How Seniors can keep Healthy to Stay Sober 

by Lucy Wyndham

If you or a loved one has experienced addiction and undergone treatment, you will understand how important it is to use all the options available in an effort to avoid relapse. Like many people, as they grow older, you or your loved one may be concerned about their health; especially if income is limited. You may already know that it’s important to eat healthy and take some form of exercise, but you are not sure where to begin. Your dental health is also important, with the possibility of more problems arising as you age. This article offers some ideas about what preventative actions you can take to care for your health and well-being and help to avoid relapse.

Diet

Starting healthy habits by establishing a sensible exercise and eating plan can help prevent relapse. Although, it’s not a good idea to try to change too much all at once, small but significant changes, like short walks and healthier eating habits can bring about major beneficial differences. For instance, a diet rich in lean meat or other foods high in proteins, such as soya and eggs are good for rebuilding and repairing cell damage. Fatty acids (omega 3) found in fish, nuts, and seeds, have been recommended as brain-healing foods. These foods are useful because drug and alcohol abuse damages brain and nerve cells. The good news is: repair is possible.

Try throwing in a few nuts and seeds with your cereal in the morning or have a cooked breakfast of eggs, or oily fish such as sardines, mackerel or pilchards once or twice a week. Fruit and vegetables are essential for keeping the blood healthy by stabilizing cancer forming free radicals and preventing too much inflammation. You may want to consider taking vitamin and mineral supplements, but consult your physician first. It’s also a good idea to drink plenty of water and avoid too much coffee.

Exercise

Feeling fit and healthy can help keep your mind clear and allow you to stay clean and sober. A study carried out by the University of Arizona confirmed that running increases hormones, such as serotonin in the brain, and subsequently makes you feel high on life. On the other hand, however, low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression. Exercise always goes hand in hand with diet and is important at any age. Any form of regular and sustained exercise will make you feel better ultimately. As mentioned earlier, ‘feel good’ hormones are released after a certain level of exertion. On top of that there will be improvements in the function of the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and endocrine systems.  According to Psychology Today Exercise slows cognitive decline and helps prevent depression. Although running and high intensity aerobics will produce fast results in terms of fitness and weight loss, they may not suit everyone. Consider walking, swimming or cycling as lower impact alternatives. The key is that exercise should be regular and sustained, you should aim to work up a sweat, whichever exercise you choose.

Take care of your teeth

While this aspect is often overlooked, having healthy teeth and gums play an important part in staying fit and feeling better about yourself. Being concerned about, caring for, and retaining teeth is a normal part of the growing older process and drugs and alcohol use over a period of time can have a negative effect on teeth. Even if your teeth look alright they may have become weakened over the period of drug or alcohol misuse. Having a healthy diet will have a positive effect on your teeth and gums, but it’s also worth knowing that regular checkups are covered by Medicaid, which gives you no excuse not to take care of your oral health.

Don’t Look Back

A healthy body and healthy mind also go together. Even if you or your loved one have been living clean and sober for some time it’s worth taking stock of the things which are keeping you that way and being constantly clear about what might trigger a relapse. Know where you can go for help. Keep phone numbers handy for places or people where you can receive help. Keeping yourself busy and active will leave you little time or opportunity to revisit your past. Consider what you can do to keep your brain healthy.

Playing games or doing puzzles are a good way to keep your brain stimulated and may help to delay the onset of dementia. Growing older is a chance to learn, perhaps you could pick up a new hobby or activity. Caring for a pet is thought to be useful in lowering blood pressure and increasing levels of serotonin, helping you to feel better physically and psychologically, thus being able to help prevent relapse. It is also a time for giving something back. Try carrying out acts of kindness in your neighborhood such as litter picking (using proper equipment). Or you could sign up as a volunteer at your local thrift shop.

Keep Balanced

Don’t do anything in excess. You might be tempted to overdo the exercise in order to get a quicker result or just because it feels good. You might be tempted to drink a lot of water in a bid to stay clean, sober, and healthy. It’s worth remembering that anything done in excess can have negative results. Too much high impact exercise can damage your joints.Having proper running shoes helps. Too much water (more than 4 quarts per day can be dangerous).

Keeping healthy through an improved diet, regular exercise, and proper dental care is important for all seniors and people struggling with addiction. If you have overcome drug or alcohol abuse, trying to stay fit and healthy by making the right choices can also help prevent relapse. Learning a new skill or picking up a new activity is useful to you, whilst participating in your community is useful for others and can help you feel good about yourself and thus keep relapse at bay.

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