Have a Happy and Healthy New Year – Women’s Health of Central Massachusetts

The New Year is an opportunity for new beginnings. Whether you decide to increase your exercise or better your diet, New Years is a chance to try to improve your overall health. Don’t just say it, do it!

AARP has a great article “10 Ways You Can Achieve a Healthy, Happy New Year.”

Plan to be active in the New Year

Here are the action items; you need to plan the dates and locations. Over the next few months, try all 10 ways to get active. Each will bring you a year’s worth of rewards.

1. Invest in a good pair of shoes. When your feet are happy, so are you. If you have pain in your feet, see a podiatrist (foot doctor), a visit that is likely covered in part by health insurance. Comfortable, well-fitting shoes are a must and worth the investment.

2. Play games. Games keep your brain working and your cognitive skills healthy. Plus, it’s a fun way to spend time with others. Trivia, math, memory, acting- there is a game for most personalities. Traditional board games (chess or Monopoly), crossword puzzles, anagrams, Sudoko puzzles and optical illusions can be played at different skill levels.

3. Take a walk. Walk around the block, walk to the store, walk a mile. Walking improves lower body strength, maintains mobility and helps prevent cognitive decline. Research studies have shown that two short walks a day can be as good as a single, longer stroll. Once you are walking well, increase your speed and distance.

4. Stand on one leg. Good balance helps you with everyday activities, like reaching into a cupboard, and avoiding falls. When you have confidence in your balance skills, you also have confidence to walk outside, wash the car and visit a museum. Many exercise classes designed for older adults incorporate balance training. Tai chi is gaining a lot of attention for improving balance, as well as reducing fear of falling. Work up to standing on one leg by performing balance exercises on a regular basis.

5. Visit an eye doctor. A recent study found that almost all the vision impairment in a large group of people over 60 years old could be improved with corrective lenses. Age-related macular degeneration is the most common vision loss as we get older. An optometrist can figure the best plan for your eyes.

6. Increase your physical activity. Physical activity and exercise do a lot of good things, not only for physical health, but also for maintaining cognitive skills and reducing the risk of dementia. Remember that physical activity includes housework and yard work (put some effort into it), walking to the store and playing ball with the neighborhood kids. Make opportunities for activity, like a weekly walking date with a neighbor or friend. Join a wellness center, community center or a health club that has equipment and programs geared to your interests.

7. Seek out your friends, family and neighbors. Social connections are good for your emotional well-being. Studies have shown that friendships and the social support network developed at seniors’ centers, places of worship and neighborhoods not only prevent loneliness, but also provide a ready source of intellectual, physical and volunteer activities

8. Eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. Switch to a Mediterranean diet (emphasizing fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, some fish and alcohol, and limiting dairy and meet) and you can lower your body weight and cholesterol levels. The Mediterranean diet has also been associated with lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. People who eat a balanced plant-based diet don’t have to worry much about counting calories, and gain many vitamins and minerals.

9. Laugh a lot. Laughing increases circulation, immune system defenses and mental functioning while decreasing stress hormones. Watch comedies or read the comics.

10. Get enough sleep. When life gets hectic, adequate sleep seems to fall by the wayside. Get your seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, make a few changes in your habits, such as skipping daytime naps, adopting a nighttime routine and starting a regular exercise program. Try listening to music, too. Studies have shown that changing your habits is more successful at improving sleep than taking medications.

Did you notice that virtually every activity improves your mental health and reduces the risk of dementia? By increasing your levels of physical activity, social interactions and mental connections, your new year plan of activities will increase your health and happiness.

Source: Adapted from the International Council on Active Aging’s “10 Ways to Achieve a Healthy, Happy New Year”