Healthy old age mentality is a tricky-dicky. Lifespan has soared, if we reach 65 years, women can expect to live for another 21 years (19 for men). For many of us, ageing comes at a cost — one or more long-term illnesses, disabilities and/or multiple medications. Some of these are bad luck, for example, those linked to accidents or our family history but how we live our lives can make a big difference to how healthily we age.
‘Old age ain’t no place for sissies!’* so we have to make ourselves resilient.
Cell division and renewal slows down, our DNA (genetic material) starts to develop faults (mutations) and telomeres (protective ‘caps’ on the end of our chromosomes) start to shrink. Many of these changes are triggered by inflammation in the body and environmental toxins — factors we can influence.
We’re all familiar with the outward signs — hair and skin changes, stiffness/loss of flexibility, aches and pains, reduced muscle strength, slower walking, stooping, tiring more easily and often, weight gain too. Our insides age too — arteries get stiffer and narrower, bones thin, organs become less efficient and our brains less agile, so we’re more forgetful and often lose our youthful enthusiasm — on the plus side, wisdom and experience come to our aid! It also gets harder and takes longer to bounce back from physical and mental setbacks.
The current advice to live well can’t be said too often; a balanced diet, keeping our weight down, not smoking, drinking alcohol within recommended limits, staying active and being sociable, are vital weapons in our fight against ageing and lifestyle diseases. These include diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases (such as strokes and heart attacks) arthritis and immune system diseases, they’re all more common and cause suffering in older people.
If we know what we should do to stay well, what’s stopping us? Perhaps we think it’s too late, we’ve still got plenty of time, or it won’t happen to us. Wrong! It’s never too late (or too early) to start making improvements, even if we can’t manage them all at once. Maybe we lack confidence and self-esteem, feel we can’t afford it, or are too stressed, or are prevented by other people or commitments? Wrong again. Investing in our health can make us feel better all around and benefits loved ones, too. There’s lots of information about healthier lifestyles and ageing well, mentally and physically, at your GP practice.
Take extra protection for a healthy old age
- Go for checks and take free advice offered by Health Institutes and screening for bowel, breast, cervical and prostate cancers.
- Get fully immunised, including against flu, pneumonia and shingles, when you become eligible.
- Use high-factor sunscreen to help protect your skin against wrinkles, ageing spots and skin cancer.
- Have regular eye tests — they can detect early eye and health changes.
- Wear a hearing aid if you become deaf — feeling socially isolated can affect mental and physical health.
- Look after your feet to maintain your mobility. See a podiatrist, especially if you have diabetes.
- Attend regular dental checks to preserve teeth and spot mouth disease early.
- Ask for help from your local council or social services if you need it.
E324 – A Healthy Old Age Mentality- www.diabetic.today