These Health Mistakes Are Especially Dangerous to Seniors

When we’re young, our bodies are capable of pulling off astounding feats. Doing all-nighters, drinking tons of alcohol, and eating more chocolate than seems humanly possible are all a piece of cake when you’re in your 20’s and 30’s. However, once you reach middle age and late adulthood, recovering from events like these becomes a lengthy, and often painful, process that could really affect your overall health.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t extend a fulfilling and active life all the way to your 70’s and 80’s, of course, and to achieve that, prioritizing healthy habits and avoiding health mistakes, even those you could previously get away with, is the way to go once you’re in your late 40’s and up. Below are 15 common health mistakes to avoid at all times for those of you who have reached the noble age.

1. Forgetting to exercise your brain

seniors health mistakes crossword puzzle
Our brain may not be a muscle, but much like a muscle, it needs constant training, irrespective of our age. Many people mistakably believe that learning and brain development is just for kids and students, neglecting their brain once they reach their late 40's and beyond. This mistake is completely ungrounded in fact, as older adults are significantly more susceptible to cognitive decline and memory problems even if they don't suffer from neurodegenerative conditions, which is why it is crucial to train your memory and cognition as much as possible.
Trivia quizzes, crossword puzzles, creative activities, tactical games, crafts, and reading are all excellent ways to maintain your brain in top shape, even if you only engage in these activities for 2 hours every week (only 17 minutes a day).

2. Neglecting oral health

seniors health mistakes woman smiling
Visits to the dentist and hygienist, as well as good oral hygiene, are a crucial element of long-term health, especially since it has been shown that poor oral hygiene is closely linked to cognitive decline and heart problems in seniors.
Even if you tended to skip or delay dentist's visits in the past, you should make it a point to schedule regular appointments every 6 months as you arrive at your late 40's. Apart from preventing oral and dental issues, your dentist is also qualified to detect other serious health conditions (e.g. diabetes, cancers, heart and kidney disease) that often manifest themselves in the mouth and direct you to your physician.

3. Skipping meals

seniors health mistakes empty plate
If you're in the habit of skipping breakfast (or any other meal of the day for that matter), you should stop doing so once you've reached middle age or late adulthood. Skipping meals can lead to spikes in blood sugar, which is why people who tend to skip meals are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, most often between the age of 40 and 64. You don't have to eat a lot, but keep a steady and balanced meal schedule to maintain long-term pancreatic health.

4. Losing touch with family and friends

seniors health mistakes happy family outdoors
Humans are social creatures, and that doesn't change much throughout one's life, no matter your age, gender, or personality. Maintaining or even strengthening familial and friendly ties with people is very important for your physical and mental health, with studies suggesting that socially active people tend to live more than 20% longer than those who are lonely.
Even if your family lives far away, try socializing more by joining different social groups, e.g. become a volunteer, join a book club, or sign up to the gym. Not only will these groups make your day-to-day life more interesting, but they will also boost your activity levels.

5. Being dehydrated

seniors health mistakes dry lips
When you're young, it's easy to brush away the occasional chapped lips and dry mouth that come with dehydration. However, once you reach your 40's and 50's, dehydration can become a serious concern, causing anything ranging from headaches and vertigo to constipation and even kidney damage.
This issue is further worsened if you take certain medications, such as diuretics and laxatives, as these can further dehydrate you. Learn more about the ways to prevent dehydration for seniors in the following article: 5 Serious Mistakes That Can Lead to Dehydration in Seniors.

6. Giving up when your health starts to decline

seniors health mistakes sad man and woman supporting him
With age, all of us begin to experience all kinds of unexpected health issues, which can be very discouraging, especially if the diagnosis is very serious and unsettling. However, you must understand that all of these symptoms and conditions are a part of the cycle of life, and most people go through the very same pressures, fears, and doubts you are at some point in their lives, so the best we can do is support each other and carry on living as much of a fulfilling and pleasant life as the circumstances allow.

7. Failing to monitor your sugar and salt intake

seniors health mistakes brown sugar cubes
Sugar, be it in the form of white sugar, brown sugar, artificial sweetener, or even sugary beverages such as juice, are all very disruptive for your pancreatic health, heart health, and digestive system when consumed in excess. The same rule applies to salt, as too much sodium is quite potent at disrupting your heart and kidney health and contributing to stomach cancer. For these reasons, the FDA suggests the following recommended daily intake of salt and sugar:
  • Sugar: 150 calories (37.5 g; 9 teaspoons) for men and 100 calories (25 g; 6 teaspoons) for women.
  • Salt: 6g of salt (1 teaspoon). 

​We highly recommend starting to monitor how much salt and sugar your food contains, as you might be unknowingly consuming a lot more of these harmful ingredients, especially if you eat a lot of packaged foods and eat out frequently.

