September 19, 2010

7 Steps Toward Better Health

After money issues, health is the primary concern of those who have retired, or are thinking about it. And no wonder. Health care costs will continue to rise, often dramatically, for the next few years at least. Primary care doctors are refusing to accept new patients, especially those with Medicare. Nursing homes average over $5,000 a month. In-home, full-time nursing care can cost two or three times that much.

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,'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.

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  1. These are very basic and simple steps. It does not demand any great sacrifice from you. All you need to do is to make a beginning and dedicate a few minutes to these practices every day. It then becomes a habit.your content really helped me to understand the meaning of this subject/how to solve the issue, and here is my site adress i hope it will contribute to you as well as you did to me"..

  2. You have identified one of the reasons we have a health problem in this country. We all know the steps to take. What is needed is the will to take the first step and stick with it until it becomes a habit.

  3. Hi Bob, good points! It is simple really. I've read that about 97% of how well we age is on our own hands - through the tips you mentioned. Even if we do have some sort of health problem, it can be made better by following these steps.

    When I went for my last physical, the little girl doing the screening asked me what meds I was taking. I said "None." She was actually almost shocked. She said she hadn't had a patient yet (of my age-nearly 60) who is not taking anything at all. Most people go in with bags of meds and long lists.

    Medicines have so many bad side effects that my doctor knows I won't take any unless my life really depends on it.

  4. Like you I take virtually no meds. At 61 that is probably better then most. I'm careful to follow my own list above, except my exercise regime isn't what I'd like it to be. Since I stopped traveling 100,000 miles a year my health has improved dramatically.

    Thanks, Joan, for your comments. I can visualize the nurse being surprised when you say "none." Good for you.

    By the way I liked you post of a few days ago, "Were the good old days really good?" Our memory is quite selective.

  5. All good common sense and nothing requiring superhuman effort here. And the results you will achieve - that is what it is all about. Diet is always important - I found an interesting graphic depicting fruits and vegetables that are better purchased organic and others that it does not matter so much. I shared with my family and here it is for you - Eat well!

  6. I like the graphic, Dave. I've never seen a guide that gives you help in deciding whether organic or non-organic are best in certain situations.

    Readers: copy & paste the link above for your copy. Note that "Eat Well" isn't part of the address!

  7. Sold a car, bike to work....but....did get another guitar!!!

  8. You helped your overall health with the bike, helped the environment by ditching the car, and added music to the world with a guitar.

    All that in 11 words. A very effective plan, Keith.