Although Americans are enjoying longer lives, we aren’t necessarily seeing a corresponding rise in the health of older adults. In fact, just the opposite seems to be true. A new national report analyzing the health status of seniors in the United States finds a nationwide increase in rates of diseases like diabetes and other chronic conditions.
This decline in the health of older Americans can be linked to 4 senior lifestyle choices.
According to a study out of Southern Cross University in New South Wales, Australia, older adults are the single largest demographic group at disproportionate risk of the malnutrition that comes from having an inadequate diet, and nutrition is one of the single greatest factors that determine quality of life.
The fact is, healthy eating habits promote a healthy living. Eating well gives you the nutrients needed to keep your muscles, bones, organs, and other parts of your body healthy throughout your life. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats, and water.
Unfortunately, many older adults don’t eat the kinds of foods (like fresh fruits and vegetables) they need to get necessary nutrients—because they are difficult to find or seem bland.
If you’re looking for ways to start eating healthier without sacrificing taste, check out these great Mediterranean inspired dishes.
2. Senior Fitness
Nearly 70 percent of Americans over 50 are overweight. At least one third of that number is classified as obese.
Moderate obesity, which is now common in the United States, can reduce life expectancy by about 3 years while morbid obesity can shorten your life by as much as a decade— which makes being extremely overweight as dangerous as smoking.
These statistics are particularly disheartening when it’s not hard for seniors to get active. With the help of your senior healthcare provider and a wellness expert, you can start a senior fitness routine that’s safe for you, even if you have a chronic disease or physical handicap, with no compulsory gym time.
Getting fitter doesn’t have to be boring— a common complaint. Water aerobics can be a fun way to get in shape.
3. Regular Habits
Seniors are, as a demographic, pretty savvy about their vices. You understand the dangers of smoking and the long-term effects of overindulging in alcohol.
According to the American Lung Association, only 9 percent of older adults in America are smokers, but those who do smoke are more likely to suffer smoking-related illnesses despite beliefs to the contrary.
The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that over half of older Americans are teetotalers. Only about 40 percent of adults age 65 and older drink alcohol, and then typically only a few drinks a week, but alcohol consumption can still carry dangers for older adults who don’t overindulge. Both age and medications changes how the body reacts to alcohol, and older adults need to be aware that their tolerance may not be what it was.
4. Mental Wellness
Mental health can be a sensitive topic to tackle at any age—especially when it’s framed as the antithesis of mental illness. But mental health is a serious issue—one that goes beyond addressing health problems like depression or anxiety, although, according to the American Psychiatric Association, studies have shown that seniors are at greater risk of certain mental disorders and related complications than younger people.
Mental wellness is an overall state of wellbeing that effects how you see yourself, your outlook on life, how well you manage your emotions, your ability to build lasting relationships, and even your physical health and brain fitness.
If you’re one of the many older adults in America who struggles with mental wellness, check out these 7 steps to get yourself to a better state of being.