• (Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes)

    This month, let's talk about that chronic condition experienced by 100% of the population - aging. The term aging means different things to different people but overall society seems to have a pretty pessimistic view of aging. Well, 100 year old Ida Keeling sure has something to say about that when she sets the world record for the 100m Dash in this video:

  • So how do we age healthfully? (That is actually a word...I didn't make it up hehe!) Here are 5 tips on healthy aging that you can start doing at any age:

  • 1. Exercise! 

    Somehow, I don't think you are surprised that this tops my list. Exercising regularly has numerous benefits including:

    • Increasing longevity
    • Reducing fall risk
    • Improving muscle strength
    • Improving ability to do daily activities
    • Weight management
    • Heart health
    • Brain health
    • Risk reduction of some cancers
  • 2. Work on Your Balance Every Day

    On average, 1/3rd of adults over the age of 65 fall every year. Falls are bad news. In medical terms, falls in the elderly are usually put into two categories: injurious falls and non-injurious falls.

    • Injurious falls can include those with severe injuries such as broken bones and head injury or non-severe injuries such as those that cause general discomfort (ex. sprains, strains, bruising). According to the CDC, "among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury death." (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health, 2013 p.24)
    • Non-injurious falls have a nasty tendency of causing fear of falling. Fear of falling can cause a person to restrict their activities because they are afraid of falling. Restriction of activities then leads to a reduction in overall activity level...which then leads to reduced physical fitness. Which...you guessed it...leads to an increase in fall risk.

    So how can you work on balance? There are many different types of balance activities out there. Physical Therapy, Tai Chi, and Yoga all work on balance. If you're looking to keep it simple, my go to balance exercise is Single Leg Balance! Standing on one leg something you do every day, whether you realize it or not - it is a vital component of walking, movement transitions, and turning.

    Here's how you do the exercise:

    1. Stand next to a chair or a counter. Hold on with one or two hands if you feel unsteady.
    2. Stand tall and gently tighten your belly. Breathe throughout the exercise.
    3. Lift one leg. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds (or as long as your able).
    4. Repeat on the other side. Do at least 10 repetitions per day.

    Pro Tip: Try to link Single Leg Balance to an activity you're already doing regularly so you won't forget to do your balance exercise and it won't feel like such a chore to get your 10 reps in....Reheating that cup of coffee? Stand on one leg. TV commercial time? Stand on one leg. On hold with that annoying salesperson? Stand on one leg.

    Don't forget to ask your physical therapist for a customized balance home exercised program!

  • 3. Reduce Your Mental Stress

    Stress is stressful. Did you know the brain and body changes with chronic stress? According to a 2016 lecture I attended by Pauline Lucas, PT, chronic stress can lead to:

    • Heart disease
    • Sleeplessness
    • Anxiety and depression
    • Digestive problems
    • Weight gain
    • Muscle tension and muscle pain
    • Memory and concentration problems
    • Type II diabetes
    • Sexual dysfunction
    • And so on...

    So how can you reduce your mental stress? Some strategies include:

    • Exercise
    • Practicing mindfulness activities such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi
    • Socializing/getting out of the house
    • Setting aside time in your busy day to do an activity you love
    • Making "me" time a part of your day
  • 4. Maintain a Healthy Weight

    Our bodies benefit from maintaining a healthy body weight. When was the last time you weighed yourself? Do you know your body mass index (BMI)? According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division of Population Health, a BMI of 30 or higher represents obesity (2013). They state that being obese is a risk factor for chronic conditions including:

    • Arthritis
    • Stroke
    • Heart disease
    • Cancer

    Here are some tips on maintaining a healthy weight:

    • Team up with your physical therapist, physician, and nutritionist to create a healthy lifestyle plan
    • Do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise per week
    • Incorporate more vegetables into your diet
    • Keep track of how much physical activity you get a day (ex. use a wearable activity monitor). Set an activity goal and stick to it.
    • Try to take at least 10,000 steps per day (can track with a pedometer)
    • Join a support group or find motivation from friends and family
    • Do not skip meals because this can leave you feeling hungry and lead to binge eating
  • 5. Keep Up To Date with Your Health Screens and Prevention Services

    Life gets busy really fast. Before you know it, health and prevention screenings have passed you by! Here's a preventative services check list. Are you up to date?

    • Blood Pressure Screening - When was your blood pressure checked last? Was it checked in any position other than sitting? If not, consider asking your physical therapist or doctor's office to check it in standing too! Sometimes, blood pressure can change if you are in a different position.
    • Fitness/wellness screening - Do you know how physically fit you are? What is your fall risk? Your physical therapist can do a fitness/wellness and fall risk screening to get a baseline measurement and then do regular check-ins with you to make sure you are maintaining your strength, endurance, and balance.
    • Vaccinations - Did you know that flu and pneumonia are the 7th leading cause of death in the US among adults 65+ years of age? (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division of Population Health, 2013) Work with your physician to make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
    • Cancer screenings - Although uncomfortable, it is very important to get those colorectal screenings and mammograms regularly!
  • Thanks for reading! If you are interested in learning more about the state of aging and health in America, check out the CDC's 2013 report by clicking here.



  • References:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity and Health: The Benefits of Physical Activity. Accessed at: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/ Accessed on: 8/1/2016

    Lucas, Pauline. Meditation and Mindfulness in PT Practice for Improved Outcomes, Happy Clinicians, and a Healthy Workplace. Lecture. APTA Combined Sections Meeting 2016. Saturday, February 20, 2016 11:00 am - 1:00 pm.

    National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division of Population Health. The State of Aging & Health In America 2013. eBook, published 2013. Accessed at: https://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/state-aging-health-in-america-2013.pdf Accessed on: 8/1/2016

    National Institute of Health. Calculate Your Body Mass Index. Accessed at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmicalc.htm Accessed on: 8/1/2016