OP-ED: Five tips for healthy aging


September is National Healthy Aging Month, a month dedicated to bringing attention to aging well. As a local physician focused on long-term care for people age 55 and older at Senior LIFE York, I often recommend five tips to patients and families who are looking to prepare now for healthier aging.

Tip 1: Control your weight by staying active and eating a healthy diet. Many of us struggle with our weight, especially as we get older.

Physical activity and healthy eating are often habits that are learned at an early age and passed down through generations.

Start small by deciding to take the stairs instead of the elevator, make sure to get nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and find activities you enjoy such as dancing or biking.

At Senior LIFE York, we recently held an '80s dance party that got our members up and dancing, with walkers in hand. If they can do it, you can too.

Tip 2: Your brain is like a muscle — exercise it.

Keeping mentally active is a critical component of aging well. Puzzles, games and socialization are all easy ways to keep yourself and your loved ones mentally sharp. Members of Senior LIFE York live in their own homes and come to the center to receive services. The socialization that the center offers is critical to their overall health.

Tip 3: Avoid overuse of medications.

Taking too many medications can be costly to seniors' health and wallets. Overuse of medication can lead to dangerous side effects and more complications. Ask questions before agreeing to add another medication to your or a loved one's daily routine. A record of medications and dosages should also be kept to avoid possible complications.

Tip 4: Do not smoke.

Smoking not only makes your body appear older by aging your skin faster but it also ages your vital organs.

Tip 5: If you or a loved one is depressed, seek help.

From loss of friends to a loss of independence and medical problems, aging patients often face multiple life changes that can impact their emotional health.

Depression is a serious condition that can result in loss of appetite, weight loss and fatigue. If treated early, depression doesn't have to be a part of aging.

These five therapeutic lifestyle changes can make a big impact on your health now and in the future.

— Dr. Barry Wentland practices with Senior LIFE York.