Seven Steps to Help Senior Citizens Age Well
1. Control your blood pressure.
When you have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, you probably will not feel it. Though common, senior citizens with this condition may not know because the symptoms of high blood pressure are invisible and painless, but it can lead to strokes, heart disease, eye problems, and kidney failure. To avoid these serious complications senior citizens should be familiar with how to avoid and treat high blood pressure.
Normal blood pressure is defined as a systolic pressure (top number) that’s less than 120 and a diastolic pressure (bottom number) that’s less than 80-for example, 119 over 79. Prehypertension is a state in which you’re at risk for developing hypertension and is defined as a systolic pressure between 120 and 139 or a diastolic pressure between 80 and 89. High blood pressure is defined as a blood pressure of 140 over 90 or higher at two different checkups.
There are a number of steps senior citizens can take to avoid developing hypertension. Those responsible for caring for the elderly should help to encourage senior citizens to develop and maintain these healthy practices, some of which are listed below:
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts you at a greater risk for hypertension.
Practice a regular exercise regimen. You can lower your blood pressure with moderate exercise, but you should talk to you doctor before starting a new workout plan.
Eat a healthy diet with many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods. Eating a diet rich in these foods may lower blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables have a lot of potassium, which is important to have in your diet.
Decrease your salt and sodium intake. A low-salt diet could help lower blood pressure.
Consume less alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can have adverse effects on blood pressure. In general, men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women should have no more than one drink per day.
Heed your doctor’s advice. If lifestyle changes alone aren’t significantly lowering your blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication to do so.
2. Cholesterol Control for the Elderly
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance produced in the body. Your body needs some cholesterol, but an excess of it in your blood has the potential to clog arteries, contributing to your risk of heart disease or stroke, both of which are common in senior citizens.
There are two kinds of cholesterol, high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). HDL is “good” cholesterol that transports cholesterol to your liver to be excreted, thus keeping it away from your arteries. LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, contributes to a buildup of cholesterol in the walls of your arteries. The more LDL you have, the greater your chance of developing coronary heart disease.
To reduce your levels of LDL and increase HDL, it is important to eat a healthy diet and get a moderate amount of exercise. If that is not enough to decrease your cholesterol, there are some medications available.
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC). This is a method that includes a cholesterol-lowering diet, exercise, and weight management, and it is for anyone whose LDL is above the goal set by his or her physician.
Drug treatment. If drugs are required to lower your cholesterol, they will be in combination with TLC to decrease your amount of LDL.
3. Weight Control for the Elderly
Studies show that being overweight increase the risk of many disease in senior citizens, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and other health-related problems.
Losing as little as 5 to 15 percent of your body weight can significantly improve your health. A safe, healthy rate of weight loss is half a pound to two pounds per week. The following is a list of ideas to keep you on track with losing weight:
Keep track of what you eat in a food diary.
Make a grocery list and buy only what is on the list. Try to shop only when you’re not hungry.
Store food where you cannot immediately see it upon entering the kitchen.
Eat smaller servings, and at restaurants, eat half of your meal and pack up the rest for later.
Eat at the table, not in front of the TV. Be conscious of what you are eating.
Set healthy, realistic goals for weight loss (including a realistic timeline).
Work out a diet and exercise plan with your doctor or other health professionals involved in providing your elder care.
Know and rely on your emotional support system.
Expect to have some setbacks, and forgive yourself.
Make regular exercise a part of your plan.
4. Senior’s Exercise Guide.
When you exercise, you burn calories. Burning more calories than you take in will result in weight loss. Generally, senior citizens have less muscle mass in the body, but strength exercises can help to restore strength and muscle mass, often fairly quickly.
To get started on an exercise plan, talk to your doctor or other health professionals providing your elder care about what is right for you. Working up to exercising 4 to 6 days per week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time is usually a good goal to set.
5. Quit smoking.
Quitting smoking is never too late and is important for improving senior citizens’ health. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. It is a leading risk factor for lung cancer, which is the most common form of cancer leading to death. Smoking is also associated with other kinds of cancer, and it increases the risk of chronic lung disease and heart disease.
Quitting smoking may seem especially difficult for senior citizens, but there are resources to help. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has guidelines for quitting in its Cancer Topics online at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics. The American Lung Association’s “Freedom From Smoking Online” program (www.ffsonline.org) describes a very thorough approach to smoking cessation and offers support from many other smokers and former smokers.
It is widely acknowledged that quitting smoking can be of tremendous advantage to you and your loved ones, regardless of age.
6. Be careful with alcohol.
Misusing alcohol can be life-threatening to senior citizens. Drinking more than the recommended amount (two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women) can increase the risk of certain cancers in the liver, throat, esophagus, and larynx on top of causing cirrhosis of the liver, problems with the immune system, and brain damage. In other situations, irresponsible drinking can lead to fatalities on the road and on-the-job injuries.
If you decide to drink, do so responsibly to avoid the risks associated with heavy drinking.
7. Be aware of and follow proven preventative measures.
Senior citizens must be responsible for their own health, this includes being an active participant with your physician and other health professionals involved in providing your elder care. Some preventative steps senior citizens can take are the following:
Locate and stay with a “medical home.” Having doctors and nurses who know you and your family can be very important, so find a “medical home” physician or practice and keep going to that practice over time.
Stay up-to-date with vaccines. Knowing which vaccines are produced and emerging for adults can be of great benefit to your health. Try not to ignore them, as they are very important for senior citizens.
Take good care of your skin. The more sensitive skin of senior citizens may increase sunlight-related effects, from wrinkles to certain types of skin cancer. Protect yourself from too much sunlight, and if you notice changes in your skin, talk to a doctor about them.
Take your medicine. Compliance-taking the prescribed amount of medication at the recommended time-makes the medicines you take the most effective.
Find ways to educate yourself. As you age, being proactive about your health means seeking out information about ways to stay healthy. You can do this by frequently perusing websites like http://www.medlineplus.gov and http://www.nihseniorhealth.gov for trusted, up-to-date information.
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www.thecaringspace.com – The Caring Space is a website dedicated to connecting families in need of assistance with friends and loved ones and caregivers seeking employment.