8 Health Steps for Rising Seniors

July 1, 2016
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

College-age kids are called “rising” when they’re about to move up a grade, like from sophomore to junior.

So let’s call those of you now 50–64, who will become 65 and older over the next 14 years, “rising seniors.”

The threat to rising seniors

A recent report warns that many rising seniors face trying years ahead—more trying than they are for today’s seniors.

America’s Health Rankings is a respected non-profit that studies senior health.

Their 2015 Senior Report concludes that:

“… increasing rates of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases [in the growing senior population] are poised to overwhelm our health care system.”

Bold typeface mine. Because this is pretty scary.

But don’t worry. You can outsmart any coming trouble.

If you’re one of my readers, and you’ve been following my advice, you’re already on the right track.

Prepare for an unready system

Over the next 15 years, the major health challenge for rising seniors will be simple volume. The Baby Boomers are hitting retirement age in record numbers—some 10,000 every day.

Even if rising seniors are in good health, their record numbers mean record demands on the health care system.

Unfortunately, many of them are in worse health than ever.

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More rising seniors are diabetic or obese

Caring for them will require boatloads of money. Between now and 2034, spending on diabetes-related care alone will increase from 2009’s $45 billion to an estimated $171 billion.

Now add in the costs of higher obesity rates, cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s….

“Poised to overwhelm our health care system” doesn’t sound far-fetched.

Eight ways to beat the system

Wonderful people are working tirelessly to make sure the health care system will serve tomorrow’s seniors well.

I’m hopeful. But our best move is to work together to help you beat the system, so you hardly need it, except for checkups.

And by living your life so your checkups all tell you “You’re fine.”

The Pillars of Health

If you’re one of my regular readers, I hope you’re already practicing some or all of the eight Pillars of Health I recommend. Stay with it!

If you’re a rising senior, but not already “in the club,” I hope the 2015 Senior Health Report is a wake-up call for you to take action by:

  1. Being active. It has major pay-offs for your health and longevity. Start slowly and be patient with your body. Remember, “active” is relative. If you’re sedentary, just walking around the house or around the block delivers big benefits. More demanding “exercise” adds to them, and can add years of healthy life. Gently push yourself up to 30 minutes daily, in one go or 3 x 10 minutes—minimum 5 x weekly.
  2. Managing stress. Chronic stress will undermine your health, so take steps to learn simple stress management techniques. They’re all about mind over matter: just thinking positive is proven to improve health. Always be grateful for the health you have, not fearful of what might be. Meditate, do tai ch’i or yoga, practice “deep belly breathing.” You’ll feel a difference, and your checkups will show it.
  3. Detoxifying your body and environment. Cleanse your body, inside and out, by avoiding toxic processed foods, chemical-laden personal and household cleaners, and toxic environments—which include your home. Air fresheners and antibacterial cleansers, for example, are actually harmful. Use plain soap and water for personal cleaning, home-made vinegar and baking powder concoctions for your home.
  4. Sleeping long and well. Your body repairs itself while you sleep, so getting enough rest—7 to 8 hours per night—is essential for good health. If you’re having sleep problems, herbal remedies (like valerian and lemon balm) and supplemental melatonin can help, as can changes in your diet and behavior, like trying to sleep only when you’re truly ready—over time, your body will detect a pattern and help you stack those ZZZs .
  5. Eating nutritious, whole foods. Eat real food— fresh, local, organic—instead of processed and fast foods. It’s the most health-enhancing change you can make. The Mediterranean diet is a great model: fish and nuts for protein, healthy fats like olive oil and avocado, lots (and lots!) of fiber-rich fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s why European seniors are so much healthier than ours.
  6. Drinking pure filtered water. There is no substitute for fresh, pure water when it comes to maintaining overall health. My recommendation: 8 ounces per 10 lbs of your body weight. It’s all about keeping your blood flowing freely, your digestive system working properly, with just the right balance of acidity and alkalinity, and your anti-toxin defenses in good shape.
  7. Balancing your pH. Your pH is a measure of the acid/alkaline balance in your body. Imbalance can lead to a host of problems. But it’s easily remedied, for example, by lots of water and some dietary changes. Your pharmacy probably has a simple pH test. The results (and a chat with your doctor) will tell you what you should add to or eliminate from your diet—re-balancing will take only a short time.
  8. Taking targeted supplements. Nutritional supplements can help ensure you have the right vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein to counteract the effects of environmental or dietary toxins or deficiencies. Your body stops making several essential nutrients as you age—supplements can make up the difference.

My daily recommendations:

  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs): 2,000-3,000 mg
  • Vitamin D3: 1,500 – 2,500 IU
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): 100 – 300 mg
  • Melatonin: 1 – 3 mg (about 30 minutes before bed time)
  • Curcumin: 500 – 1,500 mg
  • Probiotics: Minimum 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units)
  • Natural vitamin E: 400 IU (look for d-alpha-, d-gamma-, etc. tocopherols or tocotrienels. The prefix “dl” means it’s a synthetic form of vitamin E)
  • Vitamin C: 1,000 – 3,000 mg

It’s not all dreads and meds

Plenty of people and health care institutions are improving their behaviors to improve personal health and institutional service delivery.

You can do the same.

Rise to the occasion, rising (and current) seniors. Your future is yours to create.

References

  • Huang ES, Basu A, O’Grady M, Capretta JC. “Projecting the future diabetes population size and related costs for the US. Diabetes Care.” 2009;32(12):2225–2229.
  • “Medicare Health Support Overview.” Washington, DC: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; 2011. mit.edu/~rnielsen/NEJMc1114006.pd
  • “Fast Facts: Data And Statistics about Diabetes.” American Diabetes Association; 2015.
  • Finkelstein EA, Trogdon JG, Cohen JW, Dietz W. “Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: Payer-and service-specific estimates.” Health Affairs. 2009;28 (5).
  • Hall JE, Carmo JMD, Silva AAD, Wang Z, Hall ME. “Obesity-induced hypertension: Interaction of neurohumoral and renal mechanisms.” Circulation Research. 2015;116(6):991–1006.
  • Chronic Conditions Among Medicare Beneficiaries.”
  • Connealy, Leigh Erin. “Pillars of Health.”

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  • Emmanuel Gautreau

    I am a “rising senior” so the Pillars of Health and daily recommendations for targeted supplementation make a lot of sense to me. Could you recommend a group of specific products available through Newport that would effectively meet these recommendations? Customer service was unable to assist in assembling such a package for one reason or another. Thank you.

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