Getting older is a fact of life but do not despair

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When we get older, it is even more important that we make an effort to stay healthy in order to keep active and maintain independence.

In later life we become more susceptible to some diseases, may suffer more aches and pains and can be more vulnerable to falling over, so keeping as healthy as possible is the best way to mitigate against these.

When we reach age 65 and over, we tend to slow down. This means that on average, people in this age group tend to spend up to 10 hours a day either sitting or lying down. This can lead to high rates of conditions such as obesity and heart disease.

Keeping fit and active can also allow you to carry out the activities you want, such as playing with grandchildren or going to the shops.

It is recommended that those aged over 18 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, such as walking quickly, cycling or playing doubles tennis. Even pushing a lawn mower can count.

On top of this, muscle strengthening exercises should be performed on two or more days – this can include carrying heavy shopping bags or gardening activities such as digging.

However, if you have been inactive for a while and are only just getting back into exercising, it is important not to rush in and do too much too soon. By introducing small amounts of exercise bit by bit, and taking the time to find the ones you enjoy most, you will find the most benefits and avoid any injuries.

As older people can be more at risk of falls, activities to improve balance and co-ordination should also be carried out a couple of days a week. Examples of these include yoga and dancing.

Older people unfortunately often become more susceptible to several diseases and conditions. Some of these conditions are detailed below:

n Alzheimer’s disease

This results in a decline in mental capabilities, affecting memory and causing confusion. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is largely associated with growing older, with one in 14 people aged over 65 affected by the condition.

Care plans can be arranged for those with Alzheimer’s, and although there is no cure, there is medication available that can slow down the condition’s development.

n Bowel cancer

This can affect people of almost any age, but as around 80 per cent of people who are diagnosed with the condition are over 60, the chance of developing bowel cancer increases in later life.

Symptoms of the condition can include blood in your stools, unexplained weight loss and an unexplained change in your bowel habits.

There is currently an NHS bowel cancer screening programme in place for all those aged between 60 and 75 who are currently registered with a GP. As part of this, you will be sent a test kit through the post. The kit allows you to collect tiny stool samples on a card, which is then returned through the post in a special hygienic envelope. Results are then made available in writing in two weeks’ time.

n Diabetes

While diabetes can be caused by diet and lifestyle, in later life people can suffer from the condition due to the body’s inability to secrete enough insulin to control blood sugar levels. It is especially important for older people to keep an eye on their diet and not eat too many sugary foods. While the condition can cause complications, it is treatable with medication.

n Coughs and colds

Older people have a weaker immune system so become more susceptible to infections. It is a good idea to have the seasonal flu jab, which is routinely offered to over 65’s in autumn. Keeping healthy by drinking plenty of water, eating lots of fruit and veg and staying active are great ways to boost the immune system and keep healthy.