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Senior health tips

Basic health tips for seniors to incorporate into their day to live a healthier life.

Alcohol and/or drug dependence

Growing older brings on many changes in health, lifestyle, family obligations, work roles, and sources of support. It can also bring physical pain, stress, loneliness, and loss of mobility. Abuse among older people is often hidden, overlooked, and misdiagnosed.

Signs that may indicate a drinking or drug problem:

  • Solitary or secretive drinking
  • A loss of interest in hobbies or pleasurable activities
  • Drinking in spite of warning labels on prescription drugs
  • A ritual of drinking before, with or after dinner
  • Slurred speech, empty liquor bottles, smell of alcohol on breath and change in personal appearance
  • Hostility or depression
  • Memory loss and confusion

Talk with your health care provider is you have concerns with a possible alcohol and/or drug dependence issue.

Alzheimer’s early warning signs

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.

Ten warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease

  1. Memory loss
  2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  3. Problems with language
  4. Disorientation to time and place
  5. Poor or decreased judgment
  6. Problems with abstract thinking, (such as problems balancing a checkbook.)
  7. Misplacing things
  8. Changes in mood or behavior
  9. Changes in personality
  10. Loss of initiative

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, you are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association is the trusted resource for reliable information, education, referral or support.

Call the Alzheimer's Association 24/7 helpline or visit the website:

Arthritis and exercise

Half of all people age 65 and older have arthritis. Treatments for arthritis include medicines, exercise, use of heat or cold, weight control and/or surgery.

Three types of exercise are best for people with arthritis:
  • Range-of-motion exercises help maintain normal joint movement and relieve stiffness. This type of exercise helps maintain or increase flexibility.
  • Strengthening exercises help keep or increase muscle strength. Strong muscles help support and protect joints affected by arthritis.
  • Aerobic or endurance exercises improve cardiovascular fitness, help control weight and improve overall function. Weight control can be important to people who have arthritis because extra weight puts extra pressure on many joints.

Blood pressure control

High blood pressure often does not have any symptoms but left uncontrolled it can lead to kidney damage, heart problems, and strokes.

Medications are an important part of managing high blood pressure, so here are tips to help:
  • Take your medication only as prescribed so it works the way it should.
  • ALWAYS  talk to your doctor first before you stop taking your medication. Don't ever stop taking your medication on your own.
  • Continue to take your medication after your blood pressure is lowered. You still need to take medication, perhaps over a lifetime, to keep your blood pressure normal.

Core Strength

At the center of your body is a set of muscles that make up your core. These muscles are responsible for balance, flexibility and movement. By firming up these central muscles, you can improve your flexibility, help prevent back problems and reduce aches and pains. 

Benefits of a strong core:

  • Improved posture - strong abdominal muscles help support the spine and hold in abdominal contents.
  • Improved balance - core exercises train muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdominal area to work together leading to better balance and stability.
  • Decrease back pain - most back pain is caused by bad posture, excessive body weight and physical inactivity.
  • Helps prevent injuries - a strong core can handle forces of compression and rotation from everyday movements, such as lifting groceries.

Eye care

Protect your eyes from age-related problems like macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Eat well. Good eye health starts with the food on your plate. Fill your plate with green leafy vegetables, salmon or other oily fish, eggs, nuts and beans and citrus fruits.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking makes you more likely to get cataracts, damage to your optic nerve and macular degeneration. 
  • Wear sunglasses. Choose a pair that blocks 99 - 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use safety eyewear. If you use hazardous or airborne materials on the job or at home, wear safety glasses or protective goggles.
  • Look away from the computer screen. Staring at a computer or phone screen for too long can cause eyestrain, headaches or neck and back pain.
  • Visit your eye doctor regularly. Everyone needs a regular eye exam, even young children.

