Healthy living and successful aging: part two

Last month I concluded my column by stating that I wanted to talk about exercising and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle in this month’s column.

Exercise is a significant part of good health at every age. Unfortunately, many older adults do not get enough physical activity and exercise. Staying active can improve vitality, help maintain strength and flexibility, expand mental function, decrease risk for health problems, and may even help relieve chronic pain.

At the age of 73, I still run three to four miles four times a week, and I’m convinced that this discipline has allowed me to maintain the active lifestyle I enjoy.

Find an activity you enjoy then ease into it at a pace and consistency your body can handle. Try to include a variety of endurance, strength, stretching, and balance exercises in your routine.

Exercise choices may include yoga, walking, swimming, biking, gardening, and exercises classes designed for seniors. The key to successful exercising is variety.

However, be sure to talk to your health care provider before beginning an exercise program.

We’ve all heard the familiar warnings: “don’t smoke, eat right, and practice good hygiene”, but we repeat them often because they are crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Eating right should include consuming nutrition-packed meals every day. Extra weight from poor diet choices increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Staying healthy also has the very practical impact of reducing out-of-pocket health care costs. A healthy person spends far less time at the pharmacy, the doctor’s office, and even the hospital.

By the way … falling is one of the most common causes of injury among seniors. Simple home modifications, the use of a cane, wearing sensible footwear, and removing hazards can reduce the risk of falling and the injuries that come with it.

And then there’s the lecture my wife regularly provides: “Carl, if you love me, would you please make an appointment with your doctor for your annual physical?”

Visit your health care provider regularly and follow their recommendations for screening and preventative measures. Screenings are particularly helpful as they serve as an early warning system.

Much of the illness and disability associated with aging can be prevented (or slowed down) when you have the benefit of early detection. Regular dental, vision and hearing checkups should also be taken into consideration.

Just a few weeks ago, with the urging of my wife, I had my annual physical.

And much to our mutual relief, I had my doctor send the following email message: “I hope I am in as good shape as you are when I reach your age.”  Now those words are music to my ears.

Many people age 70 and older seek the care of a geriatric physician, also called a geriatrician. Geriatric physicians are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and disability in older adults.

Growing older is inevitable, but there are many things we can do to avoid feeling older.

Medical breakthroughs have and will extend our longevity, but how we decide to live as we age is crucial.

Managing our physical health, maintaining relationships, being productive, taking safety precautions, visiting our health care providers often, and making adequate preparations to fund our retirement and long term care can help us make the most of our senior years.

Contact Johnson at


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