As you grow older it is more important than ever to try and look after your body. Simple changes in your lifestyle can help to reduce the risk of developing serious health conditions. A few steps to a healthy lifestyle are outlined below:
It’s never too late to change your eating habits and changing to healthier foods will make you feel better almost instantaneously. It is really important to try and eat a balanced diet, which incorporates foods from all the major food groups: carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fruits and vegetables. The bulk of your daily calorie intake should be complex carbohydrates, which help to keep the body fuelled and fruits and vegetables; these foods provide many of the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals that your body needs to keep healthy (you should try to eat 5 portions each day). It is also important to eat foods that are high in fibre as well as proteins and fats; fats should come in the form of unsaturated fats including olive oil, nuts, oily fish and avocadoes rather than foods that are high in saturated fats such as pies, cakes, fried food and processed meat (such as sausages).
Bowel irritations and conditions are more common in older people so make sure you eat plenty of foods that are high in fibre; examples of these include:
- Wholegrain foods including bread, pasta, cereal and rice (often known as brown bread, pasta and rice)
- Pulses, including beans and lentils
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
It is also important to make sure you up your intake of certain nutrients as you get older; these include:
- Vitamin D: vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium, which is important for strong bones, teeth and nails. Foods that are rich in vitamin D include eggs and oily fish.
- Calcium: calcium is essential for maintaining strength in the bones. Older people are prone to developing osteoporosis, which causes brittle bones so calcium intake is very important. Good sources of calcium include milk, yoghurts and cheese.
- Iron: a lack of iron can lead to reduced energy levels, which makes people feel tired and lethargic. Good sources of iron include leafy vegetables such as watercress and spinach, red meat, pulses and oily fish.
- Folic acid: folic acid is a key nutrient which contributes to good general health. Good sources of folic acid include green vegetables and wholegrain rice (some breakfast cereals also contain folic acid so look out for the labels).
It is best to prepare meals from scratch using fresh ingredients, but if you struggle to cook try and get somebody to help you with preparing your meals or stock up on readymade meals from supermarkets; many offer a range of healthier meals but take care to read the labels carefully as some meals are high in salt, sugar and saturated fats.
It can be more difficult to exercise as you get older but even doing a little bit of light exercise on a regular basis will have drastic effects on your health. If you have limited movement or find exercise painful, try light intensity exercises such as yoga, bowls, walking or swimming. Exercise can also be a great way to meet new friends and get out of the house, as well benefitting your physical and mental health. Exercise has also been proven to reduce stress and boost confidence.
Smoking and drinking regularly can have serious implications for your health, especially if you are over the age of 50. Both smoking and drinking are serious contributors to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, organ failure and cancer. Giving up or cutting down will benefit your health almost immediately; if you need help quitting, consult your GP and make the most of the free NHS services on offer in your local area; these include community groups and help sessions. The NHS also runs a quitline for people that want to stop smoking and offers help via the telephone and through the post, as well as organising group sessions. You can ask your GP for details or consult the NHS website; there is lots of information here, as well as links to organisations that may be able to help you.