Senior Health
An Overview

What do we mean by senior health? Is health not the same throughout our life? 
No! 
How we define health can change over the course of our lives. As children or young adults, most of us don’t giver our health much thought. However, as we age, we become aware that we will not live forever.

"We have to treat our body with respect to keep it functioning for many years"

WHO defines health as “A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Only very few of us go through life with a perfect health.  Thankfully, we humans are very good at adapting. Many of us come to learn that it is possible to live happy, active lives with less than perfect health. It might take some adjustments in the way that we are doing things, but it is achievable. 

Benefits of Healthy Aging

grandparents with their granddaughter

Most of us want to lead long lives, to see our children, and grandchildren grow up, being able to play with them and being active. But we also want to able to experience new things.

" The senior generation has changed over the past 30 years, and seniors don’t grow old in the same way they used to. "

This is mainly thanks to new medical treatments and better working environments. But it is also thanks to the fact, that we now have more options for seeking information on how to live healthily. 

Many of us have an open mind, enjoys learning new things, traveling to new places and experiencing the world. And we have the ability to do so. It is important to realize that it is not necessary to have a totally clean bill of health to be able to do the things we want to do. It is entirely possible to travel with a chronic disease, but there are things you have to know and prepare before doing so.

Senior health can, as health at any age be determined by our own choices.

Senior Health, what can we do ourselves?

Luckily we have a lot of influence in the way that we age. Of course, it is not everything we can control. Sometimes nature or bad luck gets in the way of our plans. But even if we fall ill, get cancer, diabetes, or something else, there is still a lot we can do to improve our chances of recovery, or to improve the lifestyle we can lead with our diseases.

"Diseases such as type2 diabetes, obesity, strokes, and heart diseases, can in many cases be prevented. "

By leading a healthy and active lifestyle we can prevent a lot of lifestyle diseases. 

Here are some of the things you can do to improve your health and minimize the risk of getting sick.

Exercise

Woman doing yoga

As we age our muscle mass decreases. As we hit 50 years of age we lose approximately 1% of our entire muscle mass every year. This means that if we want to sustain a normal life, we have to do something actively about it.

Exercising your muscles doesn’t necessarily mean lifting weights. There are so many different types of exercise that will help you maintain your muscle mass.

If exercise is new to you it can be a challenge doing it on a regular basis. Finding a form of exercise you enjoy can help you stick to it. Exercising with others is another great way to commit your self to it. And just as important: Having good social relations will prolong your life, as well as giving you more quality of life.

As mentioned: Senior health is more than physical health. Mental and social health is just as important as exercise and eating right, to keep our bodies and minds healthy.

Diet

Plate of salat for improved senior health

As your muscle mass is deteriorating it is important to have a source of protein at every meal. Protein helps your muscle rebuild. A lot of different types of food contain protein not only meat and eggs but also nuts like almonds and beans like chickpeas.

Underweight and Nutrient Deficiency in Seniors

Another challenge that can arise with old age, is the loss of appetite. As a consequence, many senior citizens don’t eat enough and therefore become underweight. Not eating enough increases the risk that your intake of nutrients becomes insufficient. Nutrient deficiency can be very serious and should not be taken lightly.

Some of the early indicators that you are suffering from a nutrient deficiency can include, but is not limited to:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle Ache
  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea, vomiting or nausea
  • Sleeplessness

If left untreated a nutrient deficiency can cause irreparable damage to your body.

If you suspect that you are suffering from nutrient deficiency, you should see your physician. They can take a blood test to help determine which nutrients you lack and how to treat the deficiency.

Read more about vitamin deficiency on Mayo Clinic.

Overweight Seniors

Overweight can be a lifelong battle. However, as our body ages, our metabolism slows down. This means that we burn calories at a slower pace than when we were younger. As you grow older it is, therefore, easier to gain weight and harder to shed the pounds again. The reason why the metabolism slows is partly connected to the loss of muscle mass as we age. The muscles burn a large part of the body’s energy. As the amount of muscles decreases, so does the energy it uses.

"As we age we burn calories at a slower pace than when we were younger "

As we grow older many of us also have a tendency to become less active. This includes exercise as well as other activities. We no longer have small children to keep us active throughout the days, and the occasional visit from the grandchildren doesn’t quite cut it. If you can recognize this, you should put an effort into staying active. It can be a challenge at first! But once you make it a part of your daily routine it becomes much easier.

Quit smoking

quit smoking broken cigarette

There are many health benefits for seniors wanting to quit smoking. Many, however, feel that it is too late for them to stop smoking. It is never too late and you to can make a difference for your own, as well as your family’s health.

Why should you quit smoking?

You have probably heard that smoking can kill. But if you quit there are some pretty nice benefits to your health.

  • You reduce the risk of having a heart attack
  • Your lungs will improve
  • You reduce the risk of getting cancer
  • Your heart and circulatory system will start to function better
  • Have better breath and healthier teeth

But it is not only your health that benefits when you quit smoking.

You will also:

  • Save money
  • Be a better role model

Having been a smoker for decades it can seem an impossible challenge to quit smoking. And it is not going to be effortless, but it is not impossible and there are many resources to help you achieve your goal.

Before you quit, make a plan and stick to it.

I have made a list of things you might consider before you quit smoking:

  1. Talk your self into quitting, what are the benefits? Health, finance, setting a good example for your children or grandchildren.
  2. How can you expect to feel while having withdraws? What can trigger your cravings?
  3. Talk to your family doctor.
  4. Decide how to handle withdraws, do you want to use any medications? Or do you want to go cold turkey?
  5. Make a plan: Find a date, prepare your family, stock up on nicotine gum, carrots, or whatever you have decided will keep you away from the cigarettes.
  6. Quit!

