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How to Make for a Healthier New Year for Both Seniors and Caregivers

The start of a new year is a natural time to reflect on the past and plan for the future. For both seniors and those who care for them, improving or maintaining their health is often at the top of their list of resolutions.

If staying well is on your resolutions list, here are three things you should plan on doing more of in the New Year. 

Get both a physical and mental workout

We’ve all heard that exercise is important for maintaining optimal health. But it can’t be overstated – exercise is one of the most important ways to keep both body and mind in shape. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exercise can help maintain health in a number of ways:

  • Losing weight
  • Reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers
  • Strengthening bones and muscles
  • Keeping the brain healthy and the mind sharp
  • Extending the length and quality of your life

The good news is that you don’t need to live in the gym or spend lots of time or money to get fit. The U.S. Government’s Physical Activity Guidelines recommend just 30 minutes of physical activity a day, which can include walking, jogging, biking, or playing sports. Yoga, tai chi, and Pilates are also good choices if you need a more low-impact option.

The American Heart Association says 30 minutes a day just five times a week is a step in the right direction—and you don’t even need to do all 30 minutes at once. A study conducted by the University of Utah School of Medicine found that getting up and moving (which could include something as simple as walking) at least two minutes for every hour of sitting results in a 33 percent lower risk of dying.

Numerous studies also show that physical activity helps the brain and may reduce cognitive decline. But working your brain is just as important as working your body. Mentally exercise your mind by learning a new skill or solving puzzles. Engaging in mentally stimulating activities may help protect your brain form the effects of beta-amyloid deposits, which are destructive proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease. There’s a wealth of resources online for learning something new, and studies are finding that playing games can also give your brain a workout.

Switch up your diet

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that unhealthy eating and inactivity cause between 310,000-580,000 deaths every year, more than any other single cause. According to the CDC, good nutrition can help lower the risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and some cancers. Here are some tips on how to eat a more healthful diet.

  • Load up on fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduce your intake of processed meats.
  • Trade “bad” fats for “good” ones – switch from trans fats and fatty red meats to olive oil, avocados, fish and walnuts.
  • Eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, sardines, herring, and flax seeds.
  • Reduce the amount of processed sugar you consume.

Get enough sleep

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. A lack of sleep, especially a chronic one, is not only exhausting but is actually quite dangerous. Slower response times mean that if you’re driving, you may be more likely to have an accident. You may be more likely to fall.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the importance of sleep for forming memories, reducing depression, and maintaining both emotional and physical health. But another benefit of sleep is that it allows the brain to rest and prepare for a new day of all that mental exercise you’ve started doing. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley discovered that poor sleep can cause of the buildup of beta-amyloid deposits. The bottom line: A good night’s sleep is essential for maintaining health.