Fall prevention

Prevent falls with these simple measures:
  • Keep moving. Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. Consider activities such as walking, or water workouts.
  • Wear sensible shoes. Wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.
  • Remove home hazards. Remove boxes, newspapers and electrical and phone cords from walkways. Remove loose rugs from your home, and use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower.
  • Light up your living space. Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom and hallways. Place a lamp within reach of your bed for middle of the night needs.
  • Use assistive devices. Your doctor might recommend using a cane or walker to keep you steady. You can also use hand rails on stairways, grab bars for the shower or tub and a sturdy plastic seat for the shower.
  • Schedule an appointment with your doctor. Be prepared to answer questions such as what medications you are taking and/or if you have fallen before.

Flu prevention

  • The flu shot makes a big difference in hospitalization and death rates among older adults who live at home and those in nursing homes.
  • A high dose flu vaccine is made just for seniors. It has four times as much active ingredient as a regular flu shot to provide a better immune response in older people. It’s recommended for people 65 and older.
  • Flu viruses change each year, so older adults need to get a new flu shot each fall.

Also, there are two vaccines to prevent pneumonia. If you’re a healthy adult over 65 years of age, health experts suggest you get both vaccines. The timing and sequence will vary depending on what vaccine you’ve had before.

Get the latest local information on where to get a flu shot.

Food safety

Play it safe this summer when it comes to picnic foods. Hot weather is the perfect time to picnic and cook outdoors, but hot weather also creates a perfect situation to grow harmful food germs. Keep your food and family safe by following these simple tips.

  • Use a thermometer to make sure your grilled food is cooked to the perfect temperature to kill harmful food germs (160° for ground beef and 165° for chicken).
  • Foods like cooked or raw meats and salads should be refrigerated before reaching 2 hours at room temperature. Above 90 degrees, food must be refrigerated within 1 hour.
  • Don’t re-use marinades. Be sure to discard meat marinade used before grilling to prevent raw meat juices getting on your cooked food.
  • Keep raw and cooked foods separated. If you’re getting ready to grill hot dogs, burgers or chicken, be sure to use one plate for the raw foods and a separate clean plate for the newly cooked foods. The same rule applies for tongs and other serving utensils.
  • Wash hands properly by lathering and scrubbing hands for 20 seconds.

Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD – Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease – is an illness from stomach acids that back up into your throat. GERD affects people of all ages from infants to adults.

Your doctor may recommend medicine to treat GERD or relieve symptoms. Here are some non-medical, lifestyle changes that also help.

  • Elevate the head of the bed 6-8 inches.
  • Lose weight.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Decrease alcohol and caffeine intake.
  • Limit meal size and avoid heavy evening meals.
  • Do not lie down within two to three hours of eating.

Healthy eating

Natural substances in fruits and vegetables called antioxidants protect your blood vessels from damage caused by cholesterol. This can reduce your risk for stroke and some heart diseases. Antioxidants also protect your body from damage that can lead to cancer.

  • Choose fruits and vegetables from all 5 color groups: red, white, blue/purple, green and yellow/orange.
  • Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day; one serving fits in the palm of your hand. (5 to 9 servings are recommended.)

Fruits and vegetables also provide vitamins, minerals and fiber for you.

Safe driving

These are things to watch for:
  • Attempting to proceed through a red light (treating it like a stop sign)
  • Stopping at green lights
  • Inattention to other motorists, pedestrians, or environmental situations
  • Difficulty maintaining speeds-driving too fast or too slow
  • Getting lost or losing vehicle in a crowded parking lot
  • Increased anxiety or fear of driving in simple or familiar situations

For a driving evaluation and training, call Courage Center: 763-520-0425.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. However, if you feel down for days at a time and can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, it is time to see your doctor about treatment for depression. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed. It is also very important if you feel hopeless, think about suicide, or turn to alcohol for comfort.

If your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression related to changes in seasons that can sap your energy and make you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or summer. Treatment for SAD may include light therapy, medications and psychotherapy.

Stroke warning signs

When you have a stroke, your brain isn’t getting the blood it needs. The sooner you get help, the less likely you’ll have serious, lasting problems.

Use FAST to remember the warning signs of a stroke:
  • F (FACE) Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • A (ARMS) Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S (SPEECH) Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • T (TIME) If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.