Staying Healthy as We Age — 7 Tips for Men
It’s a fact. Women generally live longer than men. Statista.com cites the average life expectancy for men in the United States at roughly 76 years, whereas women on average live to about 81. Researchers aren’t sure why. Some think it’s because men don’t take care of themselves as well as women, and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like smoking and drinking. Women are also much more likely to seek regular health care, and to see a medical professional at some point during the year. Men — not so much. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Older men can take control of their physical and intellectual destiny by resolving to stay active, change their diet and certain lifestyle habits, and embrace the idea of healthy senior living. As a community, Santa Marta Senior Living has created a culture of wellness for all residents, and these 7 healthy aging tips should be especially helpful for senior men.
How active can you be?
Look at Charles Eugster.
Until his passing at age 97, this London-born retired dentist was arguably the fittest senior citizen on the planet. He saw exercise as both a preventive measure and a treatment. He held senior world records in the 200m (indoor) and 400m (outdoor) sprints, as well as British records in the 60m (indoor), 100m (outdoor), and 200m (outdoor). He was also a bodybuilder, a public speaker, a writer, a rower and an entrepreneur. What were some of his secrets?
“I start every day with a protein shake because, as you get older, your protein synthesis no longer functions as well. I avoid sugar and eat lots of meat, especially fat. I’ve been on a fat trip lately. Piles of fat. Can you imagine a hunter-gatherer enjoying a low-fat yogurt? Let me tell you this, too: I read a report which said that a fatty diet also increases the libido.
“People don’t realize that you can have a beach body at 90 and turn the heads of the sexy 70-year-old girls on the beach. I am living proof that, if you eat right and exercise properly, you can be that guy at any age.”
Though you’d be well advised to consult your doctor on the right diet and nutrition for you, Mr. Eugster found what worked for him. But beyond pushing oneself physically, he cautioned against getting too wrapped up in the culture of youth. He believed that senior men must explore their talents and never stop learning. And of course, they need to take care of themselves. Try these 7 tips.
Tip #1: Establish a routine.
Yes, you’re retired. But having a routine provides structure. Having no plan for the day leads to inactivity. The difference is, now you’re your own boss. The plan doesn’t need to be the same each day. Make it fun!
Tip #2: Keep moving, mister.
Too much sitting can increase your risk of hip, spine and shoulder problems, along with other diseases. Besides getting out and playing a round of golf or going for a walk, make an effort to stand more — while eating lunch or talking on the phone, or even while watching TV. But don’t just stand there. Include some dedicated exercise time every day. Exercise helps reduce declining muscle strength and flexibility as you age. Keeping muscles strong also aids joint flexibility, supporting your active lifestyle. Low-impact aerobics help with blood flow and moving oxygen through the body.
Tip #3: Eat well.
For many older men, a healthy diet may be less about portion size and more about having the right combination of food groups, vitamins and minerals. In addition to a weakened immune system, poor nutrition or malnutrition can weaken muscles and bones, affect heart health, and lead to type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. Nutrition that helps the immune system is rich in fruits and vegetables containing vitamins and antioxidants. Try to select nutrient-dense, minimally processed food options. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends including foods rich in the following nutrients:
- Protein, such as seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans and peas
- Vitamin A, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli and spinach
- Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and strawberries
- Vitamin E, such as almonds, hazelnuts and peanut butter
- Zinc, such as lean meats, poultry, milk, whole grain products and beans
Tip #4: Exercise your mind.
Leaving the world of work is one thing, but the brain still needs regular stimulation. Look for ways to keep your mind sharp through the kind of stimulation you choose. Here are some thoughts to get you started:
- Join a book or discussion club.
- Sign up for a class at the local library or enroll in a non-curriculum class online or at your local college.
- Work on word and number puzzles and brain twisters.
- Volunteer as a concession stand cashier at local school sporting events — working with numbers is great brain stimulation.
- Continue to try new things.
Tip #5: Get screened.
Checking for early signs of certain health problems can help diagnose them early and minimize further difficulties. Having your hearing and vision checked annually should be a given, along with regular dental checkups. Buying and using a blood pressure monitor is another smart, simple practice. A few other important screenings for active older men include:
- Cholesterol test for high blood cholesterol levels
- Diabetes check, particularly if you have high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol levels, or diabetes runs in your family
- Prostate and colorectal cancer screenings, with frequency to be determined by your doctor
- Depression screening, at least once a year. If you feel sad or hopeless or have little interest in things you once enjoyed, you may be depressed. Don’t try to “tough it out.” Untreated depression is bad for your mental and physical health.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening once a year between the ages of 65 and 75
- Sexually transmitted disease screening if you’re sexually active but not maintaining a monogamous relationship. Also, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection is relatively common in older men and may be an early warning sign of heart or arterial disease.
Tip #6: Get vaccinated.
Influenza is a potentially dangerous virus for people age 65 and older. An annual flu vaccination can reduce the risk of infection and hospitalizations by 40 to 60%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fluzone and Fluad are two vaccines specifically for older adults age 65 and older; both provide a stronger immune system response to vaccination than a standard-dose flu shot.
Other important vaccinations for seniors include pneumococcal vaccines that protect against pneumonia and meningitis, and the zoster vaccine, which reportedly helps prevent shingles. Those who’ve had chickenpox should know the virus that caused it might remain dormant in the body and reemerge in the form of shingles — a painful rash that can potentially lead to long-term nerve pain.
It’s also advisable to get a tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster every 10 years. More commonly called “whooping cough,” pertussis is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. When it infects the linings of the lungs, it causes significant inflammation.
Tip #7: Follow commonsense caveats.
- Take medications, vitamins and supplements only as directed. The longer you live, and the more medicines you take, the more likely you are to experience some side effects, even from medicines bought over the counter at the pharmacy. Your physician and pharmacist should check all your pills to make sure they’re safe for you, and don’t interact in harmful ways.
- Use sunscreen. Aging skin is more susceptible to sun damage, which increases risks of skin cancer. Use sunscreen year-round and protect your scalp and face by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.
- Quit smoking, drink only in moderation, and get a physical every year. Come on guys, you’ve got this. Men can be stubborn about matters concerning their health, but stubbornness can lead to fewer years on the planet. If you want to stay healthy, stay active. And remember the mantra of Charles Eugster: More body. More mind. More spirit. Go for it!
Discover Wellness at Santa Marta Independent Living Community
It’s easier to eat well, get regular exercise, and stay healthy and engaged when you live in the right environment. Santa Marta takes a holistic approach to senior wellness that addresses your social, spiritual, intellectual and emotional well-being. You can read more about it here. If you’d care to visit our beautiful campus, just contact us to schedule a convenient time.