Health Info & Resources for Seniors
Start a New Healthy Habit Each Month
Whether you’re looking for a new job, continuing to work in your current position or caring for grandchildren, be sure to take care of your health. By doing so you’ll be more successful and enjoy the task at hand.
Carrie Fleckenstein, St. Luke’s University Health Networks Senior Network Director, Senior Care Services, suggests that the New Year is the perfect time to resolve to make your health a higher priority. “After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, life slows down so take advantage of the lull in activity and make an annual health plan” Carrie suggests.
Start with a visit to your doctor to make sure you don’t have any physical limitations. Be sure to discuss whether you’re up-to-date on health screenings and vaccines. For instance, have you had a colonoscopy or did you get your flu vaccine? “Getting adequate sleep, staying physically and mentally active, and eating a healthy diet are good advice at any age,” Carrie says. “but what that means changes as we age. For example, when you were younger you might have run five miles a day, three times a week. Today, it might be more reasonable to walk three miles, five days a week. Rather than sleeping eight hours at night, you might feel more refreshed with less sleep overnight and a short nap in the afternoon.”
It’s OK to start slow and build on your success. Begin with one goal each month. Losing even a little bit of weight, cutting back on sugar and salt, and exercising 20 minutes a day will increase your energy and make you feel better both physically and mentally
“Taking care of your health will help you keep up with your
young co-workers in the office or the grandkids in the yard,”
Carrie’s Health Calendar
January: Practice Good Hygiene: Wash Your Hands
Winter is cold and flu season. We’re inside more and often come into contact with people who have a viral or bacterial infection. Be sure to wash your hands with warm soapy water often. Don’t touch your face and wash down surfaces like sinks, counter tops, tables, light switches and door knobs. If you know someone is feeling poorly, call them rather than visit. Also, if you haven’t already gotten a flu shot, it’s not too late to get one now.
February: Take Care of Your Heart and Your Sweetheart
February is National Heart Month and a good time to begin taking better care of your heart and the hearts of your loved ones. Exercise, eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and reduce your stress. If you have high blood pressure or other heart-related illnesses, be sure to take your medication as
March: Beware the Ides of March and What Might Be Lurking in Your Colon
March in National Colorectal Awareness Month. If you haven’t already had a colonoscopy be sure to schedule one. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the United States and the second leading cause in men. Fortunately, however, it is one of the most curable disease when caught early so colonoscopy is so important.
April: Plan a Garden
Gardening is an excellent activity. Not only is it good exercise, but if you plant vegetables and fruits, it is also a source of inexpensive and nutritious food. Although Mother’s Day is considered a good time to plant in the Lehigh Valley, April is the time for planning your garden.
May: Get Out the Sunscreen
Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma at least once, according to the National Cancer Society, and over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. So, when you’re in the sun, always wear sunscreen, a hat with a brim and a light-weight long sleeve shirt. To protect your eyes, remember your shades.
June: Stay Active in the Summer and Year-Round
The long days of June are the perfect time to get outdoors. Take a stroll after dinner or do yardwork in the early morning. Fresh air can clean your lungs and the change of scenery can clear your mind.
July: Beware of Excessive Heat
As we get older, our bodies become less efficient at regulating temperature. Compared with younger adults, seniors don’t sweat as much. This makes them susceptible to heat-related illnesses that can be deadly. If you don’t have air conditioning, visit a family member or friend, spend the afternoon in the library or see a movie.
August: Drink Plenty of Fluids
With age, many people lose their sense of thirst. Water helps you digest food, absorb nutrients and keep you from becoming constipated. Although water, which has no calories, is the best choice, low-fat soups and fat free milk are other good options. Coffee and tea are fine in moderation; just watch the sugar. On a hot summer day, you’ll need to drink more. To stay cool, try a pop sickle or a smoothie.
September: Go Back to School, Keep Mentally Active
If you want your brain to remain sharp, use it. School isn’t only for the young. Many community colleges and some vocational schools offer classes to seniors at reduced rates. Some are even free. Consider studying something that will challenge you mentally, such as a math class, a foreign language or a musical instrument.
October: Get Your Flu Vaccine
Protect yourself against the flu. The best time to get the flu shot is October or early November. People 65 years and older bear the greatest burden of severe flu disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports estimates that between 71 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older and between 54 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in that
November: Lower Your Risk of Complications from Diabetes
November is National Diabetes Month. Unmanaged diabetes can cause blindness, heart disease and stroke. According to the National Institutes of Health, one third of the elderly population has diabetes and three quarters has it or pre-diabetes. However, a large proportion of older adults with type 2 diabetes are undiagnosed. To see if you are at risk, talk with your doctor, who can order blood tests to determine if you have the illness and can prescribe education and medication to help you manage it if you do.
Socialization is vitality important for mental and emotional wellbeing. As we get older, particularly as we reach advanced age, it becomes more difficult. Many older adults outlive their spouses, friends and even their children. In addition, it may be more difficult to get around. But as challenging as it is, it’s important to get out. Senior clubs, local YMCA/YWCAs, places of worship and adult day care all offer socialization opportunities. Find the one that fits you best and remember to reach out to your older friends and relatives.