COLUMBUS, Ohio — September is Healthy Aging Month, a time when doctors want people to remember that as we age, our minds and bodies change. As we move into the final week of September, doctors are pointing out three things that could make you age faster.
The first mistake some people make is over-exercising.
Doctors say people need to remember the phrase "low and slow" when it comes to exercise.
For example, using chair exercises with resistance bands can be easier on the body than weight lifting.
Dr. Stephen Mills of SeniorSelect Center in Columbus said a great “drug” to treat age-related ailments can be as simple as exercise.
"If you want a drug called ‘exercise,’ this drug prevents heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, emotional health, all those things, with a drug called exercise. It can be prescribed indoors, it can be prescribed outdoors. It's a wonderful drug, and we need to use more of that," Dr. Mills said.
Dr. Mills said that while exercising is very important, doing the wrong exercise can lead to a faster decline. He said low impact and slower movements are key.
Loneliness is the second factor that could make you age faster.
Primary care physicians say seniors often feel more pain, fatigue and depression with loneliness.
Dr. Mills said those are the three main symptoms that really came to light during the pandemic.
"So I don't think they understand why they have pain. But when you take that fear, get them out of that isolation into a social structure or a senior center, get them more active, more physically active, and more socially active, it seems like their pain improves," Dr. Mills said.
Dr. Mills said some studies on loneliness show that prolonged isolation might also lead to accelerated memory aging.
Drinking too much milk is the third mistake that could be making you age faster.
"The problem with dairy is mostly whole milk has a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat is inflammatory to the body. So too much of that could be inflammatory," Dr. Mills said.
Mills said the key for seniors to have healthier aging is to look for food or dairy products that are low in saturated fats.
"Chicken, vegetables. The best diet that's been studied is the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil, nuts, seeds, more veggies and more lean meat," Dr. Mills said.
Almond, soy and coconut milks are good alternatives to dairy.
Oral hygiene is a huge part of health doctors said people often forget to check when they go in for a physical. And with senior citizens taking multiple prescriptions, this can lead to dry mouth and a host of health issues.
"When you're taking a water pill, when you're taking anti-depression pills, they cause dry mouth. Dry mouth is poor is bad for teeth and gums, and that increases the risk of other internal problems in oral health. It can lead to disease, other infections," Dr. Mills said.
Dr. Mills said tooth decay could decrease nutritional intake because people don't want to eat, which could also lead to poor health.
Then there's text neck.
It's something that happens to anyone who is constantly texting or looking down on their iPads, iPhones, laptops, you name it.
Doctors say the constant bending of the neck is a real issue - especially as people age.
"The head weighs anywhere from eight to 12 pounds. And as a senior, you're losing muscle mass. And your head is tilted down, which gives you postural issues," said Dr. Stephen Mills of SeniorSelect Columbus. "And when you have postural issues, you may have poor balance issues. And when you have balance issues you have falling. And we all know that falling is a big problem in seniors. So that's one of my big points."
Dr. Stephen Mills says there are exercises we all can do now - and as we age - to combat this "text neck" syndrome.