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Staying healthy when older -- four tips

Lori Orston minimizes sun exposure for healthy skin.

Lori Orston minimizes sun exposure for healthy skin. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

There is no magic elixir, balm or voodoo treatment that will help you look and feel younger instantly. The good news is, there are plenty of simple steps that will improve your health and appearance.

Here's a sampling from experts in four areas of health, who offer practical tips for people who want to make changes without reinventing the wheel.

 

EXERCISE

Brooke Leys-Campeau, who teaches Zumba Gold classes at a senior center in Tustin, Calif., says when she started there two years ago, she took it easy on her pupils. But Leys-Campeau quickly found "they were ready for more," she says.

In her Tuesday morning class, one woman is in her 80s, recovering from a stroke. A man, 65, has lost more than 100 pounds over the past few years, through various activities. It occurred to Leys-Campeau that the key to exercising is to find something you enjoy.

"People feel like: 'Oh my gosh, I can't keep the rhythm, I feel like such a dork.' It's not an audition; it's not a competition. Some people have zero rhythm and don't dance on beat the entire class, and yet they're smiling and moving and having a great time."

There are all kinds of gyms, fitness centers and studios you could join, but check them out thoroughly, read the fine print, and if you want to join, wait until the end of the month to get the maximum best deal.

Or try a home workout. "All the exercises you can do with free weights, you can do with tubes and [stretch] bands," she says. Use the instructional DVDs or booklets that come with them for the correct technique that will help avoid injury.

"The most important thing is for people to find something they enjoy, and start out small," she says. "The biggest mistake people make is they go too far too fast, and either injure themselves or get too sore, and give up."

 

SLEEP

The American Psychological Association says at least 40 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder So, if you're not sleeping seven to eight hours a night, you're not alone.

"It can either be related to the fact that people are working longer hours, or people are trying to make ends meet in these difficult economic times," says Dr. Alon Avidan, an associate professor of neurology at UCLA and director of the school's Sleep Disorders Center.

Our own behaviors also are responsible for our sleeplessness: We watch too much TV, play video games or check our phones right before bed. "All of this makes it often difficult for people to get an appropriate period of sleep," Avidan says. The result can be as simple as cognitive or memory problems, or as serious as an increased long-term risk of weight gain, depression and diabetes.

Avidan advises going to bed about the same time each night; don't nap for more than 15 to 20 minutes a day; and avoid alcohol and caffeine at night.

If you're sleepy during the day and snore at night, you probably have obstructive sleep apnea, in which the airway becomes blocked and the sleeper wakes up repeatedly. This is a dangerous health condition, and a sleep specialist should be consulted.

 

SKIN CARE

Dr. Nancy Silverberg has seen fads come and go during her 28 years as a dermatologist in Newport Beach, Calif. But one truth is certain: the sun can wreak havoc on your skin, over time. "A lot of what you talk about as skin aging actually is sun damage," Silverberg says.

People in sun-blanched climates should wear sunscreen every day, she says. Something with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 30 should do for most people. Buy sunscreen that says "broad spectrum," meaning it protects against both ultraviolet B (UVB) and longer UVA rays. Both types of rays can cause skin cancer.

Any unusual bumps or discolorations that appear and don't go away should be checked by a dermatologist.

If you want to treat age spots, wrinkles or other skin damage, Silverberg says, there are several options, such as Botox or laser procedures. A common one is fractional CO2 resurfacing, a carbon-dioxide laser system to help smooth wrinkles. But it isn't cheap. The full treatment runs $3,500 to $4,000 and is not covered by insurance.

 

NUTRITION

For years we've been told that fat was the enemy of a good diet. But awareness of high fat and cholesterol intake has been rising steadily, and still obesity and diabetes remain at alarming levels.

"What we've found is when people remove saturated fat from their diets, it really depends on what they replace it with," says Denise Canellos, a nutritionist based in Irvine, Calif. "If you can replace some of that saturated fat with healthy fats, like olive oils, nuts, avocado, fish and vegetables, you're going to see an incredible benefit to your health."

Canellos likes cooking with olive and sunflower seed oil, which aren't as processed as canola oil. She suggests eating more vegetables and leafy greens, like baby spinach. Eat more beans, like lentils or black beans, in soups and salads, because they're a great source of protein and fiber; substitute hummus for onion dip or mayonnaise on sandwiches; if you want a healthy snack, try edamame (soybeans), available precooked and shelled, or baby carrots dipped in hummus.

Another great snack is nuts -- especially peanuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts/filberts. They have good fat in them, which elevates levels of HDL (or "healthy" cholesterol). Same goes for nut butter: Slather it on apples, pears or bananas, but if you can buy the reduced-sugar variety, do it. It has good fat that "keeps us full and slows our digestion," Canellos says.

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