25 Things You Can Do to Prevent Health Issues as You Get Older
Learn how to have the body of a 30-year-old well into your 50s.
Age might just be a number in your mind, but not as far as your body is concerned. Sure, you might still live like you’re in your 30s when you hit the big 5-0, but your aching back and blurry vision may be telling a different story. The good news is there are a surprising number of ways to make your body look and feel as young as you wish you were. Keep reading to discover some easy ways to prevent health issues throughout the aging process.
Use ear plugs at loud events.
Our hearing naturally gets worse and worse over time. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t delay the onset of this condition by protecting your eardrums at all costs. One way to prevent this age-related health issue is by using hearing protection when you go to a loud event like a concert or workout class. Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, an otolaryngologist (ENT) and laryngologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California, specifically suggests using “either protection that can go into the ear canal (like foam ear plugs) or silicone types that seal the outside of the ear canal.”
Limit your aspirin use.
Though aspirin is a lifesaver when you’re dealing with a debilitating headache, you should be sure that you’re monitoring your intake of the painkiller. According to Mehdizadeh, this painkiller is one of the many medications—along with water pills and antibiotics—that can cause hearing loss when taken in high doses.
One of the most fun ways to prevent the health issues associated with aging is by dancing. In a 2017 study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers found that volunteers who took weekly dance classes over the course of 18 months saw an increase in the hippocampus region of the brain, the area responsible for memory that’s often subject to age-related decline.
Adopt a pet.
Not only is adopting a furry friend helping an animal in need, but it also does your body good. In one 2013 paper published in the journal Circulation, researchers commissioned by the American Heart Association outlined the many ways in which pet ownership can prevent health issues, noting that the effects include “increased physical activity, favorable lipid profiles, lower systemic blood pressure, improved autonomic tone, diminished sympathetic responses to stress,” and so on. Need we say more?
Spend ample time outdoors.
One of your strongest allies in the fight against aging is Mother Nature herself. In a 2015 study published in the journal Health & Place, researchers found that being near nature encouraged older individuals to become more active socially, spiritually, and physically, and thusly improved their physical and mental wellbeing.
Your best defense against age-related health issues, believe it or not, is a strong support system. “Staying socially engaged may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in later life,” explains neurologist Verna R. Porter, MD, director of the Alzheimer’s disease program at Providence Saint John’s Health Center. Whether you’re taking group classes or grabbing coffee with old friends, “regularly connecting with others face-to-face is important.”
Practice good posture.
If you’re dealing with back pain and aren’t sure why, your posture might be to blame. As Neel Anand, MD, director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles, explains, “poor posture and back pain are BFFs.”
In order to avoid both short- and long-term back issues, he suggests practicing good posture in front of the mirror. Specifically, you should make sure of these three things, according to Anand: 1) “[Your] head is straight and stacked over your body with your chin parallel to the floor,” 2) There is “equal spacing between your arms on both sides,” and 3) Your knees are straight rather than bent or hyper-extended.
Learn a new language.
Your brain is one of the most vulnerable parts of your body when it comes to age-related health issues. That’s why Porter emphasizes the importance of “stimulating your brain throughout your life.” Specifically, she notes that “education at any age may protect against cognitive decline,” so don’t be afraid to study a foreign language, practice a musical instrument, or even enroll in a night class at the local community college.
Give your eyes a break from contact lenses.
Eyes do not need a break from glasses, “but they do need a break from contact lenses,” says Howard R. Krauss, MD, surgical neuro-ophthalmologist at Providence St. John’s. “If the eyes are red or irritated, contact lenses should be removed so as to reduce the risk of corneal ulcers and scars,” he advises.
Also, according to Krauss, you should never sleep with your contact lenses in seeing as doing so “incurs a 14-fold increased risk of serious corneal infection, which may permanently damage the eye.”
Limit the amount of time you spend on your devices.
They might help you stay connected to your friends and keep you constantly up-to-date on everything from the weather to the news, but you’re going to want to limit the amount of time you spend on your devices if you want to prevent health issues as you age. “Those with prolonged screen time are more prone to eye strain, which may include aching of and around the eyes, headache and neck ache, difficulty in refocusing at distance, and dryness of the eyes,” explains Krauss.
Sunglasses aren’t just a summertime accessory. According to Krauss, they prevent “UV exposure, [which] promotes skin cancer of the eyelids and cancer of the surface mucous membrane of the eye.” Not only that, but both wind and dry air can lead to bumps on your eyes, which can “become pterygia that threaten permanent damage to the vision.”
