Celebrating Your Health at Every Age
By Elizabeth Battaglino, RN, CEO of HealthyWomen
How do you live to a healthy old age?
There's not one answer to that question—it's way more complicated than that, with many forces at work. There's an intricate interplay between things like genetics, environment, lifestyle and sometimes just plain luck that factors into staying healthy.
And unfortunately, we can't rely on that (mythical) fountain of youth to keep us standing still, age-wise.
But one thing is for sure: Being aware and taking care of your health is paramount. Just as your body is changing with each new decade, so are your health care needs and concerns.
And National Women's Health Week is a great reminder to start—or continue— to work toward being the healthiest you can be, at any age. It's never too late to be empowered and make your health your highest priority!
You may be wondering where to start or what steps you can take toward a healthier life. Here are the top 10 things you can do for both your physical and mental health:
- Schedule your annual well-woman visit. Bring up your health concerns and questions. Most health care plans cover annual visits, or checkups, with no co-pay, coinsurance or deductible.
- Stay up to date on your preventive screenings, like blood pressure, bone density, mammograms, Pap and chlamydia tests, and more. Click here to see the full list, which shows you the screenings you need, starting at 18 all the way through age 65 and beyond.
- Be aware of the vaccines you need—like shingles, pneumonia, flu, tuberculosis and others. Click here for updated information.
- Get active. Remember, some physical activity is better than none! You can gain health benefits from as little as 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. But for major health benefits, at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week is recommended. For more detailed info, click here.
- Eat healthy. About half of all American adults have one or more chronic disease that is related to diet, according to the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Yes, there is a significant link between nutrition and good health, and a well-rounded diet focusing on variety, nutrient density and quantity is a big step toward staying healthy. Here's a good site, filled with helpful information on the best nutrition practices.
- Pay attention to your mental health. This includes getting adequate sleep and good stress-management techniques. Discuss depression or any other mental health concerns with your health care professional.
- Avoid dangerous and/or unhealthy behaviors, like misuse of prescription or over-the-counter or illegal drugs; smoking; excess alcohol use; texting while driving; and not wearing a helmet when you bike or a seatbelt in the car.
- Maintain a healthy weight. It's so important for your health! Staying at a healthy weight can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, gallstones, high blood pressure and even some cancers. And because two in three adults are considered to be overweight or obese, it's important to know the facts. Here is some more helpful information, including how to use the body mass index calculator to estimate where you stand.
- Prevent falls. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for people age 65 and older, so it's important to take steps to stay safe. Exercise helps with balance, coordination, strength and flexibility, all important to keeping you steady on your feet. Read more about preventing falls here.
- Assign someone to make health care decisions for you should you be unable to do so.
Make sure to check out HealthyWomen's links to health for every decade between 20 and 70! (And look for links at the end of some of these articles for even more info.)