Hit the bathroom, grab a glass of water, turn off the TV, and read this.
What’s the difference between living a healthy life and living your best life? Details.
Even if you consider yourself a health nut, you could be neglecting seemingly small everyday habits that have big consequences. From that afternoon snooze to nutritional products that are good for some people but unnecessary for most, here are six health mistakes you could be making every day.
Mistake #1: You Regularly Hold Your Pee
If holding your pee is an infrequent, once-every-good-movie type of thing, there’s no real risk. The danger kicks in when holding it becomes a habit.
In that case, the elastic tissue of your bladder can become damaged and eventually replaced by scar tissue, which increases your risk of complications like urinary retention (inability to empty bladder completely), urinary tract infections, and kidney damage.
“Don’t hold it so long that you have an emergency feeling and you can’t hold it, or you cough and have leakage,” says Sara Bradley, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Dr. Bradley recommends that everyone try to urinate at least every two hours, which shouldn’t be a problem if you’re hydrated. Speaking of …
Mistake #2: You Forget to Drink Water
Some older adults avoid drinking water because of urinary issues, such as an overactive bladder or urinary incontinence—or just because it’s harder to hold it in. Those aren’t good reasons, Dr. Bradley says. Staying hydrated helps you avoid urinary tract infections and keeps your kidneys healthy.
“As you get older, you don’t feel thirsty the same way, so it truly is so important to push yourself to drink,” she says. A good rule of thumb: Drink a half-cup of water every half-hour for the first eight hours of the day.
Another good idea: Know these sneaky signs your body is low on H2O.
Mistake #3: You Drink Nutritional Shakes, But You Aren’t Underweight
Nutritional supplement drinks, like Ensure or Boost, are often recommended for older adults who are underweight and have trouble getting proper nutrition through food for a number of reasons. But because they’re marketed toward older individuals, many people drink these products even when they don’t need them, Dr. Bradley says.
“Some people think these drinks have magical nutritional properties, but essentially, it’s the same thing as having a milkshake from McDonald’s,” she says. “It’s just extra calories they don’t need.”
Unless your doctor has suggested you drink a liquid nutritional supplement, stick to whole foods—including fruits and vegetables—for your daily dose of vitamins and nutrients, Dr. Bradley recommends. Not only will you have more variety in your diet, but the fiber in fruits and veggies will keep you full longer. Plus, you won’t have to worry so much about constipation, which can become an issue with age, Dr. Bradley says.
Mistake #4: You Take a Long Afternoon Nap
You may notice your sleep patterns changing with age. That’s normal. According to the National Institutes of Health, older adults often have a harder time falling asleep or staying asleep, and tend to sleep fewer hours per night.
Napping can help you combat the grogginess, but only if you keep it brief—ideally 10 to 30 minutes. Indulging in a long nap can make it even harder to fall asleep at night, which causes the sleepiness cycle to repeat itself, Dr. Bradley says.
Power naps, on the other hand, not only help you feel sharper, but they may improve your sleep quality. A review from the Journal of Sleep Research found that the combination of a 30-minute afternoon snooze (between 1 and 3 p.m.) and a moderate-intensity exercise session in the early evening (around 5 p.m.) can improve sleep quality in older adults.
Need some ideas? How about a walk on the treadmill, gentle exercises in the pool, or yoga that improves flexibility and eases stress? And with SilverSneakers, your workouts could be free. Check your eligibility or find a location here.
Mistake #5: You Consider All OTC Meds and Vitamins Safe
You probably know to keep a list of your medications and share it with your doctor regularly. But if you’re taking any over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements, your doctor needs to hear about them, Dr. Bradley says.
“A lot of people don’t think of these things as medicine so they don’t mention them,” she says. “But it’s really important to let your doctor know because they can affect other medications, your kidneys, and your liver.”
Plus, many drugs are metabolized differently in seniors—meaning your body might process it more slowly or quickly than when you were younger. This could lead to problems if you don’t adjust the dosage. Learn more in our guide to four types of OTC meds that may cause serious side effects.
Mistake #6: You Choose the Internet or TV Over a Real Doctor
There’s no shortage of health information available online, and “The Dr. Oz Show” can be entertaining. But it’s important to consider the source and its intent when making choices about your own treatments and care, Dr. Bradley says. Is a company trying to sell you something, or get high ratings by providing sensational reporting?
“It’s a marker of health literacy if you look things up, and it’s good to educate yourself regardless of the source,” Dr. Bradley says. But not every study that you read about will apply to you, and sometimes the risks that are reported aren’t risks for you at all, she says.
The bottom line: If you are experiencing symptoms or believe you might be facing a health issue of any kind—physical or emotional—you should always, always, always see your doctor. Or if you can’t remember the last time you had a preventive wellness exam, it might be time to schedule one. These tips for a better doctor visit can help.
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