Guide to Protecting Your Health As You Grow OlderPrint
You can take steps to stay healthy and independent as you get older. It’s important to:
- Keep your body and mind active
- Choose healthy foods
- Get regular checkups
- Take steps to prevent accidents
Remember, it’s never too late to make healthy changes in your life.
Stay active to live longer and better.
Physical activity can help you:
- Reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer
- Avoid falls and other injuries
- Live on your own longer
- Prevent depression
These steps can help you live a healthier life.
Staying active is one of the best things you can do for your health.
- Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking, swimming, or raking leaves.
- To get the most health benefits, do aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.
- If it’s hard for you to be active for more than 10 minutes at once, do 10 minutes of activity a few times during the day.
- Do strengthening activities 2 or more days a week. Try these exercises for older adults.
- If you are at risk for falling, do exercises to help your balance.
- If you have a health condition, be as active as you can be. Talk with your doctor about the best activities for you.
- Follow these safety tips during physical activity [PDF - 627 KB].
Eating healthy meals is always important, no matter how old you are. It’s never too late to make healthy changes.
Try these tips:
- Choose lots of vegetables and fruits in different colors.
- Make sure most of your grains (like rice and pasta) are whole grains.
- Drink low-fat or fat-free milk.
- Choose lean meats, poultry, seafood, beans, eggs, and nuts.
- Stay away from trans and saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar.
If you smoke, quit.
Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free help with quitting.
If you have a history of heavy smoking and you smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, ask your doctor about screening for lung cancer.
Get regular checkups.
Your doctor or nurse can help you stay healthy as you get older.
- Use the myhealthfinder tool to get a list of screening tests recommended for people your age and sex. Print out the list and take it with you to your next doctor’s appointment.
- Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions or problems with your medicines.
- If you think you might be depressed, tell your doctor. Depression can be treated and is nothing to be ashamed of. Check out these frequently asked questions about depression and older adults.
If you have Medicare, be sure to schedule your Medicare wellness visit every year.
Older adults are at greater risk for injuries from falls, home fires, and car crashes.
Take steps to prevent falls.
Do these 4 things to prevent falls:
- Exercise to improve your balance and leg strength.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines. Some medicines can make you dizzy or sleepy.
- Get your vision checked at least once a year. Update your glasses or contact lenses when your vision changes.
- Use this Home Falls Prevention Checklist [PDF - 7 MB] to help you find and fix the dangers in your home.
Put smoke alarms on every floor of your home.
Use long-life smoke alarms if possible. These alarms use lithium batteries and last longer than regular smoke alarms. They also have a “hush button” so you can stop the alarm quickly if there’s a false alarm.
If you use regular smoke alarms, replace the batteries every year. (Tip: Change smoke alarm batteries when you change your clock back from Daylight Savings Time in the fall.)
Follow these other tips on smoke alarms:
- Test your smoke alarms once a month by pushing the test button.
- Put smoke alarms on every floor of your home and near places where people sleep.
- Don’t forget to put a smoke alarm in the basement.
- Replace your smoke alarm if it doesn’t work when tested or if it’s more than 10 years old.
- Dust or vacuum smoke alarms when you change the batteries.
Watch for changes that may affect your driving.
Getting older doesn’t make you a bad driver. But changes that come with aging can make it harder for you to drive safely. You may have trouble seeing at night or find it harder to react quickly to avoid an accident.
Take these steps to stay safe:
- Get your vision and hearing checked.
- Always wear your seat belt.
- Drive on streets you know.
Get support if you are a caregiver.
A caregiver is someone who helps a family member, friend, or neighbor who is sick or has a disability. Caregiving can be stressful. If you are a caregiver, make time to also care for yourself.