You’ve probably planned for your financial future with a pension, but have you also planned ahead for optimal health in later years? Although nobody knows what the future holds, there are things you can do to minimise the risk of suffering from conditions commonly linked with ageing.
1 – Being overweight
I’ve been told that it’s harder to lose weight when you get older. Research, however, does not support this. It’s much more likely that losing weight becomes more difficult because of slowing down, moving less and sitting more as we got older. The body responds to this by slowing the metabolism, and losing stamina, strength and flexibility.
Obesity is an ever increasing problem for us as individuals and for the NHS. It is linked to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and other conditions which we’d all rather avoid. It can also cause osteoarthritis in weight-bearing joints like knees and hips.
What you can do: Eating fewer calories and avoiding excess sugar and saturated fat will help to maintain a healthy weight. Regular exercise will also help to keep you fit, active and less likely to carry excess weight or develop related diseases later in life. Find an exercise that you enjoy; you’re more likely to stick with it if you enjoy it.
2 – Arthritis
Arthritis is the inflammation and degeneration of joints and is very common in older adults. Whilst it may not be possible to avoid getting it, there are ways of reducing the risk of developing arthritis and things which will help relieve symptoms.
Being overweight will certainly aggravate arthritis in weight-bearing joints. Exercise is vital not only to help maintain a healthy weight, but also to increase movement in the joints, strengthen the muscles around the joints, and help in pain reduction.
What you can do: Maintaining a healthy weight will reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis. If you already have arthritis, then low-impact activities like walking, swimming, cycling and gentle exercise classes are great at helping relieve symptoms. But listen to your body if there is pain or if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and have a flare-up. Mild discomfort can be ok (and is often unavoidable), but if there is sharp, stabbing pain, stop the activity at least for a while.
3 – Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis, also known as brittle bone disease, leaves suffers at increased risk of fractures and breaks. The National Osteoporosis Society reported that there are nearly 1,800 hip fracture related deaths in the UK every year.
More women than men suffer from osteoporosis – a factor which you obviously cannot change. However, all of the following lifestyle choices put you at far greater risk of developing osteoporosis: poor diet, sedentary lifestyle (lots of sitting!), lack of calcium and vitamin D, smoking, high alcohol intake, eating disorders and too many carbonated drinks.
What you can do: As inactivity and lack of exercise actually increase the speed at which you lose bone density, exercise is hugely important to help avoid osteoporosis. Eating a balanced diet rich in calcium, taking vitamin D if you have a deficiency, and quitting smoking will also reduce your risk to developing osteoporosis. If you already have it, then recommendations include low-impact exercise, using hand weights to improve upper body strength and bone density, and activities which improve balance, like yoga.
4 – Mental Wellbeing
Many people worry about a deterioration in their mental ability and memory as they get older, but this is not inevitable part of ageing. Mental wellbeing can also be affected by anxiety, stress and depression caused by changes in life as we age.
What you can do: There is evidence to show that exercise can slow and even stop the physical and mental deterioration associated with dementia. Exercise also reduces incidence of anxiety and depression, and increases confidence, self-belief, self-esteem and independence. Drink plenty of water: dehydration can lead to memory problems, fatigue and even depression. Staying mentally active and engaging with other people all help to increase your mental health and wellbeing.