Americans are living longer than ever before according to research by the US Census Bureau. The life expectancy of Americans has reached an all-time high of 78.0 years (75.5 for men; 81.9 for women). The projection is that this will rise to 79.9 years by 2020 (77.1 for men; 81.9 for women).
“As life expectancy for men and women increases, it is important for adults to know how to care for their changing bodies,” says Gregory James, DO, MPH an osteopathic family physician and geriatrician from Largo, Fla. “Living healthy depends on more than just going to the doctor’s office for physical examinations—it also requires individual accountability.”
The baby boomer generation will begin to reach retirement age throughout this decade. In addition, the population of adults over the age of 50 is expected to double, growing to 70 million in the United States alone by 2030.
“Personal attention to nutrition and fitness needs to be a prominent part of every person’s life, especially men and women over 50 years of age and those nearing retirement,” states Dr. James. “No one is going to live forever, but taking steps to improve your health can improve the quality of your life.”
To increase healthy living in later adulthood, Dr. James recommends:
restraining from using tobacco of any kind;
avoiding overindulgence in food and alcohol;
adhering to a healthy diet;
scheduling regular health screening visits with a physician; and
exercising at least every other day as approved by your physician.
“It is never too late to drop bad habits and adopt healthier ones,” notes Dr. James. “There is a prevailing sentiment amongst aging adults that altering their lifestyle would be pointless because they have continued poor habits for so many years. This is untrue.”
In a country with an abundance of fast food, remote controls, and self-claimed wonder drugs, Americans may find it easier to practice unhealthy habits than to focus on their well being.
“Too often people rely on the promises of anti-aging pills and quick-fixes,” exclaims Dr. James. “The most proven way to stay healthy is to take care of your body.”
There are several ways for people to take care of their bodies besides running or walking. Dr. James recommends exercising for 30 to 60 minutes everyday, depending on your tolerance level.
To stay active Dr. James suggests:
taking the stairs instead of the elevator;
stretching in the morning and after naps;
swimming or bicycle riding; and
attending activities offered by community centers or church groups.
“Always check with your physician prior to starting or significantly changing your exercise routine,” he warns.
Dr. James further explains that combining personal accountability with regular checkups may help mature adults maintain their health. Physicians can recognize potential problems and offer advice.
“Restricting calorie intake, checking blood pressure, and watching cholesterol levels can all lead to improved health,” Dr. James explains. “It is just a matter of taking the initiative to get, and stay healthy.”