Tips for a healthy summer

COLUMBUS — The weather is turning warmer and for many, thoughts are turning to the many great outdoor parks, fairs and festivals that Ohio’s communities offer.

The Ohio Department of Aging, through its STEADY U and HEALTHY U initiatives, urges all Ohioans to think health and safety while they enjoy the festivities.

“Visiting a park, county fair or local festival is a great way to get exercise, make social connections, engage our minds in learning new things and live ‘Well Beyond 60,’” said Bonnie K. Burman, director of the department. “We want to help all Ohioans — but especially our elders — take small steps to stay safe and maximize the health benefits these events and attractions offer.”

STEADY U Ohio, the state’s older adult, falls-prevention initiative encourages seniors to be mindful of falls risks while they are out and about this summer. It offers the following tips:

• As much as possible, stick to paved surfaces and sidewalks. If you must walk in grass or gravel, watch the ground closely with your eyes, but keep your head up and face forward. Consider using a cane or walking stick for off-road walking.

• Trash, hoses and cables in walkways can cause you to slip or trip. Watch where you are walking and do not step on or over items in your path.

• Heavy crowds can affect the way you walk and cause you to trip or be knocked over. Consider attending events and attractions during off-peak times, such as early in the day and on weekdays, to avoid large crowds.

• Dehydration and exhaustion can make you unsteady on your feet before you realize you feel tired or thirsty. Take frequent breaks to sit down and rest. Drink plenty of nonalcoholic liquids to stay hydrated.

While seniors get great exercise from walking, indulging in favorite “fair food” is part of the fun of summer events and destinations. HEALTHY U Ohio, the state’s chronic disease self-management program, offers advice for making healthy choices while still enjoying festival fare.

• Eat a well-balanced meal before you go to ensure you have the energy you need to walk around and reduce your urge to snack on junk food. If the venue allows, take your own food and drink so that you can tailor meals to your dietary needs.

• Choose grilled, roasted and baked foods over fried fare. Seek out items that offer more vital nutrients than traditional fair food (e.g., vegetables, sweet potato fries or whole wheat bread).

• Stick to small sizes for everything, and plan to share with a friend or family member.

•Be mindful of your dietary needs. Take all medications and continue all dietary testing (i.e., blood sugar) as instructed.

Other tips to get the most out of Ohio’s summer destinations:

• Make a budget for your visit. Know how much you expect to spend for travel, parking, admission, food, gifts and other expenses.

• Contact the venue in advance to ask about discounts on admission, food or gifts for veterans, children, seniors or groups.

• Call ahead to ask about wheelchair or mobility scooter rentals and prices, or if you can take your own. Ask if there are any areas of the venue that are not accessible for people with limited mobility.

• Take any necessary medications with you in a sealed, waterproof container, along with a list of the medicines you take and dosage information.

• Apply sunscreen to exposed skin and wear sunglasses or a hat with a wide brim to protect your eyes and minimize glare.

• Wear light-colored, lightweight clothing made from natural fibers. Fabrics like cotton absorb less heat from the sun, allow good air circulation and dry quickly if they get wet.

• Watch for signs of dehydration and heat-related illness, such as muscle cramps, light-headedness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, flushed or clammy skin and disorientation. Seek cool environments and medical attention if you experiences symptoms.

This article was submitted by the Ohio Department of Aging.