Retired people rank health security among their highest priorities for a successful retirement.
Last year, during the weeks and months following hip surgery, I struggled with limited mobility. I realized how much I had taken my good health for granted.
I also realized what every Postworksavvy reader knows — good health is essential for a happy retirement. You can’t travel or pursue hobbies or attend social events when you are sick or when your health is compromised.
You can’t control all aspects of health. Accidents happen; genes are inherited; environmental toxins affect all of us. Age also takes a toll.
You can, however take control of some aspects of your life to achieve better health. Regardless of whether you suffer from a chronic health condition or whether you are blessed with excellent overall health taking some simple actions will help you to keep and improve the health you now enjoy. These steps will also help to manage some of the inevitabilities of growing older.
Eat well. For me this means lots of fresh fruit and veggies and less meat. I’ve recently been experimenting with a gluten-free and dairy free diet as a strategy for lessening arthritic pain without pain killing drugs. Many people control Type II diabetes through diet alone. Others follow a vegan diet because of their values and/or beliefs. A good diet is essential for weight management.
In North America we have access to food choices that allow us to eat well and to follow our individual needs and preferences for good nutrition.
Take your vitamins. Eating right is a beginning but trace vitamins and minerals that aren’t available to your body may be missing or not available in the required amounts. Talk to your doc and follow his/her guidance.
If you are prescribed medications, take them — in the quantities and at the times specified on medical prescriptions. Skipping medications that you need to fight disease or control pain won’t help your quality of life.
Exercise regularly. Last week I visited a seniors centre where an exercise class was in progress. Everyone did the exercises while seated. The instructor gave a 45 minute class that involved most muscle groups. The music was invigorating and people enjoyed moving their arms and legs and torsos — within the limits of a seated posture. What I learned that morning is that you don’t need to go to a swimming pool or a gym to exercise.
Do whatever you can do to move your body. Walk. Dance. Cycle. And reap the benefits that come with flexibility and agility.
Sleep enough. We’re told repeatedly that sleep is one of the key determinants of health. You know what your body needs — perhaps it is 7 or 8 or 9 hours per day. Don’t compromise.
Many people need daytime naps to get enough sleep; if night sleep is a problem, you might try napping as a supplement.
Keep stress in check. Stress robs the ‘joie de vivre’ from any day or night. Whether the stress comes from family responsibilities, financial worries, over-scheduling or habitual negative thoughts, it can take a toll on your health.
Learning positive stress management techniques may require changes in how you react to situations. You don’t need to bang your head in frustration.
Many stressors can’t be avoided but your response can be managed — you can avoid certain difficult situations; you can say ‘no’ more often; you can learn to express feelings and not bottle up your feelings inside only to explode later.
Relaxation always helps manage stress. Your relaxation strategies won’t be the same as mine but retreating to my hobby room, or playing the piano, or doing some yoga have helped me to regain balance and put aside niggling worries.
Get regular medical and dental check-ups. When you are busy and your health is of no particular concern, it’s easy to put off the annual physical exam.
Yesterday I had coffee with a friend who told me she had not had a physical in more than 5 years as she was healthy. She may be one of the lucky people whose health is excellent.
Regular physical exams often serve as an early warning system and help to prevent serious health problems.
The same goes for dental exams which many seniors skip as they are reluctant to pay for good dental care. These decisions may be penny-wise but pound-foolish as poor dental health often leads to other serious illness such as heart disease.
Laugh and love. Hugs and kisses from loved ones, good belly laughs with friends and family, social activities that keep the brain stimulated — these are easy ways to increase happiness.
Laughter and love are important strategies for overall health — and they also serve as stress reduction techniques. Love your family. Cherish your friends. Accept social invitations.
The steps to maximize health are easy. It might be harder to change your life — every day — to make sure that these steps become part of your lifestyle. Consistency and self-discipline will make these steps easier. Soon the steps will become habits — habits that help you achieve better overall health results.
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