The evidence is overwhelming. If you adopt a healthy lifestyle, your risk of disease in older age declines dramatically. Even if you haven't always had ideal lifestyle habits, it is never too late to change them. While you can’t prevent every disease, small changes in your daily lifestyle can improve how you feel and delay the need long-term care.
It can be hard to change lifelong habits. Participation in a structured program with others could help you achieve a permanent change. There is also preventive health coverage available under your private health insurance plan or through Medicare that can monitor your health status. Talk to your doctor about any unique health conditions you have.
What can I do to stay healthy?
Here is a checklist that outlines what you can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle that could help you delay the need for long-term care.
Regular physical and mental activity
Regular physical activity helps to control weight and contributes to healthy bones, muscles and joints. Exercise can reduce falls and help to relieve the pain of arthritis. Physical activity reduces symptoms of depression and stress, improves the brain and can even reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Reading, playing cards and board games, doing crossword puzzles, adopting a new hobby or attending a class can all help exercise your brain and keep it healthy.
Nutrition is key to healthy aging
Eating well is especially important as you age. Good nutrition reduces your chances of developing chronic diseases. As you age, you may need to adjust your diet and nutritional needs. Food provides the nutrients you need to be healthy and the calories to meet your energy requirements.
Other ways to stay healthy
Falls are one of the most common causes of the need of long-term care. Taking part in a community program can address the fear of falling, a common risk factor in falls. Find more information on the Minnesota Falls Prevention website.
Get together with friends or family, participate in community events, join social or religious organizations, volunteer, continue to work or return to work part-time to avoid isolation.
Managing your medications safely keeps you aware of what you are taking and possible drug interactions. Making a list of all your medications, when you take them and the condition for which you take them lets you discuss the list with your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions or notice changes in your health.
Reducing or quitting smoking is an important part of your plan to stay healthy. Smoking is one of the largest contributors to the development of chronic disease and is a major factor in high health care costs.