Taking Care of Yourself at 55 And Beyond

Written by Guest Blogger
Jason Lewis
Strongwell.org
jlewis@strongwell.org

Image via Pixabay

It’s important to take care of your health at any stage of life, but once you hit double nickels, it is even more important. Our bodies go through many changes when we reach our later years, and it’s more than just skin losing its elasticity. Stem cells begin to deteriorate. The body’s circadian rhythm shifts, which affects sleep. The brain begins to slow down, and it’s more difficult to recall information and maintain focus. Muscle mass and bone density decrease. Older people are also more susceptible to mental illness and depression. While you can’t stop the passage of time, there are things you can do to support your health mentally and physically.

Understand and Update Your Healthcare Coverage

You may have been able to get away with bare-minimum health insurance and as-needed doctors visits in your younger years, but as your physical and mental health evolves in your later years, so should your wellness coverage. If you’ve had the same health plan for the last several years, take a look at more comprehensive plans that will better suit your needs in your 50s and beyond.

If you’re 65 or older, it’s also time to take a look at your Medicare options if you haven’t already. If you’re signing up for the first time or making changes to an existing plan, know that you must do so during the Medicare Open Enrollment period of October 15 to December 7 each year. For additional benefits that don’t fall under standard plans — such as dental and vision coverage, exercise programs, and nutritional therapy — research Medicare Advantage or other supplemental healthcare plans. Many people think maintaining their wellness into their senior years is expensive, but taking advantage of the financial resources available to you can save you serious money.

Sleep Tight

Happy senior couple getting ready for bedAs mentioned above, your circadian rhythm shifts at some point as you age. Mature adults actually need less sleep than their younger counterparts, but that shift means they get tired earlier in the day and are able to wake up earlier as well. If you do not adjust your sleep schedule to reflect that change, it can lead to sleep disorders such as insomnia.

  • Consider investing in a new mattress that supports your body’s new needs. The right mattress provides relief to pressure points while promoting healthy spine alignment. The softer models you enjoyed in your youth may not provide that support. According to Consumer Reports, you don’t need to spend more than $1,000 for a quality mattress.
  • Avoid napping during the day. If you just can’t seem to stay awake, try moving more. A short walk around the house every hour can rejuvenate you. You may also want to try an energy-boosting supplement that is formulated to keep you alert without making you jittery. Pick a supplement that works well with your symptoms and lifestyle, and talk to your doctor to make sure it won’t interact with your existing medications.
  • Take a warm bath or shower right before bedtime. The heat raises your body temperature, and after you leave the bathroom, the cooler air instigates a drop in body temperature, which leaves you feeling drowsy and ready to hit the hay.
  • Drink fewer fluids at night to reduce your chances of waking up needing to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Get Moving

Now is no time to sit on the couch watching television all day. Exercise is a vital part of your health plan. Not only does regular exercise help prevent many common diseases, it also balances hormones and neurotransmitters to help prevent or ease symptoms of mental illness. When you combine cardio exercise with light weight lifting, you’re fighting back against the loss of muscle mass and bone density. When you exercise during the day, you expel enough energy to help fight restlessness and anxiety so you fall asleep faster and stay that way longer. Finally, taking exercise classes or meeting up with friends for your morning power-walking session keeps you social, which is important to your mental health.

Eat Well

The digestive system is just another part of your body that changes with each passing year. It slows down a bit, and you need more high-value foods to provide the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein you need to keep your body running at its optimal level. Be sure to include foods and drinks that are high in calcium and vitamin D to protect your bones. Keep energy levels up with dietary sources of vitamin B12, such as fortified cereals, beef liver, mackerel, sardines, red meat, and yogurt. Dietary fiber doesn’t just keep you regular, it also slows down the release of sugar into the bloodstream to stabilize your glucose levels. Fiber can also help maintain a healthy weight while lowering cholesterol. It’s not just about what to include in your diet — there are also things you should leave out. Cease adding unnecessary salt to dishes to prevent high blood pressure. If you are overweight, limiting calories and focusing on whole foods can help you shed those extra pounds for happier and healthier golden years.

The body goes through many changes in your 50s and beyond, but you can maintain your overall wellness by staying on top of your healthcare coverage and by practicing simple daily habits. To catch up with the shift in your circadian rhythm, go to bed and wake up earlier. Regular exercise helps you feel better and look younger. Finally, avoid cheap processed food in favor of dietary sources of essential nutrients you need to support mental and physical health. By doing so, you’ll make your pre- and post-retirement years as healthy as possible.

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About the Author:

Jason Lewis is a personal trainer by day and the primary caretaker of his mom after her surgery. He writes for StrongWell.org and enjoys creating fitness programs that cater to the needs of people over 65.