A few simple steps to help improve your quality of life
September 14, 2016
Medical science continues to evolve and develop new methods of improving treatment and medications which continue to help us live longer and increase the average lifespan. Unfortunately, living longer does not always equate to living better and what’s the point of extended longevity if the quality of life isn’t there? While researchers are responsible for finding ways to increase our lifespan and survival rate, you have the ability to directly impact the quality of life you lead. Here are a few adjustments you can make to not only stick around longer, but live a happier, healthier and fuller lifestyle.
Change Your Diet – This is a “no brainer” right? Lose the extra weight and feel better? Well it’s not as simple as just counting calories or skipping that second helping to truly engage in a healthy diet that will make you feel better and more fit. Eating the right food and portion size for your physical condition and activity level are even more important. It’s a great idea to consult with your physician and dietician for tips on how you can optimize what you’re getting from your food and point you to resources for developing great tasting, healthy menus. Here are a few general tips to get you started:
- Lean Protein, less carbs: Carbs in moderation are fine, however meals that are carb heavy can leave you feeling tired and sluggish. Not to mention that unless you’re maintaining a very active lifestyle, carbs are converted straight to your waistline instead of energy. Try a diet rich in leaner proteins such as chicken, fish, legumes and some grains.
- Better Fat: Many great tasting foods contain fat that is actually good for you. Nuts and cold water fish such as salmon contain healthier fats which contain high amounts omega-3 fatty acids and contribute to heart health.
- More Fruits and Veggies: Obviously these are loaded with fiber and vitamins, but don’t forget to target a variety of fruits and vegetables rich in color for snacks packed with health benefits. Not only will you gain a wide range of nutrients for your body, you will also experience a fun rainbow of flavor to broaden your palate. Pigments in color-rich food, are packed with benefits and have been shown to aid the immune system, help prevent cancer, improve eye health, and reduce the risk of heart failure or strokes. Check out this great rundown of details on food color and their specific benefits with this food color chart!
Keep Moving – Simply put, if you stay physically active you’ll be healthier and happier. Obviously for many of us as we age, getting to the gym and putting in a workout isn’t as possible. Age and disabilities can bring limitations to our ability to get out there like we used to, but that doesn’t mean we have to be confined to the home couch-bound all day. There are a multitude of ways to stay active that don’t include heavy weights or a strenuous five mile run on the treadmill. Just make sure to be realistic about your gaols and consult with your physician to discuss your plan.
- Take a walk – Go as far and at the speed you feel most comfortable. You don’t have to push yourself or break a sweat, just get out there and take a walk. Aside from the obvious benefit of building back some muscle and burning calories, you’re also improving balance and blood flow, helping prevent potential falls or health issues later. Plus it simply feels good to get outside and breathe some fresh air, improving your state of mind as well.
- Get in the Water – Swimming is one of the best low impact ways to keep our bodies fit. Swimming laps is great if you still can, but otherwise take a look at what kind of water aerobics or fitness classes your local pool offers. Exercising in the water is easy on the joints, builds strength, improves flexibility and boosts your mental health by reducing stress and increasing brain function. And it’s fun!
- Babysit – Kids never sit still and keeping up with them can be quite a workout! Whether you’re simply playing in the living room or heading to the local park, don’t just sit on the bench, play too! Not only will you keep moving, improving strength and balance, but you’ll also be giving your brain a workout by using your imagination. Plus your adult children will enjoy the time off!
Play with your Friends! As we age and our social circles shrink, many of us tend to engage others less actively and center around the home more. However, staying actively engaged in social activities has been shown to dramatically improve brain health, reduce stress, help prevent depression and prevent or delay cognitive decline or dementia. Even if you don’t have an extensive social network at the moment, there are many ways to engage with others and stay socially active.
- Join a Club – We all have interests and there seems to be a club for everything. Like playing cards? There’s a club for that. Enjoy cooking? One for that too. Love vintage cars? Yep, got one. There are countless interest groups, many of which have participants from all ages, giving you an opportunity to broaden your network and have some fun!
- Volunteer – You have a lifetime of knowledge and experience to offer and there are
many organizations that can use your help. If you were a successful business person, check with SCORE through the Small Business Association to inquire about becoming a mentor. Many libraries or schools appreciate volunteers to assist with classes, reading groups or basic tasks. If you want to help out with other seniors, check with your local Area Agency on Aging for opportunities.
- Get back to Work – Retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for some of us and the desire to still contribute to an organization or be part of a team is still there. Many seniors are jumping back into the workforce, not out of necessity, but to stay socially engaged, learn new skills and stay physically active.
Strain your Brain! There’s truth to the old saying “use it or lose it”! Keeping your mind engaged and active is vital to maintaining brain health, clarity and focus, allowing us to stay independent and healthy as long as possible. Participating regularly in activities that require a little brain work can help improve mental status, prevent depression and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other cognitive issues. Regardless of age, there are many ways we can all benefit from engaging in activities that tax our minds and keep us learning.
- Hit the Books – Increasingly seniors are heading back to school to get that degree they’ve always wanted, to explore new interests or to simply take a quick course on a particular topic. Learning doesn’t have to be a long term commitment. The options for short term continuing education are limitless. Local colleges, community centers, and libraries are just a few sources of personal improvement classes on specific skills such as cooking, computer science, business or even beer making! Some even offer certifications in certain topics after completing a series of courses.
- Read – While cracking a book is certainly a great source of entertainment and learning, it also stimulates and “exercises” the brain, helping to keep it fit. Reading helps create new synapses and reinforce existing ones, strengthening short term memory. Reading is also a stress reducer. Losing yourself in a great book allows you to forget about the counterproductive stresses of everyday life and relax.
- Play Games – Playing games is not only fun, it elevates mood and is great for brain development. Games of all types stimulate the brain and help to keep neural pathways open, aiding in memory retention, problem solving and concentration. “Brain teasers” such as Sudoku, crossword puzzles, word games, or even board games such as chess can help keep the mind fit. Video games are gaining popularity with seniors as a way to exercise the brain, with various games requiring different skills. Some studies show that video games can aid in memory retention, attention and even improve balance.
There will never a better time than right now to adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle. While age catches up with all of us eventually, taking action to improve the health of both your body and mind can mean all the difference not only in longevity, but also your energy levels, mental well being and overall quality of your life.
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