Although you see medical reports everywhere that retirees should be able to
lead healthy lives well into their 70's or more, it's that definition of healthy
that's the sticker. My father-in-law often get a good report after a medical
checkup - "You're doing great for a man of your age!".
Does the doctor expect too little? Or as retirees do we expect too much?
People are living older and older people are getting healthier than ever before,
but as anyone over 50 can tell you there the mind and body definitely begins
a downward trend in the later years of life. Part of retirement is about
managing that health degradation - minimizing what you can and learning to adjust
your life style where you can't.
Not everyone sees mind and body losses at the same age, but eventually everyone goes
through the same thing. The body breaks easier and doesn't heal as fast nor does it
recover to as healthy a state as it started. The mind slows down, memory lapses become
more common and momentary confusions begin to lengthen.
Sound bad? Not really! Most of the issues that will appear as you grow older cannot
be fixed (as yet) by modern science but it is well within your ability to adjust your
life style and personal habits to match your capabilities. Nor do you have to simply
yield to the loss of mind and body functions - you can fight! There are lots of strategies
one can follow which can minimize or delay the symptoms described above! That's the
focus of this page.
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In retirement, exercise is about balancing your body's need for exercise to promote health
and the risk of injury that exercise might bring. Most retirees simply cannot attack sports or
exercise the way they used to, but the health benefits and contribution to long life of
exercise are too great too ignore. The basic strategy should be to exercise as much as
possible, but stopping short of creating damage which will prevent your from continuing
to exercise, or worse, result in an injury which will prevent physical activity in the
The older you get, the more true these three statements become:
- You break easier
- You heal slower
- Once broken, the same part breaks more easily the next time
Of course, the last thing you want to do is to get a "bunker" mentality.
You need to exercise and be physically active to promote a healthy body
so you cannot avoid risk entirely.
So, what do you do? Well, the easy answer is everything you feel like you can do,
and particularly everything you did before. However there are three universally
Walk as slow or as fast as you want, just make sure you walk regularly. Anything
from a half-hour to two hours is fine. Most studies indicate that walking more
than that is done for your ego, not for better health. About the only danger
walking offers is falling from cracks or bumps in the walkway. More doctors
recommend walking than any other activity.
Bone breakage is a non-trivial issue for just about everyone as they grow older,
particularly women. Studies show that regular weight lifting not only provides
strength, but increase bone density. Note for women - don't worry about getting
big muscles. At this age it's almost impossible to do much more than "tone" your
body. You simply don't have enough testosterone content to build huge muscles.
For that matter, most men don't either, although they can certainly improve their
strength and muscle size, just not to the dimensions they could have done at an
earlier age. As great as weight-lifting can be it do offer a danger - falling
weights. Weight-lifting with a partner is highly recommended.
Walking and weight lifting are great, but they act on limited parts of the body.
Sprains, or simply aches, often come from overuse of an un-used muscle. Swimming
uses more muscles (upper and lower torso, trunk twisting, etc.) than any other
exercise. It's a great all-around exercise and has an excellent injury-prevention
reputation. It is also great because swimmers hardly ever get injured while
When it comes to exercise, there are other bits of advice that are commonly given
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There are two basic elements of an eating strategy that you have to make decision about:
- How much to eat
With all the medical studies that have been performed, it's pretty hard now to deny that
low body weight is a major factor in increasing longevity. Regardless of whether its the
extra weight, or the habits that lead to being overweight, the effect is reduced life expectancy.
Go to one of the online insurance quote site and play with the weight factor
and you'll see what I mean. My own weight is way high (about 250) and when I went looking
for quotes I found that a 60-70 pound weight loss would cut my insurance more than
- Which foods to eat
The primary advice is that unless you have a specific problem you're trying to solve
then keep your usual eating habits. The earliest food-related issue that retirees will see
is weight gain. This site has no sage advice to offer other than the standard "eat less, exercise more".
There is one piece of advice that is worth repeating:
- If you are dieting then you will be hungry most of the time. Get over it. In fact,
the presence of hunger is exactly the body signal you want to have because it tells
your that your diet is working. Of course, hunger to the point of weakness is a very
bad idea, but I don't subscribe to the idea that you're supposed to figure out a way
to avoid hunger during a diet. Hunger is simply the sign that your diet is working
and you should embrace that feeling.
The other side of eating is using food or vitamins to attack a specific health issue
other than weight. There are a zillion theories about how to eat for promote mental and physical health
for every part of the body (or mind). There are scores of testimonials which
show that this person or that person benefited, just as there are scores of testimonials
which show that other persons have not benefited.
Since most foods are not harmful, the easiest suggestion is simply to try out any remedies
that you hear about and if they don't work, then quit using them. Don't forget to check
with your doctor if you're going to make a drastic change in any of your eating habits.
Making sure that you don't have an un-detected condition that will be worsened by the
new regime is a good idea. Improvements from eating a particular food will normally be
seen with 1-2 months, so don't feel like you have to give it more time than that.
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The advice here is extremely simply. Get insurance. If your retire early, get coverage.
After Medicare kicks in, then get supplemental insurance. No, this is not medical advice. This is advice
for the health of your financial well-being. During retirement you simply cannot afford
to have an injury or illness which will draw from your retirement savings. You need that
money to live on the rest of your life so you need to protect it with insurance.
Once you have the health of your retirement savings taken care of, then there are two areas in which
you need to take regular action.
It's a given retirees have injuries and illnesses which are not typical of younger folks.
You should be prepared to read up on illnesses typical of older citizens. Learn ahead of
time and be mentally prepared for what actions you might need to take to avoid or treat injuries
A second, very important, task is to take classes in emergency treatments. This means both
you and your spouse should be trained. Learn to recognize the symptoms of serious illnesses.
Also learn to provide emergency treatments.
While dialing 911 may be the most important action you can take in an emergency it can be
the first 10 minutes where actions can make the difference between life and death. Knowing
what to do until professional help arrives is important.
- Professional Help
There are two parts to this. For emergencies, dial "911". It's not rocket science but
what is hard for most folks is to know when something is a true emergency or simply something
that can be handled during the next visit to the doctor.
Remember - it's better to be embarrassed at the emergency room (for coming in about a non-life
threatening concern) than to suffer life-time physical problems because you delayed treatment.
The second part is also standard advice - see your doctor regularly. Illnesses don't generally
pop up overnight. They take time to build to a life threatening level. If you simply see your
doctor regularly (once a year, more if you have a specific concern) then your chances of catching
an illness while it is treatable go way, way up!
Be sure to understand your family history of illnesses and give your doctor a clear picture of
what you might be pre-disposed to suffer.
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The goal of insurance for the retiree is two-fold.