These past few weeks have been challenging to say the least. As stay at home orders continue, I am available to pick up your groceries or medications. I check my answering machine daily so please leave a message at 570-621-3220. We will get through this together.
Life expectancy is on the rise, with many 65-year-olds living to celebrate birthdays beyond the age of 80.
That said, planning for a healthy future in your later years is as important as planning for your financial future. Seniors often face a variety of health conditions that can affect their overall quality of life.
Your family history, age and lifestyle play a large role in your risk for certain medical conditions. However, a large number of health concerns for seniors can be prevented or the progression slowed by making smart, healthy choices and visiting your doctor for regular screenings.
Some of the most common health problems in the elderly include:
Cognitive decline. While some memory loss is common as you age, developing Alzheimer’s disease is not. It’s important to recognize the early warning signs, as early intervention and treatment can be key in slowing the progression of the disease. The first symptoms vary from person to person. Memory problems are typically one of the first signs, but decline in non-memory aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues and impaired reasoning or judgment may also signal the very early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Balance issues. Falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults and maintaining your balance and mobility is key to fall prevention. Safely standing on one foot for about 7-10 seconds and then repeating with the other foot strengthens your core muscles and helps maintain your balance. Balance can improve in just a few weeks by exercising at least twice a week.
Oral health problems. Not all seniors lose their teeth, but issues like gingivitis that leads to periodontitis, a bacterial infection that affects the gums and bones supporting the teeth, can be common in older adults. Proper oral care and seeing the dentist for a cleaning every six months can help ensure your teeth and gums are as healthy as possible.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults over the age of 65. While it is normal to see changes in heart health as you age but getting older doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy heart. Regular cholesterol and blood pressure screenings, losing weight, quitting smoking, eating a balanced diet, staying active and controlling chronic diseases such as diabetes will reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between bones breaks down – causing pain, swelling and limited mobility. Low-impact exercise, losing excess weight, controlling blood sugar and avoiding overuse of your joints can improve joint health.
Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the loss of old bone – causing the bones to become weak and brittle. Good nutrition including calcium and Vitamin D with regular exercise are essential to keep your bones healthy.
Weakened lung function. Your diaphragm, the strong wall of muscle that separates your chest cavity from the abdominal cavity that allows your lungs to expand, becomes weaker over time and decreases the ability to inhale and exhale. Your ribs move slightly to help your lungs expand and contract. The rib cage bones become thinner and change shape so that it is less able to move to help your lungs. These changes can leave you at increased risk for respiratory infections. Protect your lungs and maintain better lung function by quitting smoking, avoid pollution, keep active, watch your weight and get regular health care.
Vision or hearing loss. Many factors can contribute to hearing loss as you get older. It can be difficult to distinguish age-related hearing loss from hearing loss that can occur for other reasons. Age sometimes brings changes that weaken your vision and eyes but there are things you can do to maintain lifelong eye and overall health. The solution may be as simple as using brighter light around the house to help prevent accidents caused by weak eyesight or getting hearing aids. It’s important to maintain regular screenings for your vision and hearing.
Influenza or pneumonia. Seniors are more vulnerable due to weakened immune systems, which naturally occur as we age. Making it harder for the body to fight off a virus. Prevention is the key to avoid the flu and its complications. Everyone 65 years and older should consider getting the flu and pneumococcal vaccines. In addition, to staying current with vaccines, a healthy lifestyle, quitting smoking, practicing good oral hygiene, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight through a nutritious diet can all help boost a senior’s immune system and stave off diseases.
The risk for some types of cancer also increases as you age. For example, women become more at risk for cervical or endometrial cancers, while men have a higher risk for prostate cancer. While preventing cancer altogether may not be possible, screenings to detect cancer in the early stages are imperative.
Aging gracefully is about living your best life and having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. Here are some tips:
Stay active doing something you enjoy.
Eat nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods.
Never stop learning and challenging your brain.
Get enough sleep.
Develop healthy ways to deal with stress.
Cultivate relationships and make community connections.
Think about ways that your health can improve by changing your lifestyle and make those changes. You are your own best advocate. Contact your primary health care provider for an annual physical or whenever you have a concern about your health and go to those appointments prepared. Bring a list of your current prescriptions, including herbal supplements. Keep a list of your health concerns and most importantly, ask questions!
SCAM ALERT –Imposters could pretend to be census takers. A fake census worker may show up at your door, contact you by phone or email. The Census Bureau will never ask for your Social Security number, solicit donations or threaten you with arrest if you don’t cooperate. Authentic census takers carry government ID’s and should have on display if they knock on your door.