Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Live a Long, Healthy Life - Try These Tips!

As we reach the last few years of our life, our ideal medical reports should read: "healthy, healthy, healthy, healthy, dead."  This statement was made by the instructor of a brain health class I recently attended.  The point she wanted to make was that we all should strive to live lives which are as healthy as possible, right up to the time we die at a very old age.  If these are our goals, how can we increase our odds of making that happen?  What can we personally do to live as long and as healthy a life as possible?

See Your Doctor and Dentist

It may seem obvious, but too many people believe they are better off avoiding doctors. As a result, they are unaware of what is actually going on inside their bodies and may miss the opportunity to avoid easily treated ailments.  Everyone needs to make sure they are engaged in the medical system and do the following:

Maintain a healthy blood pressure
Monitor their A1C or their blood sugar level
Get a colonoscopy
Women should get regular mammograms
Get flu and pneumonia shots
Get professional teeth cleanings
Be checked for other health conditions such as Hepatitis C, skin cancer, prostate cancer, C-reactive protein, and any other tests your doctor recommends.

Practice Self Examinations

While seeing your doctor and dentist regularly is important, your medical providers will not be with you all the time.  Everyone should examine their own bodies regularly and be aware of any changes.  In particular, you will want to check for:

Yellow eyes, which indicate liver problems
Drooping eyelids, which could indicate Bell's palsy or a stroke
Changes in moles
Changes in the color of your urine or bowel movements
Any other changes to your skin, breasts, teeth or mouth.

Sleep a Reasonable Amount Each Night

Get a regular amount of sleep each night, but not too much.  Ideally, you should sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night.  If you have trouble getting a restful night's sleep, check with your doctor and participate in a sleep study, if possible.  Work with your doctor to determine what could be causing your sleep problems ... sleep apnea, too much caffeine, medications you are taking, etc.  Our bodies need sleep to stay healthy and there have also been studies indicating that restful sleep may help remove toxins from the brain and reduce our dementia risk.

Exercise in a Variety of Ways

Any exercise you get is better than nothing at all.  However, the more you move in a variety of ways, the healthier you are likely to be and the longer you will probably live.  Your exercise plans should ideally include:

Aerobics such as walking, swimming, bicycling and dancing
Strength training such as weight lifting or Pilates
Flexibility through stretching or yoga classes
Balance exercises
Back exercises, which could help prevent chronic back pain

Eat a Healthy Diet

Following the Mediterranean Diet, the MIND Diet or the DASH diet, which are all very similar, are great ways to eat whole, healthy food which you will enjoy, while also maintaining good health.  You may also be interested in "The MIND Diet Plan and Cookbook" which, along with the other suggestions in this article, is a great way to keep your brain functioning at optimal levels. 

Below are a few things to include in your healthy diet:

Fish and poultry
Nuts and beans
25 grams of fiber a day
8 to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables daily
Healthy oils like olive oil

Reduce your consumption of the following foods:

Sugar and artificial sweeteners
Refined flour
Fried foods
Red meat and butter

Avoid other Dangers to Your Health and Life

No matter how much you exercise or how well you eat, an accident or excess stress can undo all your good intentions.  As a result, there are a few more dangers which you should avoid or minimize in your life.  While some of the items on the list below may seem unrelated to living a long, healthy life, research has shown that these can be problem areas which many people, especially senior citizens, need to address.  

Quit smoking
Drink only small amounts of alcohol
Stay off stepladders and stools
Learn how to deal with stress in healthier ways
Get help with your financial problems
Don't use your phone while driving
Avoid left turns while driving
Cut back on night driving
Ride in the back third of airplanes
Wear a life jacket whenever you are in a boat
Wash your hands and avoid sick people, when possible
Be suspicious of unexpected phone calls, emails or visitors
Avoid dangerous situations by shopping during the day and parking near the entrance to businesses.  The elderly are frequently the victims of crimes, so it is wise to be cautious.

Enjoy Your Life

Finally, living a long happy life is not only about avoiding illness and dangers.  It also means finding a way for your life to include joy and meaning.  Here are some ways to make that happen:

Volunteer doing something which is meaningful to you
Socialize frequently and make new friends
Spend time with family and grandchildren
Get a hobby which engrosses you
Take classes which interest you and chat with the other students
Attend religious services

All of the above activities will bring meaning and happiness to your life and give you reasons to want to live a long life!

If you are interested in learning more about common medical problems, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire in the US and abroad and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles in this blog.

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