Quality of life. As we age, those three words gain even more importance.
By working towards several simple goals in this New Year, seniors can do just that, according to Dr. Gene Dorio, an MD of Internal Medicine with a focus on geriatric, palliative, and hospice care based in Newhall.
To start, Dorio suggested daily exercise, which gets the heart pumping and leads to myriad benefits.
“There’s no doubt that good circulation in the body allows a better blood supply to the brain, better blood supply to muscles, and brings about better thought processes and coordination. You’re just able to think and move through life better,” he said.
Begin by choosing a program that will take into account your ability and range of motion.
Inexpensive fitness classes are available at The YMCA in Valencia, which features water activities, and The Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center in Newhall, which has everything from tai chi to chair-based choices.
WORK OUT YOUR MIND
“Exercising one’s brain, that’s the other side of the coin. It allows one to maintain communication outside of themselves,” Dorio said.
Suggested activities include learning how to use a computer, reading books, magazines, and newspapers, and doing crossword puzzles, Sudoki, or other challenging brain games.
Whether you live alone or with others, getting out of the house every day is key to combating isolation and feeling a part of the world.
One great way to get involved is to volunteer with an organization that you’re passionate about or expanding your circle of support.
“Create a network through family, your church, and the community,” Dorio said. “Have a routine, engage new people and make friends.”
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
Routine physical exams, including blood work and cholesterol tests, are crucial to catch any potential medical conditions early and maintain overall health.
“My best advice is have a doctor that knows you well and see them every three to six months,” Dorio said.
Keep a diary of your blood pressure, pulse, glucose, weight, and oxygen at home to discuss with your doctor during the semi-annual visits.
“Listen to your body and hear what it’s saying to you. Alerting your doctor of problems early can make a huge difference,” he said.
And don’t forget to make an annual appointment for hearing and visual tests, as well as dental exams.
“Preventative care that is worthy for any senior to do. After all, if you can’t eat, your nutrition level goes down. If you can’t hear, you can’t talk on the phone. If you can’t see, you can’t drive, read, or watch TV,” Dorio said.
When shopping, do you read labels to know what you’re putting into your body? If not, this is a good habit to start in 2017.
“Be mindful of the level of calories, saturated fat, preservatives, colorings, and sodium in your food,” Dorio said.
The United States Department of Agriculture offers senior specific nutritional tips on its website at www.choosemyplate.gov, as well as a free daily monitoring system for food and exercise on www.supertracker.usda.gov.
Some starter suggestions include making each meal plate half fruits or vegetables, choosing whole grains at least 50 percent of the time, varying protein sources, and moving towards low-fat or fat-free dairy.
ACTION AND ATTITUDE
Whether it’s loss of a loved one or abilities, seniors can be more susceptible to depression. According to Mental Health America, more than two million of the 34 million Americans age 65 and older suffer from some form of depression
Situational depression from such events can be treated holistically. For example, a Mayo Clinic study found that exercise can reduce depression symptoms by increasing the level of “feel good” chemicals to the brain, while reducing the number of immune system chemicals that can worsen depression.
Dorio suggested other outlets such as meditation, tai chi, biofeedback, and finding a purpose.
“Be positive and make the most of what you have,” Dorio said. “If you get empowered and have the right attitude, you’ll start looking at everything as an adventure.”