By Joy Pape, FNP-C CDE CILC
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We never think it will happen to us, but it will!
I started in the health care field when I was in my early twenties and I remember talking with patients who were in their forties. I taught them that being 40 put them at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and more. Forty seemed so far into the future…I never thought I’d be that old.
Now I look back and laugh because 40 is young! I’ve learned that what my elders told me is true. Inside our minds, we feel like the same person we were in our twenties, but our physical body is aging. It can be a real wake-up call when we look in the mirror, feel those aches and pains, or see our numbers.
Aging is a natural part of life. There are many conditions we can prevent and those we cannot. Why not learn the difference and try to stay healthy and active? Here are two of my favorite tips for healthy aging.
1. Know Your Numbers
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the world. However, most heart disease can be prevented by making lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy blood pressure, quitting smoking, eating healthy, being active, having a healthy weight, and taking medications as prescribed.
Keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. High blood pressure causes heart disease and strokes. Elevated blood pressure usually does not cause symptoms…until it’s too late. That is why it is called “the silent killer.” The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that one in three Americans have high blood pressure and recommends the following age-related targets:
<140/90 for people 30-59 years of age
<150/90 for people 60 and older
The AHA also recommends initiating treatment with lifestyle changes and then medication, if necessary—at 140/90 until age 80, then at 150/90.
Keep your pulse at a healthy level. The AHA defines a healthy resting pulse as 60-100 beats per minute but a lower heart rate does not always mean trouble. It could be a side effect of medication or, if you are very active, it may indicate that your heart, which is a muscle, is in good condition and doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a healthy heartbeat.
Keep your cholesterol (lipids) in a healthy range. Talk with your health care provider about the optimal cholesterol range for you.
Keep your blood glucose (sugar) in a healthy range. High blood glucose increases your risk for heart disease and other conditions. Whether you currently have diabetes, or do not, ask for your A1C to be tested. This correlates to your average glucose level.
A1C < 5.6 is considered a healthy range.
A1C > 5.7 is considered pre-diabetes, which means you have an increased risk of developing diabetes. Even at this level, you may be able to prevent diabetes with some simple steps.
A1C > 6.5 is considered diabetes. Even if you have diabetes, you will want to keep your number within a healthy range.
2. Stay Active
The benefits of staying active and flexible are countless. It’s good for you from head (brain) to toes. Yes, your actual toes help you to get around and enjoy life!
I know that my recommendations may seem like a lot, but they don’t need to be. Simple, pragmatic changes can help to ensure a long and healthy life.
To learn about the simple how-to’s, join me for an interactive one-hour class on Saturday, March 4th at the Bigelow Apothecary. Space is limited so please RSVP at (212) 933-1756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joy Pape is an internationally known board certified Family Nurse Practitioner, author, writer, and presenter. She believes every person is an individual and deserves personalized medical, integrative care and hope for a healthy and full life.