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Healthy Aging

Our bodies naturally undergo changes due to the normal aging process. We tend to view these changes in terms of physical abilities and general physical health but to achieve overall health we must look beyond just the physical to the mental and emotional aspects as well. Each of these three facets of health intertwines to affect one another in the process of healthy aging. A happy emotional outlook and sharp mental state are critical building blocks for overall good health in seniors. Physical health pales when a person suffers emotional distress and isolation, making them unable to enjoy life. In fact, emotional health and a sharp mind is critical for seniors when physical limitations prevail.

The three sides to healthy aging

Physical changes may include loss of bone density, lowered heart rates, as well as thickening of the arteries and/or heart. Skin becomes dry, thinner and incurs wrinkles as it loses elasticity. Tooth enamel becomes weaker with age and may lead to decay. Gum disease is more common in older adults, as are changes in vision and hearing, lowered appetites and loss of muscle mass.

Physical health can be maintained by exercising within your individual abilities, with your doctor's consent. Exercise helps preserve muscle tone and bone density and can aid in balance and coordination. Daily exercise can be as simple as walking around the block or participating in a group exercise class at the local gym. Consuming a well-balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber, and protein provides nutrients your body needs to function properly inside and out

Mental health evolves with age and can lead to forgetfulness, memory loss and confusion in many seniors. Depending on individual circumstances, dementia can affect some, even though dementia is not considered a normal condition of aging.

Mental health is facilitated by challenging yourself every day. Challenges can include participating in new activities, playing games you never have before or merely extending your knowledge in one subject. Learn a foreign language, play Scrabble, or take lessons in tennis or golf. Attend a painting or pottery making class. Creativity is key in keeping your brain sharp and your senses focused.

Emotional health becomes endangered as seniors face the loss of a spouse and other loved ones. Isolation can become prevalent due to physical limitations or the lack of desire to socialize. Anxiety and depression can affect seniors who worry about money matters, have minimal contact with others, or for those who suffer serious medical conditions.

Emotional health depends largely on happiness, which is influenced by increased socialization and less isolation. Encourage seniors to join clubs, volunteer, or dine together. Daily activities give a sense of purpose, a feeling of value and create happier states of mind--which is key in potentially avoiding the effects of stress, anxiety and depression.

While the above changes are not all-inclusive, they are some of the common conditions due to aging. Prevention of these changes is not always possible depending on unique situations of individual seniors. However, sustaining good health in every aspect may deter some of these conditions or possibly slow their progression.

The primary goal of seniors is to maintain independent lives in their own homes. This becomes more important as seniors experience the loss of loved ones, medical issues, physical limitations and other changes that occur during life's later years. It is essential for seniors to understand that in order to achieve this goal they must learn how to adapt to some of these changes by pursuing healthy lifestyles that can, in turn, make independence possible well into their golden years.

References:
HealthGuide.org. Healthy aging tips: how to feel young and live life to the fullest. Retrieved on 8/11/12 from helpguide.org/life/healthy_aging_seniors_
aging_well.htm.
Rodriguez, Diana. EverydayHealth.com (2010). Healthy aging happy aging. Retrieved on 8/11/12 from everydayhealth.com/senior-health/understanding/index.aspx.

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