I’ve noticed that as I’ve reached middle age, my body has changed. Bruises and gashes don’t heal quite as quickly. My body is not as flexible, and my mind at times goes blank.
Although I’ve not reached an age when I’m ready to have a geriatrician as a physician, I did find the advice about aging well provided by Cleveland Clinic geriatrician Dr. Amanda Lathia as something to embrace sooner rather than later. For instance, our tolerance for medications probably will change as we continue to age. “You can give younger adults high doses of pain medication or anxiety medication, and they may not become confused,” she explained. “The risk for confusion is much greater in older adults. Give older adults even a small amount of anxiety or sleep medication, and they can become delirious.”
Her suggestions for healthy aging included:
- Try something new to stretch your mind. Possibilities include reading, a new hobby, crossword puzzles or a computer game. I’ve joined a book group which is causing me to read books that I probably wouldn’t have selected. The ensuing conversations of book group members often give me a different point of view. Other new interests include gardening and geocaching, as well as finishing a graduate degree (which definitely stretches the mind). Other ways that I’ve seen friends who are entering or in menopause stretch their minds include learning a language, taking on a new career, joining a singing group, and learning to play billiards.
- Exercise your body. The doctor recommends walking for 30 minutes a day at least three times a week and doing tai chi to improve balance and ease arthritis pain. I’ve tried to be pretty good about taking a weight lifting class as well as walking the dogs. I’ve also tried out off-road biking (and hope to do more once the temperature cools down). I also have friends who have joined an early morning exercise boot camp, do yoga, and teach aerobic classes.
- Check with your doctor before taking supplements. Dr. Lathia suggests talking to your doctor about a bone density scan as well as taking Vitamin D and calcium supplements. She also notes that fish oil, while good for mood, memory and heart, may be problematic if you’re on blood thinners. She recommends checking with your doctor about taking this supplement.
- Socialize. Dr. Lathia noted, “Socializing helps decrease stress. I encourage patients to go out to lunch with friends. It’s important to do anything you can to avoid stress.” I’ve also found that it keeps my brain engaged, which is why belonging to groups – whether a regular book group or a bridge group – and interacting with people regularly, whether at coffee shops or dinner parties – is so important.
Many friends have suggested that aging is not for sissies. However, I’d suggest that if we become proactive, we can take some of the challenges out of aging and, thus, lead a vibrant and healthy life.
Published On: September 01, 2010