Staying Healthy as We Get Older

Blog Harfield: Staying Healthy as We Get Older (May 2018)

By Dr Murray McDonald

Getting older is an inevitable and often tough part of life. But it doesn’t have to mean giving up on your health. In fact, we know more than ever about how to age well and stay as vivacious, and this advice doesn’t have to be complicated. Would you like to know more?

Your Age is How You Feel
Gone are the days when 60 years old meant a mandatory blue-rinse and a donkey cart to the retirement village. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things – I happen to love donkeys. But as we’ve advanced as a society we have pushed our life expectancy higher and higher. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that those years are healthy years. To avoid illness and have as much energy as possible requires a concerted effort. So where should your effort be best applied?

The Game Doesn’t Change Much
“I guess I’m just getting older.” I hear this every single day. And while it’s true (that is more or less how time works) it doesn’t mean that your body just gives up on you. It’s far more common that you give up on it. And it’s utter rubbish. Do certain things decline with age? Yes. All sorts of things. Is it scary? Yes. But do you know what makes them decline more than anything else?

Lack of use.
Our muscles, our joints, our brains all require constant challenge to stimulate their strength. Move it or lose it. And THAT is where a lot of the problems lie. As we get older we start doing less. We move less, we go out less, we learn less – we ask less of ourselves. And our bodies give it to us. Less.
Why do we do this? We feel tired because we get up at night to pee. Or we get comfortable with staying at home rather than going out. Or our knees hurt. Or we’re just not hungry. And all of these are perfectly reasonable excuses. However, though different to the excuses we gave in our twenties and thirties, they amount to the same. We see them as insurmountable barriers instead of challenges.

The ultimate challenge is getting what you want out of life.

What is important to you? What makes you tick (or tock)? Is it time with your children? Or grandchildren? Is it getting out of the house? Out on the town? Is it a sport? Or just staying fit enough to tend the garden? Whatever it is that fills you with joy or purpose or accomplishment, you need to live in a way that give you the mobility, the energy, the freedom to live your life the way you want.

And that is why I say: The game doesn’t change much. We need to eat properly. We need to exercise often. We need to spend time with friends & family. And we need to have purpose – something that gets us out of bed. So - with all of this in mind – what does a healthy lifestyle look like when you’re older?

The Healthy Ageing Lifestyle
1. Eat enough protein and vegetables: Nutrient deficiency and obesity are big problems that you can help solve by eating enough of the good stuff. You are what you eat so try not to eat too much junk.
2. Set exercise goals: Pick something that would mean a lot to you and work towards it in realistic steps. Whether it’s climbing a mountain or climbing the stairs, every journey is simply stringing enough steps together. Try including some endurance exercise e.g. walking as well as some strengthening exercises e.g. calisthenics.
3. Include your people: Burdens are easier when shared. Not only that, life is just a lot more fun with someone to help support and motivate you. So, whether it’s going to the doctor, making a meal, or going for a walk – take someone with you. They probably need it too.
4. Get a good physician: Because no matter how healthy we live, getting older increases your risks for all sorts of things. Find someone who does all your check ups and tests, but also listens to and takes time to teach you about your health.
5. Enjoy your body: It is a place we must all leave one day. Might as well take care of it to get the most out of it.

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