Whether it’s eating better, exercising, watching your weight, seeing your healthcare provider more regularly or quitting smoking once and for all, making New Year’s resolutions can provide long-term health improvements. While it all seems so easy to start with, sustaining your resolutions is the tricky part.
The key to success is not to bite off more than you can chew. A long list of resolutions can provide you with clarity and a plan, but there’s no rule saying you have to start everything from January 1. Break it up – you'll feel much better, healthier and happier if you achieve the goals you set yourself.
Below are some healthy resolutions for the year. Some you may already do, for example, eat a balanced diet with fruit and veg daily. Some you may not do, for example, smoking or drinking.
- Eat healthier foods – ensure you’re getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, low-fat dairy and healthy fats. In later life, you still need healthy foods, but fewer calories. Its suggested that we eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Choose a variety with deep colours: dark green, bright yellow, and orange. Choices like spinach, carrots, oranges, and cantaloupe are especially nutritious. Include nuts, beans, and/or legumes in your daily menu. Choose fibre-rich whole grain bread, brown rice, and whole grain pasta (buckwheat if you’re gluten intolerant). Pick less fatty meats like chicken or turkey. Have heart-healthy fish, like tuna, salmon a couple of times a week. Include sources of Calcium and Vitamin D to help keep your bones strong - low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese are a good way to get these nutrients. Use healthier fats, such as olive and canola oils, instead of butter or lard. Use herbs and spices to add flavour when cooking, which reduces the need to add salt or fat.
- Consider a multivitamin such as fish oil - if you’re unsure consult your GP about any nutrition issues.
- Be active – physical activity is safe and healthy for older adults, even if you have heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis! In fact, many of these conditions could even improve or be prevented with mild to moderate physical activity. Exercises such as Tai Chi, yoga, water aerobics, walking, and stretching can also help you control your weight, build your muscles and bones, while improving your balance, posture, mood and general wellbeing.
- See your GP regularly – it’s a great idea to book an annual check-up or wellness visit with your GP to discuss screenings and any changes in your advance directives. Screening tests might include checking your vision, hearing, and for other conditions such as breast cancer, colon cancer, or osteoporosis. At each visit, you can also discuss the medications you’re taking and find out if you need any immunisations or shots.
- Toast with a smaller glass – drinking can be a casualty of the festive season so January is always a good time to take a break. Alcohol has lots of side effects, some not of them not so good. Drinking can make you feel depressed, increase your chances of falling, cause trouble sleeping, interact with your medications and can contribute to other health problems. The recommended limit for older men is 14 drinks per week and for older women, 7 per week.
- Guard against falls – did you know that one in every three people over the age of 65 experience a fall each year — in fact, falls are a leading cause of injuries and death among older adults. Exercises such as walking or working out with an elastic band can increase your strength, balance, and flexibility and help you avoid falls. There are precautions you can take. Ask your GP to check that you’re not taking any pills that may make you more likely to fall. Eliminate items in your home that are easy to trip over, like throw rugs. Insert grab bars in your bathtub or shower, and install night lights so it’s easier to see at night.
- Give your brain a workout – the more you use your mind, the better it will work. Read. Do crossword puzzles. Try Sudoku. Socialising also gives your brain a boost, so it might be worth joining a bridge club or a discussion group at your local library or senior centre. You could also consider taking a course at your local community college — some offer free classes for adults 65 and older.
- Don’t smoke – did you know that cigarette smokers are twice as likely to develop heart disease as non-smokers? It is never too late to quit. You can still reduce your risk of many health problems, breathe easier, have more energy and sleep better if you quit smoking. Don’t lose hope if you’ve failed to quit in the past - on average, smokers try about four times before they quit for good.
- Speak up when you feel down or anxious - About 1 in 6 people suffers from depression or anxiety. Some possible signs of depression can be lingering sadness, tiredness, loss of appetite or of pleasure in doing things you once enjoyed. You may also have difficulty sleeping or feel worried, irritable, and want to be alone. If you have any of these signs for more than two weeks, talk to your GP and reach out to friends and family.
- Get enough sleep – older adults need less sleep than younger people, right? Wrong! Older people need just as much — at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Avoid daytime naps, which can keep you up in the evening.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other GP. Always consult your GP about your medications, symptoms, and health problems.
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