Once you hit retirement, it can be tempting to spend your days relaxing and doing what you love. Prioritizing your favorite hobbies once you are retired is certainly important, but many people also want to prioritize their health. Although you can get sick at any age, as you age, your immune system changes. Since your immune system doesn’t work as well as you get older, you are more prone to illness. Healing also slows as you age, meaning that you have less immune cells in your body. Your cancer chances can also increase because as you age, and your immune system can’t detect and fix cell defects as easily.
Although as you age your immune system changes, you can still take steps to stay as healthy as possible. Lifestyle changes may be necessary if you haven’t taken care of your body in the past, but there are also preventative measures you can take to keep yourself healthy.
Exercise is imperative at any age, but is particularly important as you get older. Regular exercise can help you prevent health problems as well as keep your bones strong. Many people also find that regular exercise helps boost their mood. If you dislike regular exercise, consider partnering with a friend to keep you motivated. According to the CDC, if you are 65 or older and fairly healthy and fit, you should get two hours and thirty minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity), and you should also do muscle training twice per week.
Particularly if you are new to working out, be sure to talk to your doctor first. Starting slow is fine; any exercise is better than none.
2. Limit your alcohol consumption
Regular alcohol consumption can affect all areas of your body, including your brain, heart, immune system, pancreas and, of course, your liver. While drinking in moderation is usually fine, you should not consume large amounts of alcohol as you get older. If you are female, limit yourself to one drink each day, or two drinks if you are male (12 fluid ounces of regular beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.) If you have been a heavy drinker in the past, you may need to limit yourself even more; consult a doctor to know for sure.
Also be careful if you are taking more medicine now, or new medicines; alcohol often interacts with various different medicines. In addition, be careful about drinking when you have to do anything that requires serious attention. Also, consider quitting smoking if you are a regular smoker.
3. Eat well
Nutrition, like all of the items on this list, is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, but must be a regular part of your routine as you age. Eating well helps you feel good and encourages a strong immune system. Be especially careful to limit empty calories like sodium, cholesterol, sugar, and refined grains. You should also limit how much trans and saturated fats you eat, but your body will need to consume some fats (like fats found in lean poultry or fish.)
Becoming a healthy eater can be particularly difficult if you’ve never been one before. Try to eat whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein. You don’t have to completely cut out desserts, but eat them in moderation.
4. Be a good patient
Go to your regular annual appointments with your doctor and call ahead of time or between appointments if you have any health concerns. Don’t wait until the last minute if you are really worried about something because the problem can get worse. Have your cholesterol level checked regularly and watch for signs of cancer as well. Also, make sure that you get vaccines regularly, especially the flu and pneumonia vaccines. Although there is always a small chance that you will still get sick, the vaccines are a good way to protect yourself (in most cases.)
Also be sure that you have adequate and current insurance so that you have a way to pay for any medical issues that arise, as well as your regular appointments. Make sure to take over-the-counter medications when necessary only, but to keep on track of regular prescriptions.
5. Take care of your mental state and keep yourself safe
In addition to facing many potential issues as you age, including higher susceptibility to some viruses and cancers, you also need to take care of your mental well-being. Retirement can be a wonderful time, but it can also be a very lonely time if you don’t have a good support group. Be sure to make time to see friends and family, and to participate in activities that you care about.
In addition to taking care of your mental well-being, take measures to keep yourself safe. For many people, this isn’t an issue for years or even decades after they retire, but it’s a good idea to think about it now. If you are home alone more often, take measures to make sure that you feel safe in your own home. Also, if you do face any changes in your health, make your home as accessible and comfortable as possible.
Staying healthy after retirement certainly requires a lot of steps, but the steps are completely manageable.