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Stay social, stay healthy—it’s that simple

May 5, 2018 (Updated: August 3, 2021)
Lily Moran

We can’t put off growing older. Days come and go.  But we can put off feeling older by simply staying socially active.

But here’s a question I’m often asked.

Dr. Connealy, sometimes I just don’t feel like being around people.  Is there something wrong with me?  

Well, it depends on why you feel that way, and how often. Your disinclination to socialize, if it’s chronic and gets worse, can be an early warning signal of oncoming depression.

But I hear this from many patients who are having hearing, vision, or mobility problems. They hesitate to socialize, thinking they’re a bother or an annoyance, always asking “what?” or needing help moving around due to vision or balance problems.

Any or all of the above are terribly frustrating on their own. Thinking that you’re imposing on other people just makes them worse.

But socializing is not a “don’t feel like it” option. From a physical and emotional health perspective, we need the company of other people to thrive.  And we need to keep our bodies and our minds active. Someone tossed out the phrase, recently, that “sitting is the new smoking.” In other words, an isolated and sedentary lifestyle is an invitation to disease.

So what can I do about my hearing problems?

The first advice I’d offer to anyone with a hearing problem is to get it checked out and consider getting a hearing aid. Technological breakthroughs are almost a daily thing—miniaturization has turned clumsy old hearing aids into tiny, very smart computers, and are all but invisible.

What’s best for my vision?

For those with vision issues, be sure you’ve been thoroughly checked for age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, or other medical issues.

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A healthy, fruit- and vegetable-rich diet is an excellent vision protector, but that alone doesn’t counter all the effects of aging.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two well-studied nutrients shown to help protect against both cataracts and macular degeneration. Although there is no widely accepted recommended dietary allowance, I recommend 10mg a day of lutein and 2mg of zeaxanthin.

You might also consider supplementing with any or all of these proven peeper keepers:

  • Vitamin A, up to but no more than 3,000 mcg/day (10,000 IU).
  • Copper: no more than 1 mg/day, less for children or pregnant women
  • Zinc, no more than 25 mg/day
  • Vitamin C (500 mg)
  • Vitamin E (400 IU)
  • Beta-carotene (15 mg)
  • Vitamin D3 (5,000 IU)
  • Omega-3 (3 g)
  • CoQ10 (100 mg)

A good multivitamin will give you a lot of these eye nutrients and protectors, all in one go.

What about my mobility and balance issues?  

A lot of those are about muscle strength, which diminishes as we age. I highly recommend a practice that helps you strengthen your muscles, improve your balance, calm your stress, increase your vitality, and cleanse, detoxify, and heal your body.

Qi gong and tai chi are both ancient practices that gives you all of those benefits—just for doing a series of gentle, graceful, movements—like ballet in slow motion, without the leaping or standing on your toes part.

A gentle yoga practice can offer similar benefits.

You’ll grow to love it, as I have, and your body will love you back.

If you incorporate these practices into you daily life, you should be able to enjoy socializing more, whether it’s coffee or tea with friends and family, a museum visit, a concert or show.

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