Not too old to change your health

No matter your age, you can make lifestyle changes to have a healthier future.

Two people walking a dog in the woods.
Photo: Diana Parkhouse/Unsplash.

Changing a lifelong habit is hard; some say even impossible. But your hard work pays off when you replace an old habit with a new one that reduces your risk of illness, such as heart disease. Changes like eating nutritious food more often, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, moderating alcohol consumption and avoiding smoking can all improve your chances for a healthy future.

It’s never too late to get healthy. In a study published by the American Heart Association, researchers saw improved heart health of adults, even older adults, who added healthy behaviors to their lives. 

How many of these statements describe you?

  • I don’t use tobacco products.
  • I drink in moderation (no more than two drinks for men and one drink for women a day).
  • I get regular physical activity.
  • I weigh within my doctor’s recommended guidelines.
  • I get seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal Preventing Chronic Disease reports that only 5.6 percent of Michigan adults practice all these behaviors. The rest of us have work to do! If you are ready to add one healthy habit into your life, Michigan State University Extension recommends the following tips to help you start.

  • Eat a healthy diet by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. This change is a small step toward eating a healthy diet. The MyPlate website has a lot of great tips to help you with this goal.
  • Start walking. You don’t have to go to the gym to exercise. Walking is cheap and can be done at home. Start slowly and work your way up to 30 minutes a day. Even walking around your living space indoors can help you form an exercise habit. Remember to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. HealthinAging.org has a tip sheet to help you start your walking routine and habits.  
  • How much we eat and exercise effects how much we weigh. Over two-thirds of Michigan adults weigh more than they should. Excess weight puts you at risk for many diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. When you add healthy eating and exercise to your list of habits, it will be easier to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Heavy alcohol drinking increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, cancer and mental health problems. Heavy drinking can be a hard habit to break, especially if you drink when socializing with friends and family. Talk with your doctor if you need help with cutting down the amount of alcohol you drink.
  • The health risks of smoking are well known. There are many over the counter and prescription drugs that can increase your chances of quitting. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also has many resources to help you quit tobacco use.

You can change no matter what your age! It does take time to form a habit, so don’t give up. Keep practicing the healthy habits you already have but start new habits to have a healthier future. For more information on healthy habits, visit MSU Extension's Food and Health website.

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