And never leave the house without sunscreen.
Sunscreen use shouldn’t be limited to summer months, either—especially if you want your skin to look ageless. According to board-certified dermatopathologist Gretchen W. Frieling, MD, “taking measures to protect your skin from the sun is, without question, the best way to prevent aging. You still get the sun’s rays on cold days, so don’t forget that SPF!”
“Regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50 percent,” says Porter, citing data from the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation. She explains that physical activity “stabilizes older brain connections (synapses) and helps make new connections possible.”
And no, you don’t have to become a triathlete in order to stay sharp. Rather, “the target is to exercise 30 to 45 minutes per day, four to five days per week.”
Stretch every day.
Stretching is just as important as hitting the gym, especially in your later years. “Our bodies become less mobile as we get older, which means we have to take even better care of ourselves,” says Rebecca Louise, a celebrity fitness trainer. “Loosening up your body in the morning by stretching will help you feel more agile.”
Get the recommended amount of sleep every night.
There are myriad reasons to make sure you’re getting an adequate amount of sleep every night. For one, Porter notes that “studies have linked poor sleep to higher levels of beta-amyloid depositions,” which are “a pathological hallmark of [Alzheimer’s disease].”
What’s more, according to Frieling, a “lack of sleep can exacerbate virtually all skin conditions and leave the skin looking sallow and worn out.” The body needs its eight hours in order to repair itself, so make sure you aren’t cheating yourself out of some precious shut-eye.
Sleep on your back.
The position in which you sleep can have a surprising effect on the appearance of your skin, too. “Sleep lines are wrinkles that become prominent on the surface of the skin when you sleep on your side with your cheeks or chin compressed,” explains Frieling. To avoid these unsightly lines, she suggests sleeping on your back rather than on your stomach or side.
Brush your teeth.
Don’t underestimate the power of proper oral hygiene. In a 2019 study published in Science Advances, researchers determined that the same bacteria that causes gingivitis can migrate from the mouth to the brain and destroy nerve cells, putting you at a greater risk of Alzheimer’s.
Don’t forget to moisturize.
“Women are so concerned about trying the latest and greatest products that they often overlook the power of a simple moisturizer,” says Frieling. “Skin that is moist looks better, and lines and creases are less noticeable.”
Keep your stress in check.
Stress is just as detrimental to your physical health as it is to your mental health. The American Heart Association notes that “stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk” by raising your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and leading you to smoke, drink, and eat more all while exercising less. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious, talk to someone about your emotions before they break you down from the inside out.
Drink plenty of water.
“Good skin starts from within,” says Frieling. Translation: You need to constantly replenish your body’s internal water supply if you want your skin to look healthy and hydrated externally for years to come. And for more reasons to stay hydrated, This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Drink Enough Water.
Eat more yogurt.
A delicious way to prevent health problems as you get older is with yogurt. One 2018 study published in the American Journal of Hypertension found that increased yogurt intake—specifically, at least two servings per week—was associated with a 17 percent reduced heart attack risk for women and a 21 percent reduced heart attack risk for men.
Limit your sodium intake.
No one is denying that salty pretzels and peanuts are the best part of any pub crawl. However, if you want to look and feel young well into your 40s and 50s, you’re going to want to limit just how much sodium you’re consuming. Per the Cleveland Clinic, excess sodium intake can impact your skin by dehydrating it and taking away its healthy glow.
Snack on watermelon often.
Why watermelon? Research published in the American Journal of Hypertension in 2014 found that in just 12 weeks, overweight subjects who were given two types of extract from this juicy fruit saw improvements in both their blood pressure and cardiac stress.
Get your heart checked regularly.
Obviously getting your heart checked regularly by a doctor is a great way to prevent heart disease as you age. However, did you know that this is also a wonderful way to keep dementia at bay, too? In a 2019 study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers found that people who maintained healthy heart habits in their 50s were less likely to have dementia some 25 years later.
Go to the doctor regularly.
It might be obvious, but it’s worth repeating: Going to the doctor on a regular and routine basis is one of the best (and easiest) ways to prevent health issues as you age. Even if you don’t feel under the weather, getting a check-up could be the very thing that helps you catch a potentially fatal disease in its early stages or prevents you from getting sick in the first place. And when you’re with your physician, keep these 40 Questions Every Man Should Ask His Doctor After 40 in mind.
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