Check-up before you checkout

This week was the international day of older people (1 October). Getting older is a part of life but aging gracefully is a choice we can make by the lifestyle we chose to follow every day. We all know that it's important to eat healthy foods, exercise and drink plenty of water, but will it really be that simple as we get older? What can be expected as we age? This blog post will examine the expected changes which occur as we age and some strategies which can be implemented to make this transition to our golden oldies as smooth and wrinkle free as possible.

As we age our body composition shifts, resulting in an increase in fat mass and visceral fat, while the amount of lean muscle mass and bone density decreases. Sacopenia which is the loss of muscle mass, strength and function, is commonly seen as the elderly start to lose their grip strength, making it harder to hold on to objects for support. Changes in taste, touch and smell can lead to overly seasoned foods which are low in nutrients but energy dense. Poor appetite, loneliness and the burden of cooking and meal preparation often leads to a negative change in eating patterns and a drop in the frequency of meals. Untreated mouth sores, tooth decay, poor dental and nasal hygiene, cigarette smoking and a failing memory further compound the problem.

So what should we do to put ourselves in a better position to be healthier today and tomorrow? It starts with going for a full health assessment at your local doctor or physician so that you know exactly what your starting point is. We cannot change what we cannot measure, nor can we track progress, both of which are important if we are to set and achieve any health goals. Health goals can be as complex or as simple as you would prefer, the most important thing is that you start and are consistent. Health goals also need to be SMART. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Based. (Learn more about goal setting in the next blog post!).

Once you have an idea of where you are and where you need to be pull out your calendar. Start scheduling your yearly health checks. This includes phoning the respective health institutions, making an appointment and diarising this date, time and place.  It is common practice to delay tasks which involve self-care as we generally have a million other tasks on our list that we deem more important. Therefore if you do not block of time for these important tasks as you would a work appointment, your health check-ups with take the backseat and not end up being prioritized.  These include going to the dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup, going to the optometrist every second year and checking your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood glucose levels once a year at your local doctor.

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As Denis Waitley said: 'Time and health are two precious assets that we don't recognise and appreciate until they have been depleted'. Don't let this be you. Make yourself and your health a priority today.

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