Dr. Indira Molai is a board certified Primary Care Physician specializing in Internal Medicine. As an Internist, Dr. Molai is focused on the health care needs of adults of all ages. She joined Graybill Medical Group in 2016.
Today’s seniors are more vibrant, healthier, and living longer than ever before. If you have a goal to lead an active lifestyle well into your golden years, then it’s important to take care of your health, including both body and mind. Let’s start by planning your strategy for wellness and prevention.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart-related disease still remains the leading cause of death among Americans, taking more than 2,500 lives per day. The good news is, the risk of heart disease can be lowered significantly by being active, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and getting regularly screened for risk factors.1
What you can do:
Eat heart-healthy foods. The AHA recommends eating fish, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, at least twice a week. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation that can cause damage to your blood vessels, decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, support healthy blood flow, reduce irregular heartbeats, and decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. The best sources are fatty fish, such as mackerel, herring, lake trout, salmon, sardines, and tuna.2
- Control cholesterol levels. High cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can block arteries. Good cholesterol levels for adults range 200 mg/dL or lower; borderline cholesterol levels range between 200 – 239 mg/dL, while high cholesterol levels range from 240 mg/dL or higher.3 Lowering cholesterol may be easier than you think. Try losing 5 to 10 pounds and exercising regularly. Simple activities, such as vacuuming or gardening, can burn calories and keep circulation flowing.
- Don’t smoke. Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.2 Consult with your primary care physician if you need help to quit smoking.
- Reduce salt intake. Reducing salt by 10% may reduce high blood pressure, which could help prevent a stroke.
Do you occasionally experience “senior moments” like misplacing your keys, or forgetting the reason you got up to do something? Most minor memory lapses are a normal part of healthy aging. The good news is, it’s entirely possible to keep your brain sharp and focused. (Note: Be sure to let your Graybill Primary Care Physician know if memory loss is beginning to interfere with your daily living activities.)
What you can do:
- Maintain a healthy heart. Physical activity promotes healthy blood flow which, in turn, benefits both your heart and your brain. Moreover, studies have shown a correlation between lower activity levels and greater cognitive decline. Get regular exercise to protect your cardiovascular as well as your cognitive health.4,5
- Stay mentally active. Just as exercise helps keep your body in shape, mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape – and may slow down memory loss. Do crossword puzzles. Take a different route when driving home. Learn a new language or how to play a musical instrument.
- Socialize regularly. It’s easy to get depressed when you spend too much time alone. To ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss,6 seek opportunities to socialize with friends and loved ones. Accept invitations. Volunteer at your local community center.
- Sleep well. Proper sleep will help consolidate your memories, so you can recall them later. Contrary to popular belief, most older adults require 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day to function optimally.7
- Get organized. Jot down appointments and tasks in a special calendar planner. Create to-do lists and check off items as you have completed them. More importantly, pick a special place in the house to keep your wallet and keys, along with other essentials.
Bones make up our bodies’ framework and, together with our muscles, make movement possible. They also protect vital organs and store calcium. Therefore, keeping your bones healthy and strong is key for maintaining an active lifestyle.
Our bone health naturally declines as we get older. Up to half of older adults suffer from either osteopenia (low bone mineral density, or bone mass) or osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones). Postmenopausal women, especially, have a high risk to develop osteoporosis because their rate of bone loss rises sharply after menopause. Within 5 to 7 years of menopause, a woman can lose up to 20% of her bone mass, and after age 50, have a 50% risk of osteoporosis-related fracture.8
What you can do:
- Increase calcium intake. Low calcium levels can diminish bone density and lead to premature bone loss. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for people ages 51-70 is 1,200 mg a day for women and mg a day 1,000 for men. Good dietary sources of calcium include low or non-fat dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, and sardines.
- Include vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. For adults, the RDA of vitamin D is 600 international units (IUs) a day. The recommendation increases to 800 IUs daily for seniors 71 years and older. Good dietary sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, fortified milk, oily fish, such as tuna and sardines. And be sure to spend at least ten minutes a day outdoors: your body naturally manufactures vitamin D from sunshine!
- Include physical activity daily. Older adults who are physically active have a higher risk to develop osteoporosis than older adults who are sedentary. Weight-bearing activities such as walking, jogging or stair climbing can help build strong bones and slow bone loss.
Taking the steps above will go a long way towards helping you get the most out of life in your later years.
Yours in Good Health,
Indira Molai, MD
- WebMD, “Heart disease kills every 34 seconds in U.S.” Retrieved 10/4/16 from http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20041223/heart-disease-kills-every-34-seconds-in-us
- Mayo Clinic, “Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart.” Retrieved 10/4/16 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/omega-3/art-20045614
- Healthline. “What are the recommended cholesterol levels by age?” Retrieved on 10/4/16 from http://www.healthline.com/health/high-cholesterol/levels-by-age#1
- WebMD, “A healthy heart may protect an aging brain.” Retrieved on 10/4/16 from http://www.webmd.com/heart/news/20160316/a-healthy-heart-may-protect-an-aging-brain#1
- Psychiatry Advisor, “Physical activity level affects rate of cognitive decline.” Retrieved on 10/4/16 from http://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/neurocognitive-disorders/degree-of-cognitive-decline-in-elderly-affected-by-exercise-level/article/488682/
- McKimDB, NiraulaA, TarrAJ, et al. Neuroinflammation dynamics underlies memory impairments after repeated social defeat. J Neurosci. 2 March 2016, 36(9):2590-2604.
- National Sleep Foundation, “How much sleep do we really need?” Available at https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need/page/0/2. Retrieved 10/14/16.
- Mayo Clinic, “Adult health.” Retrieved on 10/4/16 fromhttp://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/bone-health/art-20045060?p=1