Good mental health leads to healthy aging in both body and mind. Many people can do more to have a healthy mind and body than they realize.
For aging individuals, mental health issues can have serious effects on their quality of life. Depression and anxiety are common problems that can impact physical health, but physical health conditions often contribute to depression and anxiety. A vicious cycle develops, and an individual can feel trapped and overwhelmed. Fortunately, hope and help are available. Taking steps now can not only reduce and prevent illness, but it can also bring joy to daily living.
Mental Health Equals Overall Health
Aging adults can actively participate in improving their mental function in almost every circumstance. The sooner a person is aware of this and begins, the better their progress in building healthy thought processes, a healthy brain condition, and healthy social systems. There are several areas in which people can actively influence their own health. Let’s look briefly at some.
- Medications – Prescription medicines often have side effects or interact with other medications. This is an important topic for seniors to discuss regularly with their doctor. Misdiagnosis of a medication-related mental problem may lead to mistreatment for a disease that isn’t present. Meanwhile, the actual cause goes untreated.
- Diet – The foods we eat directly affect all our body systems. Over-processed foods clog up arteries and restrict blood flow to organs, including the brain. Something we were able to eat as a youth may be an item we give up in the present for the sake of mental clarity, healthy moods and daily enjoyment.
- Physical Activity – Physical activity directly affects mental processes. It changes moods and often prevents them from becoming deeper health issues. It improves circulation and stimulates a bored brain. It improves balance and strength to prevent falls, and it boosts the immune system.
- Social Interaction – People are social creatures. It’s important to interact with friends and family on a regular basis. This, however, becomes more difficult as the aging person outlives life-long connections or family members move away. Social support includes clubs, church groups, senior centers, and visitors like senior companions. Joining one or more of these groups will open up opportunities.
The Mind/Body Connection
Changes in the body affect the mental processes of the average person and vice versa. This happens in every stage of life. The challenges the elderly face are not as well recognized as they are for other age groups.
Steps an individual can take to improve their mind and body include:
- Discussing their medications with their doctor
- Talking to someone about any mental issues, from forgetfulness to mood swings, that may cause concern
- Speaking up and advocating for themselves
- Finding support for the quality of life they are striving for
How to Deal With Age-Related Problems
Actively participating in life includes a wide variety of opportunities. However, many of these may be difficult to accomplish because of physical limitations. For instance, the widower without a means of transportation may have difficulty connecting with others, leading to isolation and depression. An elderly woman may want to join a travel club but has a diabetic condition that slows her down, causes discomfort, or has other complications. What is a person to do?
First, be honest about your wants and needs, and the differences between the two. Second, recognize actual difficulties and name them for what they are. Third, a person should be flexible about what options they already have or can gain access to. For example, someone with limited transportation can use the internet to connect more often with family and friends. A person with a back problem can take a class that allows for sitting in comfortable chairs.
This extends to mental health as well. The person who experiences memory problems can acknowledge the issue, learn about ways to improve their memory and develop strategies to work with the issues they experience. People who experience mood disorders often need medical and professional support, but they may not realize how much they can influence their situation. They can build a better life for themselves.