health professionals the best you can. Do not postpone or ignore your body’s warning signs. Find a person who you can relate to and discuss your health issues with him or her.
- Adequate Physical Activity
Keep moving and having short walks. Sitting idle increases stiffness in your muscles and contributes to aches and pains. A person going for regular walks is more confident and this indirectly improves their social activity. Both these factors in conjunction contribute to wellness in the elderly.
- Balanced Diet and Proper Hydration
Very little importance is given to hydration. This is very crucial in our country as most parts have a warm and humid weather. On an average 2 litres of water is required a day and more on warmer days. A balanced diet, with a good portion of fruits and green vegetables, improves well-being and overall life expectancy.
- Sleep and Destress
Emotional problems can damage physical health and also affect sleep. Lack of sleep can worsen emotional well-being. This weakens your immune system and affects mental function. Hence, develop strategies to maintain a good sleeping pattern.
- Vitalize Your Brain
Continuing to learn new tasks energizes your brain and indirectly your health. Your brain needs to be stimulated constantly over the years or you are likely to lose its functional capacity. This in turn can contribute to poor memory and concentration.
Having fun and laughter is important in keeping healthy. Do not remain isolated from social circles as you age. Here, the families’ contribution is vital and they should actively encourage elders to continue social activities.
As part of the society, we can contribute in bringing some changes in our mindset and lifestyle needed to prevent hurdles faced by the elderly, including creating special opportunities for their travel and work. After all, it is never too late to improve health and enjoy an active life.
Dr R. Magesh
Consultant Geriatric Physician
Apollo Hospitals, Chennai