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An ounce of prevention: plans for healthy aging
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An ounce of prevention: plans for healthy aging

MetroWest CARES, the Committee Addressing Resources for Eldercare Services, is coordinated by United Jewish Communities with support from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey; CARES brings together professionals and lay leaders from MetroWest agencies that provide services to older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency presents an educational column on an eldercare issue. This month’s column on the importance of health screenings is presented by Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest.

The United States is on the brink of a longevity revolution. By 2030, the proportion of the U.S. population aged 65 and older will double to about 71 million, or one in every five.

With a longer life, however, comes increased risk of disease and disability. But poor health is not an inevitable consequence of aging. The fabled “fountain of youth” maybe elusive, but a fountain of youthfulness is in reach for most of us. Much of the illness, disability, and death associated with chronic disease is avoidable through preventative measures like practicing a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, healthy eating, avoiding tobacco use, and reducing stress. Moreover, early detection screening for cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression can increase the length and quality of life.

Health professionals cannot stress enough the importance of regular screenings and annual physicals. The key to a long, healthy, active life is more than inheriting good genes. It also requires listening to your body and becoming an active, not passive, conductor of your health, mind, and spirit.

Here are a few steps that can be added to your “action plan for healthy aging.”

• Exercise for at least 30 minutes daily, utilizing a mix of strength training, stretching, aerobics, and a total body workout that is easy on the knees.

• Practice stress reduction exercises including meditation and yoga, which can be effective in managing high blood pressure and heart disease.

• Follow a diet low in fat and high in fiber, containing vitamins, minerals, complex carbs, and protein with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

• Maintain mental stimulation and brain fitness. Exercise your mind through reading, games, word puzzles, and conversation.

• Commit to regular screenings for cholesterol levels, sugar levels, and blood pressure, all conditions which can be controlled through diet, exercise and, if needed, medication.

• Schedule routine early detection screenings for cancer — breast, cervical, oral, skin, prostate, colorectal — as well as osteoporosis and other diseases.

A philosophy of “don’t worry, be happy” may also add years, as well as quality, to one’s life. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and “stop and smell the roses” may seem like cliches but these are words to live by.

Adjusting to the “new normal” brought about by the “Great Recession” has impacted almost everyone and has led many people to rethink retirement goals, postponing some of their dreams, restrategizing financial plans, and taking a hard, long look at priorities. It does not mean that maintaining a healthy lifestyle goes to the bottom of the list. Now, more than ever, it is important to remain mentally positive and take care of your mind, body, and spirit to enjoy life to its fullest for many years to come.

The third annual JVS Creative Maturity Expo will be held Sunday, Nov. 15, at the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus, Whippany, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The program features a number of free health screenings, exercise classes, and seminars on topics such as strategies for finding employment in these challenging times, starting a home business, simple home modifications to create a safe environment, and keeping the mind agile and alert. Keynote speakers include Dr. Cynthia Green, author of Brainpower Game Plan, on how to sharpen your memory and improve your concentration, and Tory Johnson, contributor to ABC’s Good Morning America, on “Putting Your Passion To Work.”

Families and caregivers needing answers to broader eldercare questions or help with community resources can contact Elderlink — a portal to all MetroWest services for older adults and their families. Elderlink can be reached at 973-765-9050, ext. 511, or elderlink@jfsmetrowest.org.

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