A mesothelioma diagnosis can be overwhelming.
The rare, asbestos-related cancer usually develops in the protective lining of the lungs or abdomen. Mesothelioma can take decades to develop, but once it does, it is aggressive and debilitating.
Because of its long latency period, the cancer usually affects people (mostly men) 60 years of age and older. Seniors with mesothelioma typically have a poorer prognosis compared to younger patients.
Also, common health problems that develop as we age (chronic conditions, sensory impairments, cognitive health issues, etc.) make it more difficult to deal and live with mesothelioma. Common symptoms of the cancer, such as respiratory complications, chest pain and muscle weakness, can intensify as our body’s age and our immune systems become weaker.
Still, it is important to stay as healthy as possible when living with mesothelioma. Aside from treatments, there are several things seniors can do to increase survival rates and improve overall quality of life.
5 Ways Stay Healthy After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
This may be difficult for most seniors, especially those dealing with a respiratory cancer, but exercising is essential to your overall health. Mesothelioma treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, often leave patients with muscle weakness, a poor appetite and fatigue. This makes high-impact exercises, such as long-distance running or heavy weightlifting, nearly impossible, but low-impact exercises, including yoga, tai chi or swimming, can actually lessen fatigue and improve cardiorespiratory fitness. Exercise can also benefit you mentally, improving your mood and outlook on life.
Related: Why Seniors Should be Active & 32 Fun Activities for the Mind & Body
This goes hand in hand with exercise. A well-balanced diet can increase muscle mass and strength, as well as improve mood, sleep and our immune system. Our bodies need quality nutrition to fuel function. Many seniors are already on strict diets or have dietary restrictions because of other health issues. Whole foods, such as fish, vegetables, fruits and whole grains, are energizing, but processed foods are depleting. Deciding the best nutrition plan for you can be challenging. A dietitian or nutrition expert can help you navigate the process.
3. Caregiver Support
Again, living with mesothelioma is not easy. You may find yourself unable to do many of the things you did before your diagnosis. Senior care providers such as in-home care, nursing and personal support services can help make this transition easier. Senior care professionals can help tend to your needs, assisting with everyday tasks such as household chores, meal preparation, personal care and ensuring medications are taken. Having a caregiver can also benefit your mood and overall outlook on life, giving you someone to help support you with motivation when times are tough.
4. Staying Positive
We’ve mentioned how exercise and healthy eating can improve mood, but do you know just how important mood and a positive outlook can have on your battle with cancer? Staying positive can actually have an impact on your cancer prognosis. A positive and optimistic attitude can improve how you handle treatments or recover from surgery. Staying positive certainly isn’t easy, but having a strong support system of family and friends around you can make it easier.
5. Maintain Your Lifestyle
One way to keep positive is to not let go of the things you enjoy in life. It is important to maintain hobbies and other activities that make you happy as much as possible. For some, certain hobbies that require intense physical activity may be out of the question. For those patients, it is important to find other hobbies and set short-term goals of activities or tasks you want to accomplish. Senior care can also help make these goals possible by providing fun activities in a safe environment.
Staying healthy as a person living with mesothelioma isn’t just about treatments and clinical trials. These five healthy habits, in some ways, can be just as beneficial.
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