8. Persisting with bad habits

seniors health mistakes man smoking
Once you reach your 40's and 50's, it's time to acknowledge that your body is changing, and it's unable to handle all that stress it used to. One of the primary things you should realize is that bad habits, such as a lack of sleep, smoking, a poor diet, and drinking alcohol will be more and more difficult for your body to handle, and so these habits are bound to cause more harm than they used to previously. These bad habits are believed to be some of the leading causes of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancers, so it's much recommended to minimize or avoid them altogether. 

9. Neglecting your feet

seniors health mistakes foot massage
Your feet are likely the most neglected part of your body. While we routinely take care of our hair, nails, and faces, the feet are often completely ignored, which shouldn't be the case. When you reach middle age, you should make sure not to walk on high heels for long and not to wear poorly fitting shoes, as both of these can restrain the blood circulation in your feet, contribute to swelling, and make your feet sore and tired.
You should also examine your feet, toes, and toenails from time to time to make sure there is no discoloration or signs of infection, as both of these symptoms can point to an underlying issue and are best treated at early stages.

10. Ignoring the potential for a fall

seniors health mistakes woman fell down on carpet
This mistake is more targeted towards seniors than middle-aged individuals, but it's a very important one, as older adults often underestimate how easily they could fall in their own home or outside. According to the National Council of Aging in the US, for example, every 11 seconds a senior is treated in the ER for a fall, and every 20 minutes, an older adult passes away as a result of a fall.
For that reason, it's recommended to make sure the rooms in your home are well lit, you wear sturdy shoes, and remove any scatter rugs from your home. You should also watch out for cracks and steps on sidewalks and make use of walking aids and eyeglasses if needed. Strength building exercises are likewise suggested if balance is an issue for you.

11. Skipping recommended screenings

seniors health mistakes screening for melanoma
Recommended screenings and up-to-date vaccinations are the primary ways to prevent and catch any dangerous condition in time, and the older you are, the more likely you are to develop such a condition. If you'd like to learn about the specific health checks and vaccinations for people over 50, click on one of the links below:

12. Not paying attention to your posture

seniors health mistakes woman suffering from back pain
Bad sitting posture can affect your spinal health and can easily cause back and neck pain, which become all too common with age. To avoid pain and stiffness in the back, the best thing you can do is maintain a healthy posture and engage in core strengthening exercises, such as abdominal exercises and stretches. Don't be afraid to start strengthening and engaging your core muscles in an attempt to relieve back pain and improve your balance even if you're in your 60's or older, as research shows that you can build muscle nearly as well as younger individuals.

13. Having a sedentary lifestyle

seniors health mistakes man sitting on couch reading newspaper
We get it. Getting back home after a long day of work or any other activity is not the most conducive to more physical activity in the evening or early in the morning the next day. However, believe it or not, this is exactly what your body needs the most.
As a matter of fact, most of the chronic muscle weakness and pain in the muscles and joints people experience in their late 50's and onwards are largely due to years of inactivity. Try to exercise just a few minutes every day and choose the format that's most accessible to you - no need to start lifting weights and running marathons. This will help you feel stronger, more confident and capable, not to mention improve your health and wellbeing, and protect you from falls and serious injuries.

14. Not eating healthy because you exercise

seniors health mistakes pizza
Another dangerous habit that's awfully common across all ages, but is especially dangerous to older adults is the belief that regular exercise will be capable of compensating for all the junk food you indulge in on a daily basis. Unfortunately, even the fittest looking people can end up suffering from ulcers, cancer, and other chronic conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes, which are heavily associated with poor diet choices.
The fact of the matter is that eating well and including a lot of vegetables, whole grains and healthy plant fats in your diet is necessary for longevity and digestive and overall health, even if you exercise and don't gain a pound of weight. A healthy, nutrient-rich diet will also ensure you get plenty of essential nutrients in your body, which will help maintain your strenght, mental health, and energy levels.

15. Failing to use sunscreen daily

seniors health mistakes woman applying sunscreen
Skin cancer statistics are on the rise, despite the attempts of doctors worldwide to make us wear more sunscreen. Unfortunately, age is one of the factors that increase one's likelihood of not surviving a melanoma diagnosis either, and the average age of being diagnosed with the cancer is currently 63 according to the Melanoma Research Alliance.
Also, when you reach your 40's and beyond, skin aging becomes not just something you notice in other people or read about, it becomes the harsh reality. To prevent skin cancer, sun spots, wrinkles, and crepey skin, apply sunscreen daily, and don't forget such areas as ears, neck, and tops of hands and feet. If you're planning on spending time outside, it's also recommended to reapply a fresh layer of sunscreen every 2 hours.

16. Too much screen time before bed

seniors health mistakes laptop on bed in darkness
We can hardly imagine our lives without mobile devices and computers these days, but if you care about your sleep schedule, you might keep these devices out of the bedroom. This is because the light these devices emit trick your brain into believing it's daytime and prevents your pineal gland from producing melatonin - the sleep hormone.
The older we get, the more likely we are to suffer from insomnia, be it due to stress or a bothersome underlying condition, and the light from your devices further lowers the likelihood of falling asleep. It is recommended to stay away from computers, TV screens and mobile devices at least 1.5 hours before going to bed.
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