What can you do about it? Your genes will play a large part in how healthy you are in retirement. The lifestyle you lead when you were younger will have consequences, good and bad. But, that doesn't mean you should assume it is too late to take some basic steps. Virtually every study I could find makes it clear that the affects of bad health habits can be slowed down, or even reversed. Make the years (and decades!) ahead of you and your loved ones productive, exciting, and healthy. Here are 7 basic steps anyone can take.
- You have a Family Doctor, right? You go for regular checkups, correct? Many of us are notorious for avoiding these visits under the belief if we don't know about a problem, it doesn't exist. Sounds silly when you say it out loud doesn't it? A family doctor knows your history. She knows what works and doesn't work for you. You feel more comfortable discussing concerns with someone who isn't a stranger. Avoiding doctor visits now, even when you feel fine, will cost you later. There is simply no way to stay healthy without visiting your doctor on a regular basis.
- You exercise on a regular basis. It may not be fun, but the benefits of staying active are proven. Exercise helps you maintain your weight. It helps keep your joints more limber. It eases many of the aches of arthritis. It helps reduce stress. It is important in combating chronic diseases. These benefits don't require a gym membership, or running 5 miles every morning. Activities as simple as gardening, walking to the end of the street, lifting water jugs, or doing isometrics can help you maintain fitness and independence.
- You watch what you eat. That doesn't mean a strict or faddish diet. It doesn't mean cutting out all the food you love. It does mean understanding what you put into your body affects what you can get out of your body. Your energy level, ability to get enough sleep, and your ability to avoid many illnesses are at stake. Moderation, fruits and vegetables, portion control, .....you've heard all this before. But, at our age you can't afford to tell yourself you'll do it tomorrow. If you'd like an excellent, simple overview of what you need to do in this area, click here. Oh, and don't skip breakfast. You'll actually gain more weight if you don't refuel when you wake up.
- You manage your stress. Uncontrolled, stress has a tremendously negative effect on you. A partial list of the bad stuff stress can do to you includes insomnia, diarrhea, heart problems, stroke, eating disorders, ulcers, and diabetes. Pay attention to the warning signs of too much stress. Sleep issues, forgetting appointments and meetings, constant feelings of fatigue, feeling overwhelmed with work and responsibilities, or apathy could be your body's way of crying for help against too much stress.There is such a thing as good stress. It motivates us, keeps us focused, and out of harm's way. The trick is to know the difference.
- You understand the benefits of strong relationships. Having someone in your life who loves you, listens to you, and you trust to do what's best for you is extremely important to your overall health, both mental and physical. The supportive nature of the relationship provides a sense of security. It is easier for you to share things that are bothering you. You have someone to call on when you need help or simply a shoulder to lean on. 10 benefits of maintaining healthly relationships can be found here.
- Get Enough Sleep. Here's a scary figure: people who get less than 6 hours of sleep a night have a 30% higher risk of dying early than those who get between 6 and 8 hours a night. Obesity has been linked to not enough sleep. So have various forms of cancer and heart problems. If you are not getting enough sleep just because you don't go to bed early enough, that problem is easily solved. However, if your lack of at least 6 hours of shuteye at night is out of your control, read this and see your family doctor (see point #1 above!)
- Don't Smoke. Enough said.