Checklist for the 65+ Crowd

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“65” is often considered a turning point. And so it is as well for Alzheimer’s disease: with age the greatest risk factor for the brain disorder, the number of people with the disease doubles every five years beyond age 65.

However, this milestone can also be looked at positively—a time to really concentrate on successful aging. By incorporating these 15 steps into your daily life, people over 65 (and under 65) can help protect their bodies and brains as they age.

  • Develop a healthy attitude. You’re never too old to start taking care of your physical and mental health. Doing so can make the difference between another good decade or a decade of disability.
  • Exercise regularly. Studies show that a 30-minute walk each day is optimal.
  • Flex your mind. Learn new things and take new mental challenges throughout life.
  • Maintain social contacts. Loneliness is deadly for older people. A network of friends will stimulate the brain and the soul.
  • Stay psychologically fit. Depression is a common—but not a normal—part of growing older, and may hasten the onset of intellectual loss. Talk with your doctor.
  • Quit smoking. Many older people have the attitude, “It doesn’t make any difference, the harm is done.” People can feel better and avoid smoking-related health problems by quitting cigarettes at any age.
  • Stay trim. Obesity in older persons can increase health problems, including driving up blood sugars and boosting the risk for dementias. Chronic obesity in middle age may increase the risk of dementia in later life.
  • Limit alcohol. Alcohol damages the heart, liver, muscles and nerves, and excess drinking can lead to falls and injuries. Limit consumption to one ounce per day. People with Alzheimer’s disease should not drink any alcohol.
  • Understand your medications. Frequently, doctors do not talk to other doctors and medications may interact or overlap. You’re responsible for understanding your medications and asking questions about side effects.
  • Watch your diet. Eat a balanced diet and take an all-purpose vitamin. Calcium supplementation is important to maintain bone strength.
  • Find a doctor you trust. Look for a primary care doctor who understands health problems in older persons, since medication doses, medical management strategies and treatment philosophy is different than for younger individuals.
  • Take your doctor’s advice. Having a smart doctor doesn’t work if you don’t take the doctor’s advice. If you trust your doctor, then do what he or she says.
  • Keep your soul healthy. Spiritual fitness is as important as your physical and psychological health and can reduce the incidence of health problems.
  • Control your future. With a higher risk of experiencing a health emergency, older people should make their wishes known to family and document them.
  • Enjoy your life. Humor and joy will lift your spirit, strengthen your body and feed your soul.

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