Retire better by avoiding these 4 health risks

The retirement of baby boomers has been a hot topic for decades. It’s no longer looming — it’s here.

Every month, more than a quarter-million Americans turn 65. Just ask Dan Aykroyd, Isabella Rossellini, Roseanne Barr and Liam Neeson — who all celebrated a 65th birthday in 2017.

So as hard as it is to imagine, it comes to all of us. And even though retirement means more free time and less structure, can this new way of life have a negative impact on your health?

Here are a few health risks to avoid to make the most of your retirement…

Health Risk #1: Changes to your healthcare plan

Unless you’re fabulously wealthy and can afford to pay thousands of dollars in medical bills out of pocket, you shouldn’t retire without a healthcare plan in place. Almost everyone of retirement age will need some form of medical care at some point. Does your employer offer retiree health benefits?  Will you be relying on Medicare? An individual policy? Whatever your plan is, make sure you really understand it. Know what is covered and what the out of pocket expenses could be. If you need help or advice but don’t know who to ask, most areas have an aging agency or commission that can help you.

Health Risk #2: Weight gain

The loss of a structured lifestyle can lead to bad eating habits. Increased snacking and lunches out with friends can cause weight gain, and everyone knows that being overweight leads to myriad health problems.

To stave off retirement weight gain, you may want limit how often you dine out. Dr. Michael Cutler explains in The Part-Time Health Nut that restaurant food can be especially risky because it’s often filled with high levels of refined sodium (as opposed to natural salt) and damaging fats (as opposed to healthy fats). And the servings are usually too massive. Eating meals at home means you’re more likely to choose whole foods, fewer fried foods and use healthier oils like coconut oil and olive oil in your cooking. When you do dine out with friends look for healthier options on the menu.

If snacking between meals is your vice, keep healthy options like fresh fruits, veggies and nuts in your cupboards and ditch the bad temptations.

Health Risk #3: Inactivity

After working for 30 years, watching daytime television can be too tempting to resist. But The Price is Right and All My Children can be addicting and too many sedentary hours in front of the tube can increase your risk for heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and osteoporosis. Limit the amount of time you spend watching T.V., or at least the amount of time you spend sitting while watching. Retirement means 8 more hours of free time each day. Spend some of this time being active. “Non-sweaty” activities like shopping, gardening and playing with grandchildren are good for your health. Golf, tennis and yoga are more strenuous activities that people of all ages can do. Simply walking has many benefits as well.

Health Risk #4: Mental decline

Retirement can affect you mentally as well as physically. Retirement has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Someone who is working,  and therefore mentally stimulated, is better off from a cognitive point of view. “Use it or lose it” is the rule here. Luckily, a 9:00 to 5:00 job isn’t the only way to stimulate your brain. Continuing education, volunteering and even playing games and doing puzzles can keep you sharp.

If your job was your main source of pride, or your co-workers were your main social connections, retirement can be depressing. In fact, one in five recent retirees admits to feeling depressed. To combat this, it’s important to find something new that gives you a sense of purpose. Working a part-time job, finishing projects around the house… whatever it is, it’s important to find something that works for you. Harry Emerson Fosdick, the prolific American minister said, “Don’t simply retire from something; have something to retire to.”

Though these retirement health risks are real and shouldn’t be ignored, they shouldn’t scare you out of retiring either. You did your time and paid your dues. Just be mindful of these risks and make decisions that won’t shorten the length, or lessen the quality, of your retirement.

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Cara McCarthy

By Cara McCarthy

Cara McCarthy has been working in the natural health industry since 2010. She studied Marketing Communications at the University of Mississippi. Her goal is to provide people with the information they need to live the healthiest, happiest lives possible.