SPECIAL FROM Next Avenue
It’s springtime, and with the natural theme of birth and renewal all around us, spring cleaning is practically an annual rite of passage.
Not only is this a great time to rid your home of grime and clutter, but you can also apply that same out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new mentality to your body by focusing intently on your health for two or three weeks.
That should be enough time to address any overdue health issues and to jump-start some new lifestyle habits. Doing so can not only have you looking better in your summer wardrobe, but will also help you take advantage of all the fun that summer has to offer.
Just Do It: Make Those Medical Appointments
If you’re generally pretty healthy, it can be easy to let years go by without seeing a doctor, but there are a number of important routine medical screening tests that people over 50 shouldn’t ignore.
According to the National Institutes of Health, healthy men and women 50 and over should have their blood pressure checked every two years; screening for diabetes every three years; a cholesterol test every five years and a colon cancer screening every 10 years. Individuals with a previous diagnosis or who are at higher risk for certain diseases will likely need to complete one or several of these tests more frequently.
Additionally, women over 50 should get a mammogram and pelvic exam every one to two years, and both men and women over 50 who have experienced bone fractures or who are at an elevated risk for osteoporosis should talk with their doctor about getting a bone density scan.
Men who are experiencing symptoms should discuss prostate cancer screening with their provider, but prostate exams are no longer recommended for symptom-free men.
The most important reason for getting these regular tests is to catch potential problems early on, when there are more treatment options available and the likelihood for success is high.
But when you go in for the exam with your physician, it’s also important to discuss whether you’re healthy enough for the increased level of activity that spring and summer can bring.
Before you pack away your winter coat and pull out the weed-whacker, why not make sure your body is ready for a heavier workload in warmer temperatures?
Remind Your Body How to Move Again
A large body of evidence shows that the more you exercise, the more you can reduce your risk of disease. In particular, a 2011 study published in the British medical journal The Lancet found that as little as 15 minutes of exercise a day correlated to a significant drop in mortality rate and an average additional three years’ life expectancy across all age groups.
For healthy individuals over 50, the ideal exercise program includes 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise, such as a brisk walk or bike ride, three to five times per week; a total body resistance training circuit twice per week and 10 to 15 minutes of daily balance, agility and range of motion exercise, such as yoga, tai chi or qigong.
Of course, it’s imperative that individuals with any diagnosed disease or precondition or anyone who has been largely inactive in the immediate past consult with his or her health care provider prior to beginning an exercise program of any kind.
Once that minor hurdle has been cleared, get up, get outside and get moving!
Bid Farewell to Comfort Food
Our biological desire to surround our bodies with an extra layer of fat and hibernate through the winter does have some basis in science, so you can hardly be blamed for all the baked ziti and creme brûlée you’ve been putting away since November.
But winter is over now. It’s time to leave the pasta in the pantry and replace that port salut with persimmons.
Most Americans over 50 could improve their health by losing a few pounds, and the best way to do that is by ditching high-sodium, fatty, sugary and processed foods and opting for a whole foods-based eating plan instead.
The only rule you really need to remember, whether eating for health or weight loss, is to maximize the nutrient density of every meal and snack. This means minimizing things like fried foods, sugary beverages, alcohol and fatty or processed meats and maximizing fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein.
Whether you’re an omnivore or the strictest of vegans, nearly everyone can benefit from eating more servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Fortunately, spring and early summer are the perfect time to start incorporating more of these superfoods into your diet. Look for the items that are in season for your part of the country, and enjoy!
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