U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Menu

Protect Your Health As You Grow Older

Content last updated on:
December 02, 2014

The Basics

You can take steps to stay healthy and independent as you get older. It’s important to:

  • Keep your body and mind active
  • Choose healthy foods
  • Get regular checkups
  • Take steps to prevent accidents

Remember, it’s never too late to make healthy changes in your life.

For more information on staying healthy as you get older, visit the National Institute on Aging's website.

Stay active to live longer and better.
Physical activity can help you:

  • Reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers
  • Avoid falls and other injuries
  • Live on your own longer
  • Prevent depression

See how staying active can help you with everyday tasks [PDF - 864 KB].

Take Action!

Take Action!

These steps can help you live a healthier life.

Keep your body active.
Staying active as you get older is one of the best things you can do for your health.

  • Do moderate aerobic activities – like walking, swimming, or raking leaves. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week.
  • To get the most health benefits, do aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.
  • If it’s hard for you to be active for more than 10 minutes at once, do 10 minutes of activity a few times during the day.

It's also important to:

If you have a health condition, be as active as you can be. Talk with your doctor about the best activities for you.

Eat healthy.
Eating healthy is always important, no matter how old you are. It’s never too late to make healthy changes.

Try these tips:

  • Choose lots of vegetables and fruits in different colors.
  • Make sure most of your grains are whole grains, like brown rice and whole wheat.
  • Drink low-fat or fat-free milk, and eat other low-fat dairy products.
  • Choose seafood, lean meats and poultry, and other healthy sources of protein like eggs, beans, and nuts.
  • Stay away from trans and saturated fats, cholesterol, and added sugars.
  • Limit the amount of salt you eat. Use this shopping list to find low-sodium foods

Get more tips and ideas for eating well as you get older.

If you smoke, quit.
Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free help with quitting.

If you have a history of heavy smoking and you smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, ask your doctor about screening for lung cancer.

Get regular checkups.
Your doctor or nurse can help you stay healthy as you get older.

If you have Medicare, be sure to schedule your Medicare wellness visit every year.

Stay safe.
Older adults are at greater risk for serious injuries from falls, home fires, and car crashes.

Take steps to prevent falls.
Do these 4 things to lower your risk of falling:

  1. Do exercises to improve your balance and leg strength.
  2. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines. Some medicines can make you dizzy or sleepy.
  3. Get your vision checked at least once a year. Update your glasses or contact lenses when your vision changes.
  4. Use this Home Falls Prevention Checklist [PDF - 7 MB] to help you find and fix the dangers in your home.

Put smoke alarms on every floor of your home.
Use long-life smoke alarms if possible. These alarms use lithium batteries and last longer than regular smoke alarms. They also have a “hush button” so you can stop the alarm quickly if there’s a false alarm.

If you use regular smoke alarms, replace the batteries every year. (Tip: Change smoke alarm batteries when you change your clock back from Daylight Savings Time in the fall.)

Follow these other tips on smoke alarms:

  • Test your smoke alarms once a month by pushing the test button.
  • Put smoke alarms on every floor of your home and near places where people sleep.
  • Don’t forget to put a smoke alarm in the basement.
  • Replace your smoke alarm if it doesn’t work when tested or if it’s more than 10 years old.
  • Dust or vacuum smoke alarms when you change the batteries.

Get more fire safety tips [PDF - 3 MB].

Watch for changes that may affect your driving.
Getting older doesn’t make you a bad driver. But changes that come with aging can make it harder for you to drive safely. You may have trouble seeing at night or find it harder to react quickly to avoid an accident.

Take these steps to stay safe:

  • Get your vision and hearing checked regularly.
  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • Drive on streets you know.

Read more about how to stay safe behind the wheel.

Get support if you are a caregiver.
A caregiver is someone who helps a family member, friend, or neighbor who is sick or has a disability.

Caregiving can be stressful. It's important to get support if you are a caregiver – and be sure to make time to care for yourself, too.

Expand to Full Page

Start Today: Small Steps