Healthy choices can impact how you age

photo by: Mike Yoder for LMH Health/Contributed Photo

LMH Health offers a variety of education and exercise programs that focus on senior health, such as this National Senior Health and Fitness Day program on May 31, 2017 at the Lawrence Public Library.

Getting older is a natural part of life. The changes you go through as you get older depend on a number of things, including what health problems run in your family and the choices you make.

If your family members have diseases or ongoing (chronic) health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes, then you may have a greater chance of having those problems yourself. But just because your risk is higher doesn’t mean you will definitely have the same problems.

Aynsley Anderson Sosinski, a wellness specialist at LMH Health who is board certified by the Mayo Clinic and the National Consortium of Health and Wellness Coaches, said, “In fact, the lifestyle choices you make can help reduce your chances of getting illnesses that run in your family. And even if you do get a family illness, choosing to be physically active, to eat healthy foods, and to learn how to deal with stress can help keep the illness from destroying your ability to enjoy your golden years.”

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Changes as you get older are usually gradual. Certain physical changes are common. Anderson Sosinski noted that our metabolism (how fast your body can burn calories) slows over time, which means that your body needs less food energy than before. How much and how well you sleep will likely change. Most people start needing reading glasses around age 40, and many have some hearing loss later in life. Starting in your 50s, bone aging increases.

“Most vital organs gradually become less efficient with age,” she said. “The kidneys are less able to keep enough water in your body. And the heart can start to show signs of wear and tear. So as you get older, it’s important to be physically active, drink plenty of water, and choose healthy foods. Doing these things will help your body work well for a longer period of time.”

Anderson Sosinski stressed that one of the most important things you can do for your health at any age is to be physically active. “People who stay active are less likely to get depressed,” she said. “Physical activity keeps your body strong, and it helps with how you feel.”

The National Institute on Aging notes that exercise can positively impact those with hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis and other joint problems, peripheral artery disease, balance problems, dementias, depression, stress and anxiety, and numerous other physical and mental health disorders.

Physical activity can be anything from walking to gardening to working out at the gym. Anderson Sosinski said that the important thing is to be active almost every day.

“No matter what your age or condition, there is a type of physical activity that’s right for you,” she said, noting that you should always ask your doctor whether it is safe to start a physical activity program.

Other good advice in addition to getting regular physical activity is to take charge of how stress affects you by setting aside 20 minutes a day to just relax.

“Your mental and emotional health are also important,” Anderson Sosinski said. “Protect or improve your emotional health by staying in touch with friends, family and the community. People who feel connected to others are more likely to thrive than those who do not.”

To protect or improve your memory and mental sharpness, keep your brain active and challenged. Learn or do something new and different. For example, attend an educational workshop or learn a new card game. Depression can be a serious problem for older adults. If you think you may be depressed, seek help.

LMH Health offers educational programs focused on health and wellness for seniors, such as Fit 1, Fit Assist, Tai Chi, a cardiopulmonary wellness program, Parkinson’s disease exercise program, aquatic exercise classes in partnership with Lawrence Parks and Recreation, Senior Suppers and more, as well as a variety of support groups. Visit the LMH website, lmh.org, for specifics or call ConnectCare at 785-505-5800.

Dine and learn at Senior Suppers

On the second Tuesday of each month, senior adults from the community are invited to dine and socialize with their peers at LMH Health Senior Seminars. For $5.50, you can enjoy a healthy three-course meal, beginning at 5 p.m., followed by a free short educational program presented on a health or wellness topic directed toward senior health issues at 6 p.m. Presentations are provided by LMH Health affiliated physicians and other community health care professionals.

Brought to the community by LMH Dining Services/Unidine and LMH Community Outreach & Engagement department, Senior Suppers began in 2014 and were an instant hit.

“We have heard overwhelmingly positive comments about the food and seminar itself,” said Aynsley Anderson Sosinski, a wellness specialist at LMH Health. “We love to see our guests making new friends while gaining information that will benefit them.”

The monthly topic is announced each month in the Lawrence Journal-World or by visiting the LMH website. Space for the suppers is limited, so reservations are requested by enrolling at lmh.org or by calling 785-505-5800.

— Janice Early is vice president of marketing and communications at LMH Health, which is a major sponsor of the Lawrence Journal-World’s Health section. She can be reached at janice.early@lmh.org.

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