Our nation’s third president began each morning by immersing his feet in a cold water bath. Thomas Jefferson followed this ritual for 60 of his 83 years and credits it with helping him to maintain his good health. Although each of us may not want to follow Jefferson’s behavior, there are things we can do to improve our health. September is observed annually as Healthy Aging Month, so now may be a good time to adopt some healthier habits.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average life expectancy in the United States is 77 years. Kentucky, however, ranks near the bottom of all states with an average life expectancy of 75.5 years, with men in Kentucky expected to live to 72.9 years while women in Kentucky are expected to live to 78 years.
It may not be a popular idea, but one of the best things each of us can do to remain healthy as we age is to exercise. In 400 BC, Hippocrates deemed exercise to be man’s best medicine. Consistent exercise is believed to slow the aging process while helping individuals to stay healthy because it builds immunity and muscle mass.
Perhaps you have not exercised much in the past, but it’s not too late to start. Experts recommend that individuals exercise four to five times a week. That doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the gym. Find an activity you enjoy – such as walking or gardening – and then do it on a consistent basis. Strength training is also important, especially as we age, because it will help us to maintain our mobility.
Eating a healthy diet is also important, especially as we age. Our diets should consist of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products and water. We should try to limit our consumption of red meats. Keep in mind that a healthy diet can help to reduce our risks for heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
If you currently use tobacco products, now is a good time to quit. Smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer as well as heart disease. If you want to quit but aren’t sure you can do it alone, call 1-800-QUITNOW for free help.
Regular checkups with your primary care provider are also important as we age. That includes taking advantage of preventive screenings. You should start screening for colon cancer at the age of 45. Women should have a screening mammogram between the ages of 40 and 44 and annual mammograms from age 45 to 54 while repeating the screening every year or two after that. Regular eye exams are also important.
If you think you could do better about the health choices you are making, I hope these tips can provide you a place to start. Who knows … you may even want to try those cold water baths for your feet. I encourage you to start adopting healthy aging habits now.