Stay healthy as you age

December 2012

To a certain extent, your genes play a big role in how long you live and how healthy you are. But the truth is, the things you do — and don’t do — in your daily life can help you stay healthy and active into your later years. At Humana, we can help you set healthy habits now to help you stay healthy as you age. Read on for more details on our healthy aging tips.

Eat a healthy and balanced diet

So much of what you eat can influence how healthy you stay as you age. Of course, you should include the gold standards of healthy eating, like lowfat protein and dairy, whole grains, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. And you should cut down on unhealthy foods like ones that are processed and high in sugar and fat (cookies, soda, and chips being prime examples), which have been linked to serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

The trick is to find the right balance of energy and nutrients. As you age, your body needs less energy. But it also needs good nutrients. That means you need to be especially careful to avoid foods that are high in empty calories and fat, especially trans fats, which are common in processed foods, margarine, and shortenings.

Also try to get some extra fiber into your diet, which is very important for older adults. It can lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. It also helps keep your colon working the way it should. Some easy ways you can boost fiber in your diet: eat more fruit (whole fruit — not juice), switch to whole-grain cereals and breads, and reach for homemade popcorn instead of chips.

Stay active and fit

Not finding time to fit exercise into your schedule is a sure-fire way to risk health problems as you get older. Regular workouts can reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, arthritis pain, and even anxiety and depression.

Choose whatever physical activity you like and stick with it, whether it’s bicycling, yoga, swimming, or strength training. Whatever you choose, try to incorporate these elements into your workouts:

  • Aerobic exercises that get your heart pumping and blood circulating (such as walking or biking)
  • Strengthening exercises to prevent muscle loss, which can happen with age
  • Stretching workouts to keep your body flexible and limber
  • Balance exercises to prevent falls as you get older

Stop smoking

You know by now that smoking is harmful for you. If you want to stay healthy as you age, it’s crucial that you stop smoking as soon as possible. According to the National Institutes of Health, smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and leads to lung cancer, lung disease, heart and blood vessel disease, stroke, and cataracts. And if you want to look your best as you age, consider this: Smoking causes wrinkles and speeds up the aging of your skin.

Get regular checkups

Getting healthy habits into your daily routines will help you stay healthy as you age.

One of the best ways to stop health problems is to catch them before they start, or at least in the early stages. Getting regular checkups is the best way to spot health problems and disease so that your chances of a cure and recovery are much greater. Your doctor will look at your age, family history, personal medical history, and your lifestyle habits (such as your diet and how much you exercise) to decide what tests and screenings you will need.

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