The Biggest Key to a Happy Retirement? Your Health

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You have finally retired. Congratulations! Now you can live the life you have been dreaming about and working towards your entire career. No doubt you will want to make the most of it and that entails enjoying it as long as possible. The good news is that men currently age 65 are expected to live more than 18 additional years. Women of the same age are expected to live another 20 years1.

Your new goal should be to live as long and as well as you possibly can. This will require developing disciplined health habits, as good health is one of the most important ingredients to overall happiness. If you want to defy the averages and live well into your 90s or longer, the first place to start is to get to your ideal weight and stay there.

Maintaining a healthy weight lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It could also lower the risk of many different cancers. Controlling your weight can reduce impact on your joints, which can minimize arthritis and help to keep the immune system strong. Your ideal body weight is a range in proportion with your height and gender. Talk to your doctor about what is a healthy, achievable and sustainable weight for you, and give yourself a sensible timeframe to achieve it. Then discipline yourself to control the causes of weight gain.

Watch What you Eat

The quantity and quality of food in your diet has a big impact on weight. It is common for your appetite to decrease as you age. However, eating less means you should be making better informed decisions about your food choices2.

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber and vitamins that you can’t get from supplements.
  • Vary protein choices with more fish and/or beans.
  • Eat at least three ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta very day.
  • Have three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy (milk, yogurt or cheese) that are fortified with vitamin D to help keep your bones healthy.
  • Make the fats you eat polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

Keep track of what you eat every day. Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Maintaining a daily diary of what you are eating is a great way to measure your intake so you can control your weight.

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity is a key element of weight control and overall health. Studies have also shown that there can be cognitive improvements from regular exercise. An exercise program can help to slow down the aging process and help you live a more vibrant and healthy life. Many exercise programs include:

  • Aerobic exercise, which is the most important exercise for a long life. It is anything that gets the heart rate up for an extended period of time. Examples of aerobic exercise are walking, water aerobics, and cycling.
  • Strength building can help maintain lean muscle as you age. Physically inactive people can lose 3% of their muscle mass each year once they reach middle age. You can help prevent this by incorporating appropriate weight-training exercises. Strength conditioning is also believed to help prevent Osteoporosis.
  • It is important to spend time stretching your muscles after exercising to reduce the risk of tightness and muscle soreness. You will also benefit from improved flexibility which helps you to move around easier and reduces the risk of injury while completing daily tasks.

Exercise promotes blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which in turn can greatly improve memory, the ability to learn new things and mental acuity. Regular exercise could prevent, delay or even reverse mental illnesses, especially symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Get Enough Sleep

Seniors often experience normal changes in sleeping patterns, such as becoming tired earlier, waking up earlier, or experiencing less deep sleep. What is not normal is disturbed sleep, waking up tired every day, and other symptoms of insomnia. A good night’s sleep can help improve concentration and memory formation, allowing your body to repair any cell damage that occurred during the day, and refreshing your immune system. Not getting enough exercise can make you feel restless or tired all the time. Regular aerobic exercise during the day can help promote good sleep. A few other tips for better sleep are3:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, even on weekends.
  • Take a bath, play music, or practice a relaxation technique such as meditation or deep breathing to help you wind down before bed.
  • Adjust your bedtime to match when you feel like going to bed, even if that’s earlier than it used to be.
  • Physical intimacy can lead to more restful sleep.

Make it your goal to enjoy the highest levels of health and energy possible. To enjoy superb health, you need to eat the right foods and, many times, fewer of them. Start and stick to a regular exercise routine and get lots of rest and relaxation. Above all, get to your proper weight and maintain it. You just might find that you feel happier and healthier than you ever have before.

Rick’s Insights:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for the health of your mind and body.
  • Tracking what you eat every day is a good way to control the quality and quantity of your food intake.
  • An exercise program can help to slow down the aging process and help you live a more vibrant and healthy life.

1 Life Expectancy – Men at the age of 65 years in the U.S. 1960-2017, by John Elfein. Statista.com, November 17, 2019.
2 Healthy Eating for Older Adults, by Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, November 15, 2019
3 Source: Sleep Tips for Older Adults. HelpGuide.org

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