Protect Your Health As You Grow Older

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

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 enough sleep
  • Talk to your doctor about any health concerns
  • Take steps to prevent accidents

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

Stay active to live longer and better.

Regular physical activity can help you:

  • Reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers
  • Avoid falls and other injuries
  • Live on your own longer
  • Improve your mood and sleep
  • Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Feel better about yourself
  • Improve your ability to think, learn, and make decisions

Learn more about staying healthy as you get older:

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Take Action!

Take Action: Stay Active

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. Keep in mind that if you haven’t been active in the past, it’s not too late to start! You may need to start slowly and build up over time.

Do aerobic activities.

Aerobic activities make you breathe harder and cause your heart to beat faster.

  • Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activities every week. Some examples are walking, swimming, or doing yard work.
  • To get the most health benefits, do aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time and then work your way up.
  • 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.

Get more ideas for aerobic activities you can try.

Do strength, balance, and stretching activities.

Including a variety of activities in your routine will help you do everyday activities with ease. That's why it's important to:

If you have a health condition, talk with your doctor about the best activities for you.

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Take Action: Eat Healthy

Get ideas for eating healthy.

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

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 healthy sources of protein like seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans, and nuts.
  • Stay away from trans fats, saturated fats, 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.

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Take Action: Get Health Care

Play an active role in your health care.

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.

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. Check out the benefits of quitting smoking when you are older.

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.

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Take Action: Home Safety

Take steps to prevent falls.

Older adults are at greater risk for serious injuries from falls. Lower your risk of falling:

Make sure you have smoke alarms in your home.

Older adults are more likely to be injured or killed in home fires. To stay safe, 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. Try changing smoke alarm batteries when you change your clock back from daylight saving 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].

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Take Action: Driving and Memory

Take steps to stay safe while 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:

Keep your memory sharp.

Just like physical activity is good for your body, activities that challenge your mind can help prevent memory loss and keep your brain healthy.

As you grow older, it's important to:

  • Learn new things – take a class or challenge yourself to read a section of the newspaper that you normally skip.
  • Connect with other people – try sharing meals with a friend or volunteering at a local school.

If you are forgetting things more often than usual and it’s getting in the way of doing everyday things, talk with your doctor or nurse. Learn more about memory problems.

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Take Action: Caregiver Support

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.

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