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Staying Active and Healthy

As we grow older, our bodies change. Our vision, muscles and joints gradually start to become weaker and everyday things become a bit more challenging. As we lose physical strength and bone density or sense of balance deteriorates and our risks of falling over becomes greater.

World Health Day Calvary

As we grow older, our bodies change. Our vision, muscles and joints gradually start to become weaker and everyday things become a bit more challenging. As we lose physical strength and bone density our sense of balance deteriorates and our risks of falling over becomes greater.

The good news is, you can follow a good and healthy lifestyle to slow down the process and stay healthy and active for longer. Here are some things you can do to work on your physical as well as mental wellbeing.

Physical activity

Physical activity is important for our health. It improves muscle strength and balance so you feel good, stay strong, look well and enjoy life. The benefits of physical activity are endless. It helps you control weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and bone and joint problems, like arthritis. It can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers. It also helps you manage pain and increases joint movement and most importantly, it helps you reduce the risk of injury from falls – a major concern with ageing. The amount of physical activity you need to do each week depends on your age and level of health, but it is generally recommended that you do 30 min a day (2.5 hours per week) of moderate aerobic and strengthening activity.

Some example activities that you can try:

  • Aerobic activities: walking, cycling, swimming, tennis and similar sports
  • Strengthening activities: yoga, lifting weights, push-ups and sit-ups
  • A good home-based balance and strength activity is the Otago Exercise program. It is an individually prescribed exercise program comprising balance retaining, lower limb muscle strengthening and walking components
  • Another strength and balance base class is tai chi – tai chi is originally developed as a martial art. Its prime purpose today is to promote health in a slow and relaxed manner. The movements are slow, with great emphasis on posture and balance.

Some tips:

  • Discuss options of activities to improve your balance and strength with your doctor
  • Begin a new activity gradually. Start at a level that suits you and build up over time
  • We recommend that you see a doctor before starting an exercise program.

Read more about the benefits of Tai Chi here

Nutrition

What you eat and drink is a very important part of your health and wellbeing. A balanced diet gives you the energy to enjoy life and look after yourself.

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A balanced diet generally consists of the following:

  • Protein: keeps muscles strong and gives you energy. Example: meat, chicken, fish, beans, nuts etc.
  • Calcium: keeps your bones strong. Example: milk, yoghurt, cheese, soy milk with added calcium, sardines, salmon with bones etc.
  • Vegetables: example: spinach, broccoli, carrots, kale, Brussel sprouts, green peas etc.
  • Fruit: example: grapefruit, pineapple, blueberries, apples, pomegranate, mango, strawberries etc.
  • Fibre-rich carbohydrates: eat wholegrain slices of bread and cereals
  • Fats: example: avocado, cheese, dark chocolate, fatty fish, chia seeds etc.
  • Fluid: for females it is recommended to drink 11 cups, and for males 15 cups (250 ml cup) of any kind of fluid (not alcohol) per day, unless you are on a fluid restriction as advised by your doctor.

Note: The ingredients and amounts listed are general estimates for a healthy lifestyle, but it is important to consult your doctor, nutritionist and/or dietitian to determine what your body needs.

Medication

All medications have effects; some of which are beneficial and some which are unwanted. Around two in every three people, 75 and older, take at least five or more medications per day. As an older adult, you are more at risk of falling when taking five or more medications per day, as you may experience some side-effects. Unwanted effects may include feelings of drowsiness, confusion, memory problems, dizziness and/or light-headedness, being clumsy and blurry vision.

Some things you can do to keep track of your medication:

  • Keep an updated list of all medications – both prescribed and over the counter
  • Take medication only as prescribed
  • If a doctor prescribes new medications, find out what the possible side effects may be before taking it
  • It is important to take note if you are feeling any effects from the medications and get professional advice by consulting your GP and/or Pharmacist.

Helpful tip: Vitamin D helps the body use calcium to keep bones strong and muscles working well. Ways to increase your level of vitamin D can include diet (eating oily fish, liver and fortified foods) and getting 10 min sunshine per day (early morning or late afternoon when the sun is not too harsh).

Download the ‘Balance and Medicines’ fact sheet for more information

Prevention

As the saying goes ‘prevention is better than cure’, therefore have the right measures in place to reduce the risks of falling ill or falling over by eliminating hazards in your home and wearing the right clothes.

Clothing and shoes:

  • Avoid wearing loose clothing
  • Prevent a fall with safe shoes - use image below as guideline.

CareExpertsFootwearDiagram

 Home safety:

  • Remove clutter
  • Install grab bars and hand-rails
  • Fix poor lighting
  • Make surfaces non-slip.

For a full list on how to prevent falls at home, click here to download a home safety checklist

Skin health

As the skin ages, there is a reduction in natural moisturising factors. The ageing skin becomes dry, thin, less supple and flaky. Once the skin becomes dry, it is more vulnerable to splitting and cracking and takes longer to heal.

Some ways to promote healthy skin include:

  • Don’t shower or bathe too long and make sure the water is not too hot
  • Using skin cleansers instead of soap. Soap is an irritant and can make the skin itchy and dry
  • Apply moisturiser (lotions, cream or ointment) at least twice daily
  • Keep hydrated - Drink enough water/fluids per day.
  • Consider wearing limb protectors to protect thin skin from tears and grazes.

Vision

It’s normal with ageing, for your eyesight to gradually deteriorate. Vision allows you to judge steps, distances and helps you keep your balance, therefore it is vital to your safety. From the age of 40, your eyesight gradually worsens and this can lead to dangers such as an increased risk of falling.

Some tips to prevent falls and take care of your eyes include:

  • Have your eyesight and glasses checked by an optometrist at least once every two years and yearly by your doctor
  • If you notice a change in your eyesight, make an appointment with your doctor or optometrist. Early detection of eye problems can prevent further damage
  • As it becomes a challenge to judge distance and steps, clearly mark the edges of steps with coloured strips so that they can be seen at all times, day and night
  • Ensure that walking areas are well lit (16/20-watt energy saving, 75/100 watt incandescent globes are recommended).

A few quick things to check are:

  • Bathrooms and toilets – install some hand grips, lay down non-slip surfaces in wet areas, consider a raised toilet seat and consider eliminating the step in the shower
  • Lighting – Ensure you have good lighting for security and moving around the house, especially at night
  • Living areas – remove rugs, or ensure that they are secure with double sided tape or Velcro. Tuck away electrical cords and store items in easy to reach areas
  • Outside your home – keep paths clear of moss, slime, and wet leaves. Pathways should be level and have slip-resistant firm surfaces with good drainage. Put away tools and roll up the hose when not in use.

Tip: When you are checking your home for hazards, it might be a good idea to get someone that has not seen the home before. They might spot problems that you may not notice.

Download Calvary’s Home Health checklist here

Health and wellbeing is a major part of our lives, and to ensure that we live in the best way possible, it all starts by looking after ourselves.

People that can help you to live a healthy and safe life:

  • My Aged Care (Provided by the Australian Government) – call 1800 200 422
  • Your doctor
  • A physiotherapist
  • Exercise physiologist
  • Dietitian or nutritionist
  • Arthritis Association
  • Gyms
  • Local councils
  • Community health centres and day therapy centres
  • Optometrist

Need support? Calvary Community Care can support safe, independent living at home with a variety of services and expert advice.

To learn more about our services, give us a call on 1300 66 00 22 or request a call-back

References:

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