Tips for seniors to stay fit and healthy

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    Why do seniors experience added health problems during summers?

    Due to ageing, skin elasticity is lost and sweat glands start functioning at a low level, which disturbs the thermostat mechanism of the body. Therefore, seniors are more prone to dehydration when external temperatures fluctuate.

    The functioning of organs such as kidneys, heart, lungs and the digestive system is low in seniors, which makes them susceptible to water and electrolyte imbalances.

    What are the health problems faced by elders during summer?

    The most common problems faced by seniors are heat cramps, heat syncope, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance.

    If an elderly person is overweight or obese and has diabetes, then excessive sweating because of the season may clog the skin and sweat pores which will predispose him or her to skin infections.

    What are the ways to handle these health problems in summer?

    Preventive methods

    • Ayurveda and Siddha talks about food being medicine. So the right kind of food taken during summer will protect one from seasonal health problems.  
    • Consume fruits and vegetables that contain a lot of water such as melons, pumpkin, ash gourd, cucumber, etc. These add more alkalinity to the internal fluid which itself is a major step to maintaining electrolyte balance in the body.
    • Hydrating oneself well with adequate water is essential. At least 5 litres of water a day is mandatory if there are no restrictions on fluids.
    • Drinking buttermilk or tender coconut is beneficial. Buttermilk empowers the liver and protects it. Tender coconuts support the kidney in its proper maintenance of electrolytes.
    • If an elderly person has an ailing kidney, barley water helps in hydration.
    • Fresh lime juice with mint cools the system.

    Other protective measures

    • Avoid going out in the sun. Working outdoors can be restricted to timings closer to sunrise and sunset.
    • Bathing with neem, sandal, or turmeric based organic soaps help to keep the skin cool. They also help in protecting the skin from infections and boils.
    • If going out is inevitable, choose the latter part of the day. Even then one must wear UV protective sunglasses, a hat or use an umbrella.
    • Always carry a water bottle whenever going out to avoid dehydration and drinking from other sources as water borne diseases are common during summer.

    What are some of the activities seniors can indulge in during summer?

     Moderation in food, activity and rest are the cornerstones of healthy living. Exercise is a must for seniors. Physical activity in the form of walking, mindful movements such as Yoga and Taichi are important and must be a part of their routines. But one must keep in mind to be physically active only during early sunrise or after sunset.

    Dr. Karthiyayini Mahadevan, Head, Wellness and Wellbeing, Columbia Pacific Communities.

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