Mental Health Issues in the Elderly: A Preventative Approach

Taking care of mental health and wellbeing is important at any stage in life and it’s always a good idea to begin this practice as early as possible. When it comes to the elderly, mental health issues - including dementia, depression and anxiety, can often be under-identified, which makes the situation even more serious. A study conducted by healthcare professionals in the UK found an alarmingly high prevalence of undiagnosed mental health issues amongst older adults (70+) admitted to general hospitals. What can be done to keep these numbers at bay?

Diet

The connection between good nutrition and mental health is becoming increasingly more apparent. Our bodies and minds, require many essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients in order to function optimally and ward off illness, disease, and even mental health issues. Limiting or eliminating processed and refined foods during every stage of life is important, and as we age, it is all the more important to fuel our bodies with a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as adequate water.

Stress Management

We know the effect that stress can have on a person’s daily life, and the long-term consequences it has on overall wellbeing. It can affect your mood, worsen pre-existing health conditions (hypertension, digestive issues, anxiety), keep you up at night, and adversely affect overall mental health. No matter what age you may be, proper stress management techniques are crucial when it comes to good mental health. There are so many different ways to reduce stress in your life and you can easily find one that best suits your lifestyle. Whether it’s incorporating some “you time” into your schedule or visiting a therapist once a week, managing stress is one of the most preventative healthcare options available.

Physical Activity

While being active is usually associated with physical fitness, regular physical activity can have a very positive impact on the mental health of the elderly. Moderate exercise a few times a week is one of the best ways to keep your mind sharp when you are over 50, according to recent research. Whether that means walking, light jogging, yoga, or swimming exercises, the choice is entirely up to you - just remember to choose activities that appeal to you and are actually enjoyable.

While mental health in older people can oftentimes get swept under the rug, it’s a very important topic to discuss and understand, in order to treat or even prevent issues from arising. Proper diet, effective stress management and regular physical activity are all necessary components in a preventative approach aimed at keeping our minds sharp - at any age.

Guest post by Sally Perkins 

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