People are living longer than ever before. Living to 100 was hardly heard of a few decades ago. But now, with modern medicine and enhanced understanding about what contributes to a long and healthy life, more and more people are living to 100 and beyond.
Dr. Mariana Dangiolo’s passion is making sure that we all age as healthfully as possible. A geriatric and family medicine specialist at UCF Health’s Lake Nona office, her focus is providing comprehensive primary care for seniors’ physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
“You’re never too old to start a healthier lifestyle,” she says. “And because about half of people age 65 and older are managing multiple health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and high blood pressure, making small lifestyle changes can help you and your doctor manage many chronic conditions.”
While there is no fountain of youth, here are some of Dr. Dangiolo’s suggestions for healthy aging:
Each day, eat a variety of simple, healthy foods. Choose fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors. Cut down on red meats, fats and sugar. When you go to the market each week, pick one new vegetable to try. Avoid highly processed foods that contain unhealthy fats, salts and additives. Instead, pick foods closest to their natural state. Use herbs and spices to add flavor; cut down on salt.
Include physical activity in your daily routine. You don’t have to go to the gym unless you enjoy it. Take up dancing. Go for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. Plant a garden. Play with your pets and children. The goal – stay moving. Physical activity increases blood flow, and because so much blood flows to the brain, exercise is a good option for seniors worried about loss of mental acuity.
Do the things that you love. Joyfulness is contagious and keeps your motivation alive and your life engaged. Discover a new hobby. Volunteer and serve your community. Travel to new places, make new friends. Strong social activities and support improve wellness.
Keep your mind active. Learn something new. Read, do puzzles. An active brain is a healthy brain.
As you work to improve and maintain your health, be sure your physician is part of your team. If you are seeing multiple physicians, be sure you have a strong primary care provider who can coordinate your care. Dr. Dangiolo said, “It’s important for a geriatric specialist to conduct a prescription audit to determine all of a patient’s medications and see if drugs are interacting or causing harmful side effects. Audits can often reduce the number of pills you take,” she said, “and can help your physician give advice on conditions such as dehydration that are some medications cause as patients age.”
Communication is key whenever you’re visiting the doctor but especially for seniors. Dr. Dangiolo, who is fluent in English, Spanish, Italian and French, also works with family members and other caregivers. And she believes it’s important for geriatricians to spend time understanding how physical issues, like memory loss and balance issues, are impacting the patient’s life and also to work with families to navigate care.
“I take an interdisciplinary approach to caring for my seniors,” Dr. Dangiolo said. “Many of my patients see their rheumatologist or cardiologist at UCF Health in the same office as mine. That enhances communication and teamwork between doctors, and results in better care for our patient.”
UCF Health is the College of Medicine’s physician practice, offering primary and specialty care to the community. Its newest office is located in Lake Nona at the corner of Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Visit UCFHealth.com for more information, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.