There is plenty of help to find when you want to quit smoking; the website Smokefree60+ is a great resource with a lot of helpful information. 

Diet

A healthy and balanced diet can do wonders for you body, and in some cases even lessen or even remove symptoms of illnesses. 

You don’t have to follow any specific diet. However if you are looking for inspiration I will recommend taking a look at the Mediterranean Diet for heart-health.

A vegetarian or vegan diet can also do wonders for you! You don’t have to follow a strict vegan diet to see results, how about just having a meat-free day once in a while? 

Get more information about vegetarism and veganism here

If you want to learn more about what a healhy senior diet is and how you can make improvements to your own diet. Read more here.

Sexuality

senior couple hugging each other

Aging doesn’t mean that you stop having sexual needs and desires, in fact, many seniors state that their sex lives have only improved with age.

Sex can also give you a good workout!

However some people experience changes in their sex lives, and in their ability to perform sexually, as they age, this goes for both men and women.

Senior Women and Sexuality

Some women may not find themselves to be as attractive as their bodies’ age, this can affect their desire for sex and make it harder for them to become aroused.

Physically a woman also changes with age, the vaginal wall becomes thinner and drier. There are several ways to solve these obstacles, hormones can help stabilize the hormone level and lubricants can help lessen the irritation caused by the friction.

"For some women, intercourse can feel uncomfortable or in some cases even painful"

However, experience comes with age and as a senior, you probably know what works for you and what doesn’t. If you have a long-term partner it can give more self-confidence and remove some insecurity; this can result in more satisfying sexual experiences for seniors.

Senior Men and Sexuality

Men might be facing other challenges. It can take longer to achieve an erection. It might require more foreplay, and it can take longer before it is possible to have another erection. These involuntary breaks can be used in a positive way to satisfy your partner and make sure that she is just as excited as you are.

Other types of erectile dysfunction (ER) can have a negative impact on men’s ability to have sexual intercourse.

Sex can be a difficult subject to discuss with others, but some issues are difficult to solve alone. If you or your partner is experiencing problems with your sex life, you should get up the nerve and see your doctor. Many of the issues concerning the ability to perform sexually can be resolved by consulting a doctor.

Mental Health

man displaying dark thoughts and depression

Health is more than physical health; it is to a great extent also mental health. As we age life can sometimes become difficult and hard. When we retire our lives change drastically, some are able to embrace these changes and enjoy their new freedom. Others feel they have lost their sense of purpose.
Other serious changes to our health can occur. We might become ill and have to deal with pain and a changed lifestyle, or we might experience deaths in our immediate family or among our friends.

"If you are not mentally healthy it will also often be very difficult to keep your body healthy"

These circumstances can lead to depression and anxiety. It is important to address these issues, if you feel depressed or anxious you should contact your doctor or a therapist.

Senior! Exercise your brain!

Keeping your brain sharp is also a factor in maintaining a good mental health.

It is a common misconception that it becomes harder to learn new things as we age. However, the biggest threat to a healthy brain are illnesses along with the fact that many of us become more inactive as we age.

Exercise your brain and prevent dementia

Dementia is not a disease it is damage to the brain that can result in memory loss, inability to make decisions, and changed personality. The damage can be caused by taking a hit to the head or other physical accidents, but can also be the consequence of diseases like type2 diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common cause.

Some cases of dementia cannot be cured, but research has shown that having a healthy and active lifestyle, along with a stimulated brain can make a difference. It is not difficult to exercise and stimulate your brain; on the contrary, it can be quite entertaining.

5 exciting brain exercises 

  • Learn a new language
  • Start playing the piano
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Memorize your grocery list
  • Play Sudoku or play word games with friends on your smartphone 

Some of these exercises are not easy. It is not easy to learn a new language or to play a new instrument, but these tasks force our cerebral hemispheres to work together, which gets more and more challenging as we age. These two exercises are therefore very effective in exercising our brains, and furthermore, it is always fun to develop our minds and learn new things.

Some of the exercises mentioned above are easy to do and doesn’t take much effort. If you receive a newspaper there are often Sudoku´s or crossword puzzles you can solve. If you own a smartphone you can download an app for a word game you can play with your friends or family, these games can be quite entertaining and give a new form of connection to your family, on a daily basis.

You can make a difference for your own health!

Smiling man and woman in a flower garden

Having read this article, I hope that you have gained a sense of your own ability to make a positive change in your health. Some things are out of your control, but if you make it a priority to eat a healthy and balanced diet, exercise to the extent of your abilities, and challenge your brain, you have come a very long way.

"Even without a perfect bill of health, you can have a full, and fulfilling life even if it may take some time getting used to."

It is not possible to go through life without experiencing challenges and we will all feel our bodies change, as we grow older. However, not all changes are for the worst. Having lived in our bodies for many years we have hopefully come to know ourselves, we know what we can do and what we like to do. Sometimes we have to challenge that knowledge and go beyond our normal boundaries. This will broaden our horizons and maybe we will come to learn new things about our selves.

Here at Laysa Magazine, it is our mission to make it easy for you to lead the life you want to lead. We have therefore written a lot of articles on various topics within the topic of health, and we are adding more every week. Please explore the site and let us know if we have missed a topic you find interesting.

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