Learn These 6 Healthy Habits To Help You Age Well

Take charge of your health and live better for longer.

By Melissa Wong        3 April 2024

We’re living longer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re aging healthily. Many people develop debilitating illnesses as they get older and find themselves at an increased risk of loneliness and isolation. These can all affect our independence and overall wellbeing and impact our quality of life in our later years. 

Living in Singapore, we are privileged to have access to quality healthcare and medical facilities, nutritious food, and plenty of outdoor and recreational spaces in which to exercise and relax. But if we want to prolong our wellbeing and maintain our abilities in old age, we should also take our health into our own hands, by making wholesome lifestyle choices, abandoning damaging health habits, and going for regular health screenings. 

World Health Day on 7 April is the perfect time to reassess your health and lifestyle habits in order to stay well and happy as you age. Here’s how:

1. Embrace healthy lifestyle habits

Embrace healthy lifestyle habits

Make it a point to incorporate as many healthy habits as possible into your day and notice their benefits adding up over time.

First, remember to include more servings of fruit, vegetables and whole grains in your meals, and reduce your intake of sodium and saturated fat. You should also avoid processed, convenient and junk foods. 

Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are high in fibre, which is important for heart and digestive health. They also contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which help fight infection, minimise our risk of disease and keep our body functioning normally. 

Don’t forget regular physical activity – adults are advised to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or 150 minutes every week. If you can’t make it to the gym, take the stairs, do housework or walk to your destination – these all count as exercise, too. 

The benefits of exercise are numerous: It is effective for weight loss, helps relieve stress, helps you sleep better at night, reduces your risk of high blood pressure, and lowers your chance of getting diseases that typically affect older people.

Weight-bearing or strength-training exercise is also important for strong bones and to prevent muscle loss as we age.  

2. Manage your weight

World Health Day - Manage Your Weight

Obesity is a significant public health issue in Singapore, affecting about 10% of adults.

Obesity is a major risk factor for chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnoea and osteoarthritis

It can also affect your quality of life when you’re older. In 2019, researchers at Duke-NUS found that Singaporeans aged 60 and older who had a higher BMI (Body Mass Index) might have the same number of remaining years of life compared to people with a lower BMI, but spend fewer of those years in good health. The results of the study were published in the International Journal of Obesity. 

Maintaining a healthy BMI is therefore important. BMI is an approximate measure of your body fat and is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. If your BMI is between 18.5 and 22.9, you have a healthy BMI

3. Prioritise your mental health

World Health Day - Prioritise Mental Health

Stress, anxiety, grief and depression affect many of us and can impact our relationships, job, family life and social life. If left unchecked, they can develop into serious mental health issues and may even lower our life expectancy by 10 to 15 years.

Stay mentally healthy by eating a nutritious diet, especially one rich in omega-3 fatty acids; getting eight hours of quality sleep every night; staying active; interacting with others regularly; lending a helping hand; learning to manage stress and focusing on the positive; and laughing often.

Read more about the most common mental health issues that affect men and get tips for protecting your emotional wellbeing.

4. Ditch health-damaging habits

World Health Day - Ditch health-damaging habits

Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption have been likened to certain cancers as well as other serious conditions like cardiovascular disease. 

If you currently smoke and/or drink alcohol in excess, now’s a good time to quit smoking and limit your alcohol intake (or stop completely). Quitting often comes with withdrawal symptoms and side effects, so it’s important to be aware of how you’re feeling along the way and to work with a healthcare professional if you don’t seem to be making progress. 

Fortunately, it’s never too late to stop, and your body will reap the benefits of quitting smoking and drinking almost immediately. 

5. Get health screenings, even if you have no symptoms

World Health Day - Get Health Screenings

Preventative screenings can help assess your risk for disease and identify any early signs of health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Finding problems early can increase your chances of getting more effective treatment and possibly prevent those problems from getting worse. 

“The early detection and treatment of certain conditions not only improves your overall health; it can also have an impact on your family life, social relationships, and job,” adds Dr Chong Kiang, a general practitioner at Raffles Medical. 

“For instance, if you have a family history of diabetes, and a routine health screening detected an impaired glucose tolerance, you could prevent the disease from progressing, thereby avoiding the long-term effects that the disease has on the heart, kidneys and nervous system. 

“Knowing that you have diabetes may also help you structure your workday better, as you may need to take extra breaks for meals and insulin injections, and so on.”  

Look out for these other health issues that concern men of various ages, from your 20s to your 60s.

6. Men should screen for these conditions

World Health Day - Men should screen for these conditions

According to Dr Chong, men are more likely than women to suffer from metabolic conditions and should therefore not neglect to be screened for those conditions, namely diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular conditions like coronary arterial disease. 

“The Healthier SG ‘Screen for Life’ programmes make it easier for the public to access medical providers who offer these screenings,” he notes.

Men should also get screened for prostate cancer, which is male-specific, and colorectal cancer, since they are at a higher risk of developing this cancer compared to women. 

Current screening guidelines for colorectal cancer are generally targeted at people in their 50s, however the disease is starting to show up in younger patients.

Whatever your age, the early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer can improve treatment and survival outcomes, adds Dr Precelia Lam, a general practitioner at Raffles Medical.

“More often than not, colorectal cancer presents silently. In younger patients who are symptomatic, diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, and iron deficiency anaemia are commonly reported. These symptoms when present warrant further discussion with your doctor.”

SAFRA members enjoy member rates on health screenings at Raffles Medical clinics. For more details, click here. For the full list of healthcare benefits, go to safra.sg/promotions/healthcare-products-and-services. 

Note: Please consult your GP or physician before embarking on any treatment plan.

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