Did you know that September is Healthy Aging Month and Falls Prevention Awareness Month? These topics may appear to be different, but actually are aligned in many ways. Establishing healthy aging practices is a falls prevention strategy in itself!
As we get older, there are physiological changes that occur which are a natural part of aging. We can’t stop the aging process, but we can be aware of the changes in our bodies, start healthy routines and get help when needed to benefit our overall well being. For many, September is a time to renew, recharge and find motivation for new pursuits. Here are some top tips that bring together the two important topics of healthy aging and falls prevention awareness:
Be Physically Active
Regular physical activity is good for the body and the mind; it is also a falls prevention strategy. Build up your cardiovascular health and muscle mass to help increase blood flow; improve strength, bone health and mobility; and provide a feeling of empowerment. And a little goes a long way: 30 minutes most days of the week is recommended to achieve health benefits. Speak to your physician about your individual needs and before starting an exercise regimen.
Nutrition requirements may change as we age. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry and lean meats may help protect against age-related conditions. Fall is the perfect time to choose a variety of delicious, nutrient-packed vegetables and fruits. These healthy options help to keep extra pounds at bay while reducing the chance of developing joint problems, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers.
Keep Social Connections
Maintain connections through visits with friends, family and peers; join a club, community or religious/spiritual group; or take a class. Social relationships promote emotional fulfillment and prevent feelings of depression. Isolation can create feelings of loneliness and may cause physical de-conditioning, which is a risk for falls. Social interaction and outlets help promote a sense of meaning and purpose, which add to a healthy lifestyle.
Get Routine and Specific Screening Tests
Pay attention to body symptoms and pain; recognizing changes in your body is essential to getting the care you need. Seek medical attention early when something just doesn’t feel right. Get the screening tests your doctor recommends. The most prevalent chronic diseases among older adults include arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.
Get Professional Help as Needed
Discuss your concerns with the health team. Doctors, nurses, social workers, nutritionists and other members of the health team are excellent resources for guidance and support. Help to ensure healthy aging by asking questions and getting the answers you need. The health team can point you in the right direction. For more falls prevention tips, visit the Hospital for Special Surgery VOICES 60+ web page.
Juliette Kleinman is a licensed clinical social worker with a specialty in geriatrics and is the manager of the VOICES 60+ Senior Advocacy Program at Hospital for Special Surgery.