The aging process is unavoidable. But the manner in which you choose to age will affect the quality of the rest of your life. As a geriatric physician, I see this every day. For example, two senior patients come in for office visits who are the same age─one looks great and manages minor health issues while the other looks well beyond his years and is plagued by diabetes, heart disease or other serious chronic health problems. Why? The first patient adopted a healthy lifestyle while the other was sedentary, socially isolated and consumed the diet of a teenager.
Following a few simple guidelines for healthy aging can be surprisingly easy, inexpensive and even enjoyable. I have outlined some key points for seniors and people over 50 to help combat the onset of aging and diseases that commonly plague people later in life:
Socialize! It has been proven that people who live the longest have social connections with family, friends, neighbors, community groups and volunteer organizations.
Make health your hobby. Keep up-to-date on the latest medical findings; experiment with new healthy recipes or try a different type of exercise program (in moderation).
Eat clean and pure. You get what you give. If you fuel your body with junk food, your body will respond accordingly. Studies show that people who eat mostly clean food (without processing and preservatives) live longer and healthier lives. You do not need to eat foods with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated, “#” symbols (such as “Red #40”), artificial sweeteners and chemical preservatives.
Eat the “Big 16”. These 16 “super” foods will fuel your body and ward off disease: seafood, light dairy, spinach, nuts, olive oil, broccoli, oatmeal, flaxseed meal, avocados, pomegranate juice, tomatoes, tofu, yogurt, red onions, garlic, beans and lentils.
Move it! Exercising is good for your heart, weight, joints, muscles, sleeping, digestion, disease prevention, mental health—you name it.
Watch your waist. Unlike excess fat in our cheeks, neck, arms and thighs, abdominal fat behaves like a chemical factory, spewing out unhealthy products that cause serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. If your pants begin to feel snug, cut back and exercise more.
It’s not worth the stress. Identify stressors in your life and be especially wary of triggers that can make your blood pressure spike. Find reasons to laugh every day. Practice deep breathing during times of peace and stress.
Check-in for a check-up. Now, more than ever, see your personal physician for a detailed yearly physical examination. Problems identified early on have the highest rate of cure. It only takes an hour and is well worth your time.
CentraState Healthcare System is committed to increasing access to primary care physicians as part of its mission to build a healthier community. CentraState offers a strong network of more than 75 board-certified family medicine and internal medicine physicians who are on staff at the medical center. As a teaching hospital in Family Medicine through its Family Medicine Residency Program, CentraState is helping ensure that new family doctors will continue to practice in the community for generations to come. In addition, CentraState’s Geriatric Fellowship Program is integral to its goal of providing for the special health and wellness needs of the seniors in the community.
Abhijit Chatterjee, MD is double board-certified and fellowship-trained in geriatrics and internal medicine. He is on staff at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold and can be reached at (609) 655-2700.