Depression is a treatable medical condition, but it is not a normal part of getting older. However, older adults are at a higher risk for depression, which is also more common in people with chronic health conditions. You can avoid depression by living a healthy life: eating well, getting enough sleep, doing activities you enjoy, and keeping in touch with loved ones.
Depression is not a normal part of aging. If you have symptoms of depression, see your doctor to find a treatment that works for you.
The symptoms of depression can affect how you feel, think, and handle your daily activities.
You can help avoid depression by eating well, getting enough sleep, engaging in activities daily, and staying in touch with family and friends.
Developing healthy habits to care for yourself will help you stay mentally and physically fit.
What is depression?
Depression is an illness that requires medical treatment. The symptoms of depression affect how you feel, think, and handle your daily activities. Depression causes daily symptoms that can last for weeks. There are several symptoms of depression and not everyone will have every sign.
Depression is usually diagnosed in people with feelings of sadness or anxiety that last for weeks. Other depression symptoms include:
- Constant fatigue or low energy.
- Loss of interest in activities that you formerly enjoyed.
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless.
- Overeating or experiencing a loss of appetite.
- Insomnia or excess sleep.
- Thoughts of suicide or attempted suicide.
- Persistent physical issues such as bodily aches and pains, digestive problems, or headaches that do not get better.
If you think you are suffering from depression, see a healthcare professional (HCP) as soon as possible. There are treatments available for depression. Most people see improvement in their depression symptoms with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of treatments.
If you feel you are in crisis, having thoughts of suicide, or have attempted suicide, call 911 or 988 – Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
Depression risk in people over 65
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people over age 65 are at an increased risk of depression. Depression occurs more often in people with chronic health conditions. About 80% of older people have one chronic illness and over half have two or more conditions.
Most people over age 65 are not depressed. The CDC reports depression exists in one to five percent of people over 65 years of age and increases in people who need home healthcare or are hospitalized.
Knowing your risk of depression is the first step towards exercising control of your routines and activities to avoid depression. If you had depression in the past, you can avoid a relapse.
How to avoid depression
You can help yourself avoid depression (or a relapse) by developing good daily habits. The following are some steps you can take to stay mentally and physically healthy.
Healthy eating is vital at every age. The right food gives you energy and keeps you stronger. Pick one or two of these suggestions to try:
- Choose the healthiest option. For example, choose steamed vegetables for a side instead of a loaded baked potato.
- Incorporate whole fruits and vegetables to add fiber and flavor to every meal.
- Prepare meals at home with a few healthy ingredients, such as baked fish or meat and roasted vegetables.
- Use spices and herbs to liven up your meals.
- Eat salads with all your favorite fresh ingredients.
- Check online for easy 30-minute healthy meals and experience something new!
Get enough sleep
Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep. There are many reasons you may not get enough sleep. Developing good sleep habits may help you feel better overall. Here are some ways to get more sleep and better sleep:
- Follow a regular sleep schedule. Keep your sleep and wake times the same, even on weekends, holidays, or when you travel.
- Avoid late afternoon naps, since they can make it harder to sleep at night.
- Develop a bedtime routine. Do what makes you feel relaxed right before you go to bed, such as listen to music, practice deep breathing, read a book, or take a warm bath.
- Minimize television, computers, cell phones, tablets, and other electronics. The light from these devices can make it hard to fall asleep. Watching television, especially unsettling shows, can keep you up.
- Use low lighting and keep your bedroom slightly cool to help you fall asleep.
- Stay away from caffeine later in the day. Caffeine can keep you awake, especially if you drink it in the late afternoon or evening.
- Avoid excessive alcohol, which can cause you to wake up at night.
Do activities you enjoy daily
Staying active keeps you healthier mentally and physically. Active people are happier, more resilient, and have a longer lifespan. Here are some ideas for daily activities:
- Take a walk around your neighborhood.
- Join an exercise class or exercise at home.
- Teach your grandchildren a dance from your youth.
- Bicycle with a friend.
- Go dancing.
- Join a bowling league.
Stay in touch with friends or relatives
Research shows that regular contact with family and friends helps boost your mood and increase your sense of well-being. Here are some things you can do to stay connected:
- Schedule time each week to communicate with family and friends in person, via email, or by text. Sending cards is another good way to keep in touch!
- Find a church or faith-based organization where you can meet people and deepen your spirituality.
- Join a class to learn something new or restart a hobby. You can even meet people with similar interests.
- Check out your local library or community center for classes, book clubs, or other resources for places to meet like-minded friends.
You can help avoid depression by living a healthy, active lifestyle. Develop good habits to help you rebound when you go through hard times. Spending time to care for yourself each day will pay off in helping you form a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life.