Healthy living leads to healthy aging
"By 2015, one of every five Americans will be between the ages of 50 and 64. As they enter this age group, 70 percent will already be diagnosed with at least one chronic condition, and nearly half will have two or more."*
Americans are now living longer, and no matter what your age, you have the potential for good health. As people age and their bodies change, there are additional challenges to face. Older adults can take action to meet these challenges and maintain good health. And if you aren't as healthy as you want to be, it's never too late to make improvements.
Successful or healthy aging is defined as freedom from heart disease, cancer, and respiratory problems, as well as having good physical and brain function. The Center for Aging and Population Health at the University of Pittsburgh has developed the "10 Keys to Healthy Aging" guidelines for adults 50 and over to follow:
- Stop smoking. Many conditions will improve or at least not continue to get worse after you quit. And quitting can lower your risk for many serious health problems, including cancer and heart disease.
- Lower your blood pressure. The ideal systolic pressure for adults is below 120. Controlling your blood pressure through medication and lifestyle changes reduces your risk for heart attack and stroke.
- Get recommended cancer screenings. Discuss your individual risk factors with your doctor. Cancer screenings that may benefit you include skin, colon, and rectum for everyone; breast, uterus and cervix for women; and prostate for men.
- Get immunized regularly. Besides a yearly flu shot, talk with your doctor about which immunizations you need. Older adults are especially at risk for diphtheria, shingles, pertussis (whooping cough), flu, pneumococcal disease, and tetanus.
- Regulate your blood sugar. Your fasting blood glucose should be less than 100. When your levels are greater, you are at risk for pre-diabetes and diabetes.
- Lower your LDL cholesterol. LDL, or low-density lipoproteins, are the molecules that carry fats around the body. A high LDL level increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Be physically active. No matter how old you are when you start exercising, physical activity, like walking, can improve your overall health and wellbeing and even prevent some health problems.
- Prevent bone loss and muscle weakness. A bone density test can help detect osteoporosis. To keep your bones and muscles strong, get moving with weight-bearing and strength-building activities. Ask your doctor about your calcium and vitamin D intake.
- Maintain social contact. Regular socializing helps prevent cognitive decline and isolation and can improve self-esteem.
- Seek help for depression. Depression is not a normal part of aging. If you feel sad most of the time, talk to your doctor about treatment options.
*Promoting Preventive Services for Adults 50-64: Community and Clinical Partnerships, a joint report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AARP, and the American Medical Association. National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, 2009.