Millions of people struggle every day to manage the symptoms of chronic disease, sometimes managing more than one condition simultaneously. There are many chronic diseases, and adults become more susceptible to developing at least one as they age. Four chronic diseases — heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes — cause nearly two-thirds of all deaths each year.
So what can you do to protect yourself from developing a chronic disease? Proper nutrition, regular exercise and understanding your family history are a good start. Here are four ways seniors can reduce the risk of chronic disease with good lifestyle choices.
1. Don’t Smoke
Tobacco use increases the risk of contracting a chronic disease, particularly cancer and heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, begin taking the steps toward living tobacco-free. Seek help from your doctor, who can prescribe cessation aids and information for support groups.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
This will come with diet and exercise. According to the CDC, older adults need a minimum of two hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, along with muscle-strengthening activities that work the major muscle groups, but will experience greater health benefits with more physical activity. Of course, this depends on your overall health and ability to participate in these types of exercises. Choosing fresh fruits and vegetables over sugar and sodium-based foods will increase your energy levels and your endurance with exercise. Adding whole grains, fiber-rich foods and omega-3 fats, you will start to see a decrease in fat and an increase in muscle.
3. Limit Your Screen Time
Physical activity is vital for healthy aging. A sedentary lifestyle doesn’t get the blood pumping nor strengthen the muscles, so it’s best to limit television watching and web surfing and instead opt for activities that encourage physical movement, positive human interaction and brain stimulation. Obesity levels tend to rise among those who spend excessive amounts of time in front of the television. Obesity leads to type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke and more.
4. Get Regular Checkups
Make sure to visit your primary care physician, as well as your dentist, regularly. This helps to detect any conditions in the early forms and can assist in preventing them from becoming larger issues down the line. Your dentist not only can help you with oral hygiene, but also can detect certain conditions, including GERD, heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. Be sure to follow their instructions on maintaining oral health, as it has an impact on your overall health. Dentists have been known to recommend their patients see a physician for testing for chronic diseases after an office visit, so don’t wait too long. Keep your health on track and go for annual physicals and dental exams to maintain your health.
Staving off chronic diseases doesn’t have to be exhausting or difficult. If you live a healthy lifestyle, you’re already halfway there. Knowing your family history of chronic diseases can also help you understand which conditions present the highest risk to you. While each of these are equally important, knowing which conditions you are most susceptible to will help you know where to start and what to focus on first.
Learn more about ways you can stay healthy despite conditions that come with age with our Vitality Guide. Download it today!