Exercise and diet are necessities for those suffering with diabetes.
The Healthy Aging Campaign, a national health promotion designed to broaden awareness of the positive aspects of aging, breaks down four keys to growing old with style: physical fitness, social wellness, mental wellness and financial fitness.
Of those four, physical fitness is the key upon which the others turn, said Dr. Carmel Dyer, associate professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Housto, and director of the Harris County Hospital District Geriatrics Program.
“The fountain of youth truly is exercise,” Dyer said.
Exercise increases your muscle mass and flexibility, making it less likely you’ll fall and suffer a fracture, Dyer said. It also helps you metabolize blood sugar better, decreasing your risk of diabetes. And it keeps your blood vessels open and dilated, which reduces your blood pressure, she said.
Dyer recommends exercising for at least 30 minutes three times a week, and adding days as your fitness increases.
Good Nutrition, including a diet low in saturated fats and containing five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, also is crucial to good health. And if you’re a smoker, quit, it’s never too late.
Another part of good health is making sure you get regular checkups, said Dr. Michael Fleming, a Shreveport, La., physician and board chairman of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“It’s important for everyone to have a personal physician you can have a relationship with, that knows you and your family and your risk factors,” Fleming said, adding that everyone should have a “coordinator of your care.”
Dyer agreed, adding that people should proactively plan for health screenings for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis — to name a few — that could both prolong life and make it more enjoyable.
“Why not see your doctor once a year and get the proper preventative treatment?” Dyer said. “It puts you more in control of your health.”
“I would have everyone ask their doctor for the reason for each medication, and what they could do in place of the drugs,” she said, noting that physical activity or a healthy diet could supplant the need for some prescription drugs.
Having good health and being physically fit also can help keep your mind clear and healthy, both Dyer and Fleming said.
Just being active can go a long way to improving one’s attitude as you grow older, Fleming said. “If you don’t believe you can age actively, I’m pretty sure you can’t,” he said.
Seniors also should exercise their minds by traveling, learning new skills, reading, researching new interests or developing a hobby.
A healthy social life also can help seniors stay mentally sharp, Dyer said.

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