By making a few small lifestyle changes, you can develop new habits that will help you live a longer and healthier life. Maybe you want to adopt new habits that will provide you with disease prevention to protect you from serious health issues like diabetes and obesity. Perhaps you want to develop new habits that decrease your risk factors to help prevent the development of heart disease or dementia.
5 Small Lifestyle Changes to Enjoy a Healthier Future
Small changes are easy to implement into your life. With enough small changes that can quickly add up, you begin to make a huge impact on your health, now and for many years to come. Let’s look at small easy changes you can begin to implement today for a healthier tomorrow.
#1 – Get a Good Night’s Sleep, Every Night
Good restorative sleep is very important for the health of older adults. In a study conducted by the University of Oregon, researchers concluded that older adults need at least six hours of sleep each night, but not more than nine, to maintain health and the highest level of cognitive function. Sleep deprivation affects many areas of your life — energy levels, mood, cognition and immune response to name a few.
Sleep plays an especially important role in brain health. Poor sleep habits increase an individual’s risk for cognitive decline which may lead to the development of dementia. In a study where researchers measured amyloid protein deposits in the brain through the use of Pet scans, they found that individuals who didn’t get enough adequate deep sleep often experienced problems with cognition. It’s believed that deep sleep clears out protein deposits in the brain (the same protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease), thereby, preventing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Believe it or not, too much sleep can be unhealthy for your brain as well. One published review reports that older adults who receive less than six hours of sleep, as well as more than nine hours of sleep, have a lowered cognitive function.
Sleep affects a person in so many other ways as well. Some of these include:
- Moderate sleep deprivation can impact reaction times, causing the equivalent of being under the influence of alcohol
- Sleep deprivation interferes with the brain’s ability to function
- Chronic insomnia can lead to mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety
- Sleep deprivation impairs a person’s ability to learn new information, as well as, affects the brain’s ability to store and recall memories
- During sleep, a person’s memory is consolidated (Consolidation is the brain’s process for storing memories for long-term retrieval)
- Gives your body time to heal, thereby, fighting inflammation and infection.
- Reduces fall risk
- Helps to manage pain
Studies show that women need more sleep than men — about 20 minutes more each night. Duke University researchers report that women who don’t get enough sleep have increased mental and physical responses such as hostility, anger and depression.
As you can see, sleep is very important for your health. If you struggle to get a good night sleep, check out this article from the American Sleep Association, Sleep Hygiene Tips.
#2 – Drink Plenty of Water
Having the correct amount of fluid in your body helps your body regulate temperature, maintain blood pressure and eliminate bodily wastes. Severe dehydration can lead to weakness, confusion, urinary tract infections, bedsores (for those who are bed-ridden) and pneumonia.
You’ve probably always heard that you should drink eight glasses of water each day for proper hydration; however, each person’s proper level of hydration is related to their weight and is unique to that particular individual, their habits, what they eat and their daily activities.
One of the best ways to track hydration levels is by monitoring your body weight. Begin by weighing yourself each morning. If you’ve lost two pounds or more from the previous day, and especially if you have a headache or feel thirsty, you’re probably suffering from dehydration. You can also watch the color and output of your urine. The color should be light and the output sufficient. Infrequent urination and dark urine are both clear signs of dehydration.
Some tips to help you stay hydrated include:
- Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink fluids
- Take sips between bites while eating
- Sip on liquids throughout the day
- Drink a full glass of water before you exercise
- Drink a full glass of water with medications
- Drink alcohol in moderation
Don’t forget to make healthy beverage choices. Choose beverages that contain low amounts to no caffeine and low amounts-to-no sugar. Water is always the best choice. Sodas can be especially bad for your health.
#3 – Live a Life of Gratitude
Living a life of gratitude will help you experience greater satisfaction in your life. According to Psychology Today, there are seven scientific benefits to living a life of gratitude. Gratitude accomplishes the following:
- Helps you win friends and maintain relationships
- Improves physical health
- Improves psychological health by reducing toxic emotions like depression, envy and resentment
- Reduces aggression and enhances empathy
- Helps you to sleep better
- Improves self-esteem
- Increases mental strength, reduces stress, helps overcome trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder and increases resilience
Best of all, gratitude increases happiness. Gratitude will keep you focused on the good things you have in your life rather than the negative. Gratitude will help you live with a “the glass is half full” attitude.
Keep a gratitude journal. Every day write down things that you are thankful for in your life. Nothing is too small or too great to be thankful for. On those days you’re feeling down, go back and read your journal entries. They’re sure to perk you up.
#4 – Exercise Your Body
Low-impact exercises are ideal for older adults — burning calories, building muscle and helping your body stay strong and fit. Before you begin, however, check with your doctor, get a good pair of shoes and don’t forget to stretch.
Walking can be done almost anywhere, it does not require a lot of equipment, and it’s easy. A brisk walk, five to six days a week for at least 30 minutes will provide many health and disease prevention benefits.
Studies at Harvard have shown that walking:
- Boosts immune function
- Eases joint pain
- Reduces the risk factors for breast cancer
- Can suppress a sweet tooth
- Counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes
Walking is just one of the many low impact workouts you can choose to decrease your risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. Other low impact exercises to consider include swimming and Tai Chi.
#5 – Exercise Your Brain
Your brain needs exercise too, just like your body. There are many things you can do to stimulate your brain. They include:
- Read a book
- Do crossword puzzles
- Do Sudoku and Kakuro puzzles
- Do activities on brain training sites like MyHAPPYneuron, BrainMetrix and BrainCurls
- Learn a new language with sites such as Duolingo, Rosetta Stone and Babbel
Cognitive stimulation is one of the best things you can do for the prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Making the leap from contemplating changes to actually making the changes can be hard and may take time. To make it easier, focus on making one or two changes at a time, rather than trying to change everything on your list all at once. You’re more likely to succeed and less likely to experience frustration if you work on one or two changes at a time. Once you have a habit firmly established, then you can move to the next item on your list, slowly making progress and ticking the goals off your list one by one.
Healthy Living at Lake Park
Lake Park, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) located in Oakland, California makes it easy to live a healthy lifestyle. From working out in our fitness center where you enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Merritt to our spectacular dining options that meet your every dietary need, residents are sure to enjoy a culturally rich lifestyle in a gorgeous setting with views of both the water and the city.
Whatever your needs may be, at Lake Park, we’re ready to help you live the life you’ve always dreamed about. We even offer move-in assistance to make your move to retirement living as easy as possible. What are you waiting for? Give us a call to learn more about Lake Park and how we can help you live a better and healthier life.