Written by Dr. Joannie DeBrito, Family Support Specialist
I’d like to suggest that one of the best gifts you can give your grandkids is that of being a healthy grandparent.
While I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, most of which are very difficult to attain, I do think that paying attention to maintaining or starting a few good habits is reasonable.
A plan for good health habits is made up of the same components we stress for our children and grandchildren with a few tweaks here and there due to normal aging.
Ah yes, aging. It has its advantages and disadvantages, right?
As grandparents, we need to pay attention to diet, hydration, sun exposure, exercise, and sleep, but in some unique ways.
Let’s start with diet. As we age, our bodies tell us what foods are good for us and what foods are not good. Sometimes we develop food allergies or sensitivities as we get older so we need to adjust our eating to avoid those foods.
I encourage you to work with your doctor to find foods that are best for you, given any allergies, sensitivities, or health conditions.
You want to consume food that will help you have the energy you need to keep up with your grandchildren and maintain a healthy weight.
As we get older, our metabolism slows down and sometimes we become more sedentary.
This means that we gain weight faster and excess weight affects multiple aspects of the aging body including the respiratory system, memory, and mood.
If eating healthier is a good goal for you this year, I suggest making small changes, one at a time.
You may simply begin by eating smaller portions of the same foods or cutting out one or two foods that aren’t particularly good for you.
Staying hydrated can help aging grandparents look better on the outside and feel better on the inside.
Drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol and caffeinated beverages helps to keep the skin more supple, less wrinkled, and softer.
Also, most people notice feeling a bit sluggish from time to time as they get into their fifties and beyond. Often, this is related to a slowed digestive system and resulting constipation.
To prevent this, drink plenty of water each day. It’s fairly easy to do if you keep a water bottle nearby and fill it up throughout the day.
You’ll find that drinking water will help you feel less fatigued with the added bonus of staying cooler when it’s hot outside.
And speaking of being outside, we all know that too much sun is not good for us because it may cause premature aging of the skin, unsightly spotting of the skin, and even skin cancer.
However, we do need some exposure to the sun in order to absorb Vitamin D.
This vitamin has been found to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes along with some natural antidepressant effects. So, some caution is advised here.
Depending on your own specific state of health and the presence or lack of any pre-existing health conditions, talk to your doctor about how much exposure to the sun is healthy for you.
Sunblock can be used to block harmful UV rays which will decrease the amount of Vitamin D that is absorbed.
Still, you should be able to find a balance that helps prevent problems related to exposure to the sun while providing the desired benefits at the same time.
Have you been stuck inside too long? Consider getting outside for 15 minutes, 3 days per week if this is new for you, plus boost your Vitamin D by eating foods such as salmon, milk, and eggs.
That walk outside to get a little sunshine may have another positive effect on your body, mind, and spirit.
Exercise helps increase metabolism, maintain a healthy weight and boost mood.
However, in most cases, the way you exercise as you age requires some consideration.
Our joints become stiffer and less flexible as we age so for most of us, it’s best to begin to limit the pressure we put on our joints. That means that running and aerobics may need to be replaced with brisk walking and water aerobics.
Too much weight lifting may also put too much stress on the joints so using resistance bands, a low-cost alternative to weights, can help us strengthen our core and improve posture, mobility, and balance.
We’re probably all aware of the gym memberships purchased in January that are canceled by March with the obsessive devotion to exercise after the holidays are short-lived.
A better way to get good exercise is to pick something that doesn’t require any new purchases or the commitment to a lengthy program.
Start small, perhaps increasing walking from once a week to twice or three times per week or practicing stretching exercises or pilates at home with a DVD.
Most people need to feel comfortable exercising at home or near their home before they are comfortable exercising in public.
Here’s a fun hint: If you are helping to care for an active toddler or two (definitely good exercise) add some ankle weights to boost the benefits of the activity you are getting, trying to keep up with your busy grandchild(ren).
All of these ideas work best when combined with one other thing: GOOD SLEEP.
You are likely to sleep better if you eat well, stay hydrated, get out in the sun a little, and exercise.
While you are sleeping, your body repairs cell damage and any damage from UV exposure, thus reducing wrinkles.
Sleeping well improves your immune system, memory, concentration, and mood. You could actually improve your overall health just by starting a habit of sleeping better.
It’s not too hard to do that. Stay off of devices, don’t exercise, watch television, or consume caffeine within 3-4 hours of going to bed.
Establish a bedtime routine and stick to it.
So what do you think? What will help you take better care of yourself in 2022? Pick one thing and go for it!
1 Corinthians 6:19