Working Toward Wellness As You Age
By Randa Anderson-Stice, Regional President of Senior Products for Humana in Colorado, Colorado Springs and East Denver LIVING WELL Magazines
Think of your health as a savings account. Throughout your life, you work hard so you can save enough money to live comfortably as you get older. Lifelong well-being works the same way. In order to live a long, healthy life and maximize time spent with your loved ones, you have to invest as much time as possible finding ways to live a healthy lifestyle.
There are many steps you can take – from monitoring the type of food you eat to getting regular health screenings – to make certain your health and well-being are ensured for many years. Here are some tips on some of the most beneficial things you can do to help you achieve lifelong well-being.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Eating well-balanced meals is an important factor in the battle against the bulge says William Downham, M.D., medical officer of Senior Products for Humana in Colorado. “It’s important to make sure your plate has plenty of vegetables and other high-fiber foods to reduce your sugar level and help prevent chronic conditions, including diabetes and colon cancer,” he says. “Foods rich in soluble fiber, such as oat bran and apples, are also helpful for weight management because they help you feel full longer, prevent overeating and reduce the amount of fat going into your intestines.” Some easy ways to increase your fiber intake include incorporating beans into salad or soup, and enjoying oatmeal with chopped apples for breakfast.
Daily exercise is the other crucial component to maintaining a healthy weight. Dr. Downham says to take at least 30 minutes each day for a healthy activity, like a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood. By doing so at least five times each week, you’ll quickly fulfill the minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s even easier to stay motivated if you can grab an exercise buddy – whether a spouse, grandchild or neighbor – to join you for a daily physical activity to make it social.
Better Manage Chronic Conditions
According to the CDC, about 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition, such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes.2 There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risks associated with these conditions, including regular exercise and reporting any changes in your body to your physician.
“Keep in mind that your food intake can also greatly affect how your body deals with chronic conditions,” says Dr. Downham. To lower your risk of heart problems, Dr. Downham recommends eating fish rich in Omega-3s, such as salmon or tuna, twice a week, and limiting daily salt consumption to one teaspoon. Also, ditch the butter to avoid bad cholesterol build up in your bloodstream and opt for olive or canola oil and choosing healthier ways to cook, such as baking or broiling. Keep your mind healthy with a diet rich in folic acid, B vitamins and vitamin E, which can be found in whole grains, yeast, meats, citrus juices and low-fat dairy products.
Most health insurance providers offer resources to help you monitor and better manage your chronic conditions. For instance, Humana Inc. has an online tool, the Diabetes Condition Center, that members suffering with diabetes can access for resources on how to manage the condition.
Don’t Forget Your Checkups
Getting annual medical exams is extremely important as you get older. “Regular checkups and screenings can help you monitor for signs of high blood pressure, cholesterol and may catch chronic conditions early on,” says Dr. Downham. While your primary care physician is critical, it’s also important to see specialty doctors such as ophthalmologists and dermatologists, who will closely monitor for certain conditions, such as blindness or skin cancer.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has made preventive screenings more available than ever before. Under the act, Medicare and new private-insurance policies, as of this year, are now required to either completely or significantly cover the cost of 45 medical tests and services currently shown to be most effective in early detection and prevention of disease. The tests include wellness exams, physicals, immunizations, smoking cessation counseling and screening for mammograms, diabetes, colon cancer, prostate cancer and cardiovascular issues.
Know Your Health Benefits Policy
Taking advantage of the resources available through your health benefits plan – from mail order prescription plans to health incentive programs – can go a long way toward maintaining your well-being. Call your health insurance company’s local representative to determine if your current health plan is the best fit for you and to find out what resources are at your disposal.
For more information on Humana’s senior products in Colorado, call 866-355-6152.