Senior Living: Knowing your risk factors helps keep people healthy as they age

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By Beth Dow, Solutions by Beth

We all know that as we age, we will experience changes in our health.

Some of the biggest risk factors are ones that we simply overlook. If you are at or beyond retirement age, you may want to consider the following regarding your health.

While most of us know to watch our cholesterol and blood pressure, what we may not be aware of is how our weight can creep up after retirement. We lose muscles as we age and burn calories more slowly. It is harder to keep the weight off and before we know it, we have become sedentary.

It is harder to walk, or even get up from a chair. So, we don’t. Lack of activity brings more weight gain which can lead to heart disease, higher blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

You’ve probably heard of the college freshman 15 – the amount of pounds a college freshman gains during their first year of college. Well welcome to the retirement 15!!!!

The Flu is nothing to sneeze at as we get older. Once over 65, our immune system is not as strong as it used to be, so “I’ve never had the flu shot and have never gotten the flu” may not work for you any longer. Not only are we more susceptible to the flu, but due to our age we have a greater chance of serious flu complications such as pneumonia, sepsis and worsening of lung and heart disease. Getting your annual flu shot is no longer an option. It is a vital step in our overall health.

Fragile bones are also a health risk. After a recent fall I told folks, “You know, I just don’t bounce like I used to.” As we age, we often experience balance issues and trouble with vision and depth perception. Add those together with weaker bones and a fall that was once of “little consequence” can have a big impact on our health. Women 50 and older are twice more likely than their male counterpart to break a bone.

Did you know that the single biggest predictor of getting cancer is age? Half of all cancers happen in people over 65 and the medium age for lung cancer is 70. But getting older does not mean you are destined to get cancer. Adopt healthy habits now and strengthen your odds.

And finally, don’t let depression take you by surprise. About 1 in 20 Americans over 60 suffer with depression. Depression is not a normal part of aging. It is not something to be ashamed of or embarrassed by and you do not have to live with it. Exercise, seek out ways to connect to people and see your doctor.

Life after retirement can be some of the best years of your life. But know your risk factors and reduce your risk through knowledge and action.

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Beth Dow is a Dementia and Alzheimer’s Educator, CAEd, Geriatric Case Manager and Certified Senior Advisor. Contact her at [email protected].

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