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People in the U.S. are living longer, and the number of older adults in the population is growing. As we age, our minds and bodies change. Having a healthy lifestyle can help you deal with those changes. It may also prevent some health problems and help you to make the most of your life.
A healthy lifestyle for older adults includes:
- Healthy eating. As you age, your dietary needs may change. You may need fewer calories, but you still need to get enough nutrients. A healthy eating plan includes
- Eating foods that give you lots of nutrients without a lot of extra calories. This includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts, and seeds.
- Avoiding empty calories, such as foods like chips, candy, baked goods, soda, and alcohol
- Eating foods that are low in cholesterol and fat
- Drinking enough liquids, so you don't get dehydrated
- Regular physical activity. Being physically active may help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid chronic health problems. If you have not been active, you can start slowly and work up to your goal. How much exercise you need depends on your age and health. Check with your health care provider on what is right for you.
- Staying at a healthy weight. Being either overweight or underweight can lead to health problems. Ask your health care professional what a healthy weight for you may be. Healthy eating and exercise can help you get to that weight.
- Keeping your mind active. Lots of activities can keep your mind active and improve your memory, including learning new skills, reading, and playing games.
- Making your mental health a priority. Work on improving your mental health, for example by practicing mediation, relaxation techniques, or gratitude. Know the warning signs of a problem and ask for help if you are struggling.
- Participating in activities that you enjoy. People who are involved in hobbies and social and leisure activities may be at lower risk for some health problems. Doing things that you enjoy may help you feel happier and improve your thinking abilities.
- Playing an active role in your health care. Make sure that you get regular checkups and the health screenings that you need. You should know which medicines you are taking, why you need them, and how to take them properly.
- Not smoking. If you are a smoker, quitting is one of the most important things that you can do for your health. It can lower your risk of several different types of cancer, certain lung diseases, and heart disease.
- Taking steps to prevent falls. Older adults have a higher risk of falling. They are also more likely to fracture (break) a bone when they fall. Getting regular eye checkups, getting regular physical activity, and making your house safer can lower your risk of falling.
Following these tips can help you to stay healthy as you age. Even if you have never done them before, it's never too late to start taking care of your health. If you have questions about these lifestyle changes or need help figuring out how to make them, ask your health care provider.
Many factors affect your health. Some you cannot control, such as your genetic makeup or your age. But you can make changes to your lifestyle. By taking steps toward healthy living, you can help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and other serious diseases:
- Get the screening tests you need
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a variety of healthy foods, and limit calories and saturated fat
- Be physically active
- Control your blood pressure and cholesterol
- Don't smoke
- Protect yourself from too much sun
- Drink alcohol in moderation, or don't drink at all
- Get enough sleep every day
- Work on improving your mental health, for example by practicing mediation, relaxation techniques, or gratitude
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
High Blood Pressure
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Each time your heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is highest when your heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When your heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is called diastolic pressure.
Your blood pressure reading uses these two numbers. Usually the systolic number comes before or above the diastolic number. For example, 120/80 means a systolic of 120 and a diastolic of 80.How is high blood pressure diagnosed?
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. So the only way to find out if you have it is to get regular blood pressure checks from your health care provider. Your provider will use a gauge, a stethoscope or electronic sensor, and a blood pressure cuff. He or she will take two or more readings at separate appointments before making a diagnosis.Blood Pressure CategorySystolic Blood PressureDiastolic Blood PressureNormalLess than 120andLess than 80High Blood Pressure (no other heart risk factors)140 or higheror90 or higherHigh Blood Pressure (with other heart risk factors, according to some providers)130 or higheror80 or higherDangerously high blood pressure - seek medical care right away180 or higherand120 or higher
For children and teens, the health care provider compares the blood pressure reading to what is normal for other kids who are the same age, height, and sex.What are the different types of high blood pressure?
There are two main types of high blood pressure: primary and secondary high blood pressure.:
- Primary, or essential, high blood pressure is the most common type of high blood pressure. For most people who get this kind of blood pressure, it develops over time as you get older.
- Secondary high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition or use of certain medicines. It usually gets better after you treat that condition or stop taking the medicines that are causing it.
When your blood pressure stays high over time, it causes the heart to pump harder and work overtime, possibly leading to serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney failure.What are the treatments for high blood pressure?
Treatments for high blood pressure include heart-healthy lifestyle changes and medicines.
You will work with your provider to come up with a treatment plan. It may include only the lifestyle changes. These changes, such as heart-healthy eating and exercise, can be very effective. But sometimes the changes do not control or lower your high blood pressure. Then you may need to take medicine. There are different types of blood pressure medicines. Some people need to take more than one type.
If your high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition or medicine, treating that condition or stopping the medicine may lower your blood pressure.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
How Much Exercise Do I Need?
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. It has many benefits. It can improve your overall health and fitness and reduce your risk for many chronic diseases.To get the most benefit, here's how much physical activity you should get:For adults:
Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. Or you could do a combination of the two.:
- Try to spread your physical activity out over several days of the week. That's better than trying to do it all in one or two days.
- Some days you may not have long blocks of time to do physical activity. You can try splitting it up into segments of ten minutes or more.
- Aerobic activities include walking fast, jogging, swimming, and biking
- Moderate intensity means that while you are doing that activity, you should be able to say a few words in a row but not sing
- Vigorous intensity means that while you are doing that activity, you won't be able to say more than a few words without stopping for a breath
Also, do strengthening activities twice per week.:
- Strengthening activities include lifting weights, working with exercise bands, and doing sit-ups and pushups
- Choose activities that work all the different parts of the body - your legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms. You should repeat exercises for each muscle group 8 to 12 times per session.
Preschool children should be physically active throughout the day, to help with their growth and development.
They should get both structured and unstructured active play. Structured play has a goal and is directed by an adult. Examples include playing a sport or a game. Unstructured play is creative free play, such as playing on a playground.For children and teens:
Get 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. Most of it should be moderate-intensity aerobic activity.:
- Activities should vary and be a good fit for the child's age and physical development
- Moderate-intensity aerobic activities include walking, running, skipping, playing on the playground, playing basketball, and biking
Also, try to get each of these at least 3 days a week: vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening activity, and bone-strengthening activity.:
- Vigorous-intensity aerobic activities include running, doing jumping jacks, and fast swimming
- Muscle-strengthening activities include playing on playground equipment, playing tug-of-war, and doing pushups and pull-ups
- Bone-strengthening activities include hopping, skipping, doing jumping jacks, playing volleyball, and working with resistance bands
Older adults, pregnant women, and people who have special health needs should check with their health care provider on how much physical activity they should get and what types of activities they should do.Exercise tips:
People who are trying to lose weight may need to get more physical activity. They also need to adjust their diet, so they are burning more calories than they eat and drink.
If you have been inactive, you may need to start slowly. You can keep adding more gradually. The more you can do, the better. But try not to feel overwhelmed, and do what you can. Getting some physical activity is always better than getting none.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Your small intestine is part of your digestive system. It is a long tube that connects your stomach to your large intestine. Intestinal cancer is rare, but eating a high-fat diet or having Crohn's disease, celiac disease, or a history of colonic polyps can increase your risk.
Possible signs of small intestine cancer include:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss for no reason
- Blood in the stool
- A lump in the abdomen
Imaging tests that create pictures of the small intestine and the area around it can help diagnose intestinal cancer and show whether it has spread.
Surgery is the most common treatment. Additional options include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination.
NIH: National Cancer Institute