As we grow older, our bodies go through a lot of changes. You could think of it as second puberty, but without having to worry about your crush asking you to the big dance. Since there is so much happening, from our mental activity to the surface of our skin, it’s a critical time to make healthy choices every day. By committing to smart habits you’ll be able to enjoy these wonderful years to the fullest.
Surprises Are Overrated
When you were in your twenties and thirties going to the doctor felt like a last resort, however as we age, it’s important to be proactive about visits. “I tell people, if you don’t have any medical problems, to check in with the doctor once a year to make sure nothing’s creeping up on you,” says Dr. Natalie Johnson, a physician at UT Health East Texas Physicians Tyler.
Getting routine tests and screenings is essential in detecting serious conditions that can be hidden, or be present without presenting a lot of symptoms. So don’t wait until the last possible minute to see your doctor, take charge of your health because the benefits will far outweigh the time spent in the waiting room. “We’ve come so far in the treatment of some diseases,” says Dr. Johnson. “The sooner you find out about them the better treatment will be, almost having a curative effect.”
Update Your Menu
If you’ve left an active job or you’re not having to run around to accomplish a mile-long errand list, you might realize that you don’t feel the need to eat like you used to. As we age our appetites decrease because we’re not expending as much energy, which changes our metabolism. This might mean you only feel like eating one full meal a day, letting snacks fill the gaps. Since that one meal isn’t likely to contain all the required nutrients, you’re probably not getting everything your body needs. “You can become depleted in vitamins,” warns Dr. Johnson. “If you’re only having one meal a day, I encourage a protein shake that contains needed vitamins. It’s an easy way to keep calorie intake up and stay healthy without having to cook every day.”
If protein shakes aren’t your thing, but you still don’t want to cook every day, there are alternatives. If you are worried your meal routine isn’t giving you enough nutrients, you should talk to your family or friends. They could help you out by doing some grocery shopping or come over to help you meal prep once a week. Meals on Wheels is another good resource for getting at least one well-rounded meal per day.
Say No to the Couch
Getting your daily exercise in can have a multitude of benefits to your overall health. Taking just thirty minutes a day to focus on being active can improve your mood, increase energy levels, reduce the risk of chronic disease and help you get quality sleep each night. “I hate to hear that someone has retired to the couch,” says Dr. Johnson. “They are serious when they say, if you don’t use it, you lose it. If you limit activity, you’ll lose muscle mass, range of motion and stamina.”
Joining a gym can be a good way to try new exercises and provide an opportunity to meet new people. Although you might feel overwhelmed when you see a bunch of crazy machines and weights, there are good resources that will help you find the right exercises for your needs. “I highly recommend that a person beginning a new exercise program should obtain a fitness assessment,” advises certified personal trainer Alycia Wootton, Olympic Center Tyler. “There, you can discuss any goals you have, as well as any limitations or injuries you may need to work around. Not only will this allow a fitness professional to create a personalized program, it will also give a baseline of where to start.” After you know what’s best for your body, you can head out into the gym with confidence!
Staying active should be a daily activity, but it should also be fun. Try a variety of exercises to find what’s right for you so you can look forward to this time. Being active could be walking around your neighborhood, grabbing some friends to try out a yoga class or working toward a lap goal in the pool. Whatever you do, Alycia reminds you, “You are never too old to begin an exercise program!”
Texans are a strong, enduring people that have the mental toughness to eagerly take on growing older. “Retirement’s just a falsehood down here. East Texans have this mental attitude that they can still go out and birth cows at age 90,” remarks Dr. Johnson. She encourages that everyone find a purpose and stay proactive during these years of change. “Keep active, have a hobby and engage yourself because mental exercise is going to help you keep a positive outlook on the rest of your life.” So keep being strong Texans by staying healthy and taking care of yourself!
More information on My Heart First: https://uthealtheasttexas.com/myheart-first
Dr. Natalie Johnson is a board certified physician practicing at UT Health East Texas Physicians and UT Health East Texas Wound Healing Center. She has had a fellowship in geriatric medicine and finds that working with aging patients means she gets to become a part of thei lives. "I become a little bit a part of their life,' Dr. Johnson says. "I love the storytelling and being able to see that part of their life. Even getting to use it in some of their care."
UT Health Olympic Center Tyler. To get a personal assessment, set up training sessions or have any questions answered, please call 903-596-3233.