Staying Healthy as you age: Tips from an expert – Freemasons New Zealand
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Staying Healthy as you age: Tips from an expert

Many of us tend to become more vulnerable as we age – it’s one of those unavoidable side-effects of getting older!

But there are lots of things we can do to stay healthy as possible. In this article, the Medical Director of the Royal  New Zealand College of General Practitioners, Dr Bryan Betty, gives us some good advice.

Your general health is always important, but especially so in times like this. It’s important that you maintain your health throughout the year, to ensure your immune system is strong and you’re able to recover quickly from any winter illnesses. If you do have a medical concern, don’t hesitate to call your GP and arrange an appointment. GPs are “open for business”, and while they may be operating according to the necessary social distancing protocols, they’re here to help. Don’t delay getting the care you need, no matter how small the issue may seem.

Seeing your GP for regular check-ups is especially important if you have any ongoing health issues – skin conditions, heart conditions, and everything in between. Again, your GP is just a phone call away.

If you’re over 65 years of age, you’re eligible for your yearly flu vaccinations, so please make sure you arrange an appointment with your GP for this. Getting the flu jab is just one way you can help ensure your immune system is as strong as it can be, and up to the task of fending off cold and flu. You should also be getting your shingles vaccine if you’re over 65, so please consider this too.

Building and maintaining health in your daily life comes down to physical activity, diet, and social connection. Keep active during the week (at least 30 minutes activity per day) and get out and about for a walk when you can. Soak up the sunshine where you can get it, too – a good dose of vitamin D does wonders for muscle strength, mood, and overall health.

Exercising daily is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health, cholesterol, blood pressure and sleep quality, and it can also help with arthritis. Practising Tai-chi has been shown to be particularly beneficial for balance and muscle tone.

In terms of diet, having three balanced meals a day is a tried and true way to ensure you are getting enough nourishment from your foods. Think high fibre fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and foods which are calcium rich – calcium will help improve your bone strength, and high-fibre foods can help with bowel health. Small portions of lean meat such as poultry and seafood will give you a healthy dose of iron, protein and other nutrients. Keeping up your fluids is extremely important, and this should be a routine part of your day.

It goes without saying that you should avoid activities such as smoking, which is harmful to your lungs, heart and blood circulation. Similarly, you’ll want to keep your sugary foods to a minimum, and drink alcohol in moderation.

Finally, maintaining social connections is important for your mental health. Whether that’s with family, friends, neighbours or your local volunteer group, stay in touch with others – whether that’s in person, over the phone or via video call. Maintaining social connections improves overall mental health, and it’s a great way to boost your mood.


Dr Bryan Betty


Medical Director

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners