By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Aging is never fun. But it doesn’t have to be incredibly painful either. In order to be healthy, happy and entertained during the “Golden Years,” there are certain steps to take. Physician Jack Freer, who practices primary care and geriatrics at UBMD / Kaleida Health in North Buffalo and is a member of ECMC Geriatrics Consulting Service, offers five tips to healthy aging.
“There are numerous things that can be done to help you navigate through your senior years,” said Freer.
1 Drink water
Water is sometimes known as the best free medicine available. Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) officials believe getting enough water every day is important for your health. Many healthy people meet their fluid needs by drinking when thirsty and drinking with meals. Most of your fluid needs are met through the water and beverages you drink. However, you can get some fluids through the foods that you eat. For example, broth soups and foods with high water content such as celery, tomatoes, or melons can contribute to fluid intake.
Water helps your body keep your temperature normal, lubricates and cushions joints, protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues and gets rid of wastes through urination, perspiration and bowel movements. Your body needs more water when you are in hot climates, more physically active and as you age.
“When people get older, they tend not to feel as thirsty,” said Freer, who is also the medical director of the Elderwood Long Term Care at Cheektowaga. “They can go throughout the day and not feel the need to drink water until they are incredibly dehydrated, and that is when problems start. You need to force yourself to drink water and maintain your fluids on a regular basis in the summer for anyone, but especially if you are older.”
The CDC finds that 91 percent of New York adults fall short of consuming at least two servings of vegetables each day. One in three adults now has prediabetes.
“We have to be honest with ourselves. We all like to eat the wrong things because it does taste good, but the wrong things can have incredibly problematic results as you age,” added Freer. “You have to understand what you eat helps preserve your health as opposed to just the luxury of eating for pleasure. Even as you get older and you don’t have much of an appetite, that is why it is so important to make sure you are eating the right things.”
3 Stay active
Frailty is one of the characteristics that is often associated with seniors because as we age we typically lose muscle and get weaker. Once you start losing muscle, you get more vulnerable and you are susceptible to other problems like infections.
“To avoid speeding up the development of frailty, it is useful to exercise and maintain a steady active lifestyle,” said Freer. “Some people are able to play tennis into their 80s, and some people are able to play golf and other activities into their 90s. While you must avoid pushing yourself too much over the limit, you have to do everything you can to keep your body moving.”
4 Ways to avoid falls
As people start to age, falling becomes one of the biggest health casualties in thee lives of many seniors. Whether that is because they lack a strong core to keep balance or are unaware of too many home hazards, it can be the beginning of a health downfall.
“Even something like having throw rugs in the house where a senior can slip can be incredibly dangerous,” said Freer. “You have to be aware of common hazards around the house that can cause you to lose your balance. It is a real problem among seniors.”
Freer believes the best patients are not only educated patients, but those who have a consistent advocate with them. Many times, the medication can have adverse effects whether that is over-the-counter or prescribed. Patients must be their own advocate if they feel like their medication is doing more harm than good.
“You also want to talk to your doctor about safe and healthy strategies that may not involve medication. In many cases there are some good physical remedies that can help you over medication,” added Freer. “There are some situations where medication isn’t the best option for an ailment like back problems. Make sure you talk with your doctor always about other options.”