By Curtis Thill, MD
As a long-time physician serving in southern Indiana, I can tell you from experience that many people living here face unique challenges. Good health usually means we can also enjoy a higher quality of life. As we hit 60 years of age and older, what can we do to be as healthy as possible?
Move and be active – Our bodies naturally slow down as we get older. As our metabolisms slow down, it gets easier and easier to become less active. The good news is that we can reverse that trend and fire things up a bit with some regular movement and simple exercise.
Being active doesn’t mean a commitment to an exhausting workout. Simply getting out and walking three-to-four times a week for 30 minutes or more at a stretch will likely yield all kinds of benefits.
Moderate exercise just a few times a week boosts your immune system. Have a bike? It doesn’t matter whether it’s old or new – just try to ride for a half hour or more. Strive to get in a total of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Just that little bit can reduce inflammation and many kinds of infection.
Try to Eat Healthy – For many living in our region, this can be a challenge. I encourage people to eat as much fresh fruit and as many fresh vegetables as they can. Again, it’s very easy to grab a sack of salty chips or a can of pop or heat up a box of macaroni in a microwave and call that a meal.
Over time, that kind of diet can be pretty hard on your body. But taking a little extra time to cook some vegetables or substitute an apple or other fruit for a candy bar can have great effects in a pretty short period of time.
Why is this important? Eating meals that have vegetables, fruits and lean meat (not fried) quickly helps boost your immune system and lower inflammation. Do you wonder how to cook fresh? It’s not hard – do you have a smartphone or access to the internet? Just search for “how to cook fresh” or phrases like that and you’ll instantly find hundreds of step-by-step ways to improve your daily meals.
Here’s some straight talk about health – Good habits in eating and moderate exercise have good payoffs. But having worked in this region for many years, I know that some face all kinds of economic and living challenges. Some of our residents may not have a family history of eating healthy, or face time or other issues that make it tough.
Wherever you find yourself, self-improvement – even small steps – can make big differences. Once you take control of trying to improve your health, good things generally start happening. I know – I’ve seen it many, many times, no matter what one’s position in life is.
I’ll leave you with a hard-earned truth: find a medical professional you can trust, one who will walk with you and meet you where you are. As you enter and live in your senior years, find a professional whom you can agree to work together for your best health.
Sometimes when we’re afraid of possible bad news, we avoid facing facts. We can try to live in denial. The good news is that there are many good professionals in our region whose services are available and affordable. When you’re a senior, a checkup can be lifesaving.
Don’t cut yourself short. If you’re already practicing these tips, good for you – keep it up! If you see some places where you might improve, start today – work for at least some small steps. And find a partner so you don’t have to go it alone.
Improved, even good health can be yours. Step out on that path today and live a healthier life!
A long-time certified family medicine physician, Dr. Curtis Thill has been serving Crawford County and other people in the region for more than 30 years. He enjoys biking, gardening and cooking, often creating recipes using home-grown produce and fresh fruit.