As we age, our susceptibility to a whole variety of medical conditions increases. Medical conditions that are more common in people aged over 50 include but are not limited to:
- Diabetes and insulin resistance
- Cancer (all kinds)
- Joint pain
- Depression and anxiety
- Digestive problems
- Erectile dysfunction
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Bladder issues
- Prostate issues
- Thyroid problems
Many of these conditions are linked to lifestyle choices and therefore, we have a great degree of control and opportunity to reduce our likelihood of developing age-related disease.
Being healthy and active in your 50’s and beyond improves overall mental and physical well-being, helps you recover from illness more quickly, reduces your risk of falls as well as reducing your risk of developing chronic illnesses.
Here are eight easy ways to get healthier after 50:
- Reduce sodium intake
Excess salt intake can cause problems with blood pressure which in turn increases your risk of other cardiac problems such as heart disease and stroke.
Approximately 75% of the salt we eat comes from processed foods, so one of the easiest ways to reduce your salt intake is to prepare your own meals, using fresh ingredients. You could try using herbs and spices to add extra flavour without the extra salt.
- Maintain a healthy weight
Our metabolism decreases with age and we have a tendency to replace lean muscle with fat. It is more difficult to lose weight in your 50’s and 60’s than it is in your earlier years. We also require fewer calories as we get older, so weight gain may occur more easily. Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes. If you find you are struggling to maintain a healthy weight, or if you have some excess weight to lose, a dietitian can provide personalised advice about how to structure a healthy meal plan.
- Ensure you get enough fibre
A fibre rich diet prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol and slows the rate that fats, carbohydrates and sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream. A high fibre diet can help reduce the risk of heart attacks and diabetes, and can help keep your weight under control.
- Get enough sleep
Sleep is an essential component of good health. It is important for recovery, cognition, mental acuity, physical energy and even weight management. Sleeping patterns can change as you get older. You may find you require more sleep to feel rested, or you may find you don’t need as much. There may also be a decline in the quality of your sleep, you may wake more often or find it difficult to get to sleep.
If you have any issues with your sleep quality, discuss them with your Doctor.
- Integrate resistance training into physical activity
Resistance training increases muscle and joint strength by making your muscles work against an added weight. If you are new to resistance training you can start with body weight exercises (no added weight) until you get used to the movements. As you start to feel confident, you can start to add weights.
Resistance training helps to preserve muscle mass, improves bone density and improves mobility and balance, reducing your risk of falls.
- Keep learning
Challenging your mind improves memory and overall brain function. Studies show that learning new skills, such as learning a new language, or a how to play a new instrument can help protect against dementia.
Learning new skills can also boost your mood and reduce your risk of depression.
- Stay social
Staying social keeps your mind active, improves your mood and reduces your risk of depression and anxiety. People with strong family and other social connections tend to think more clearly, have sharper focus and are much less likely to have memory problems.
- See your Doctor regularly for routine screenings
There are a number of preventative health screening tests that are recommended after the age of 50. Your general health, family history and personal risk factors will determine which of these tests are appropriate for you and how frequently you should have them done.
Examples of such tests include mammograms, prostate checks, bowel cancer screening, bone density testing, cholesterol and blood glucose tests, skin checks, blood pressure monitoring, iron level checks and eye exams.
Immunisations may also be recommended to protect you against communicable illnesses such as influenza, pneumonia, whooping cough and varicella (the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles).