Staying healthy and fit as we grow older is an aspiration all of us have. Being a General Physician in India , who gets called to provide care for senior citizens, does not make my work totally about medical prescriptions. Part of my practice involves providing home health care, where I see my patients in their homes. That is a necessity since many of them are 80 years and older. This helps me get not just a medical history but a rich weave of social, professional, and family life stories. This information and the patterns that I observe in their daily routine are critical for many medical decisions I am trusted to make for them. Getting a holistic understanding of the individual I am responsible for makes for medicine as it is intended to be practiced.
Many seniors live with long time caregivers, who assist them with their daily needs. In my experience, those that have the best quality of life, have continued to engage themselves in staying healthy, fit and active as the years went by. For instance, I think of 95 year old Mr. Gupta (name changed) as a great example for this. Mr. Gupta steps out for an early morning walk at his local park a 40 year old routine. In the past few years, he started taking his caregiver with him, due to an occasional instability, while walking.The rest of his morning routine includes reading the papers and staying informed about current events. In the afternoons, he goes to the club to play bridge, and enjoys a chat with fellow players. Evenings are usually dinner at home and television. Easy retired life? It’s not simple as it sounds.
What should you do?
The work to stay healthy and fit in later years starts many decades earlier. I suggest, in one’s 40s. For many of us, this is the time after a busy 20s or 30s, spent building a career and or looking after children. It is the time we can turn to nurture ourselves more fully.
I’m going to list only one form of investing in your future – exercise. Walking, yoga, gym, dancing and swimming – all these are great options to improve your fitness. The benefits of exercise include improvement in arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. You may not have any of these today, but you must prevent, or at least minimize their impact, tomorrow.
Before you start
As it so happens, not all our bodies are similar. You simply cannot leap into exercise and expect it to benefit you without talking to your doctor. I suggest a quick online consult with your doctor, before starting an exercise program or if you’re planning to increase the level of your physical activity. This is an important safety check and should not be missed.
So there you have the foundation of what I call the Fitness Saving Plan. Don’t neglect it. Just like it is prudent to start a financial retirement plan early in your career, so must one do a similar investment to stay healthy and fit well into your 90s. Nothing less is acceptable, isn’t it?
Dr. Rachna Kucheria is one of the best general physicians in Delhi NCR. She is a US-trained physician (Family Practice) on the lines of the old-fashioned ‘Family Doctor’ we grew up with and hope to find again. Her emphasis on early, accurate diagnosis; appropriate (few) medicines; and clear patient communication, sets her apart as one of the most trusted physicians in Delhi. She is licensed to practice medicine both in India & California. Her 27 years of experience includes practicing in the hospital, clinic, and (patient) home setting, and for the last 4 years, telemedicine.
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