It is never too late to try to maintain good health. Remember, if you are 65, you can expect to live 15 more years; if you are 75, you can expect 10 more years; and at 85, expect an average of six more years. Most of us want to add as much 'life' as possible to these years.
There are several simple, straight-forward measures that seniors can take to help prevent illness and maintain health. The following are just six of these simple steps.
Preventive medicine is an important part of family practice. Your family doctor is your main link with the constantly changing health-care system. Find a family doctor with whom you can discuss your health maintenance plans. This is the person you can turn to if you need medical advice and support for your plans. Your doctor will respect you for taking steps to remain healthy and will help you toward your goal.
If you keep physically active, you can slow certain changes that occur with aging. Older people who have always exercised are proof of this. Exercise helps maintain muscle strength, oxygen use and many body functions. Even after years of inactivity and the loss of conditioning that results, careful exercise may improve muscle weakness and increase the range of joint movement. Remember you can even exercise in a wheelchair!
Balance, strength and endurance can all be improved in the elderly. Obviously, older people planning to exercise should consult their family doctors to determine suitable and safe exercise programs.
A combination of endurance exercise and strength training is often recommended. Walking and cycling are the most common examples of endurance exercise. Strength training involves contracting groups of muscles against resistance. This is not restricted to the young. It is not unusual these days to see seniors involved in weight training and enjoying it.
Regular exercise promotes an improved self-image and a sense of well-being in the elderly, as well as in younger people. It can help combat depression. Exercising with others is a way to deal with loneliness. Carefully planned exercise is becoming part of the management of a range of medical problems of older people. These include diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, constipation, Parkinson’s Disease, obesity, and heart disease and its risk factors.
Studies show that even older people benefit from an end to smoking. Elderly smokers who stopped as recently as two years earlier have reduced their risk of death compared with those the same age who continue to smoke. The risk of heart attacks is reduced within a year after stopping smoking.
Stopping the tobacco habit also slows the rate of decline of lung functioning and may help slow the development of osteoporosis. These are just some of the good reasons for a person of any age to stop smoking.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is common in the elderly. It is a serious problem. Blood pressure is recorded as an upper figure (systolic) over a lower figure (diastolic). Until recently the emphasis was mainly on the risk of an elevated diastolic pressure. However, studies now show that a systolic pressure above 160 mmHg puts an older person at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
Treatment of high blood pressure can prolong your life because your risk of heart attack and stroke is reduced. Although non-drug treatment such as exercise can be mildly effective, medication is usually indicated when high blood pressure is confirmed. Doctors have a choice of medications and will select the drug most suitable for you.
There is an important point to remember in relation to your blood pressure. Be aware of dizziness when you stand up from a lying or sitting position, especially if you are taking medication for high blood pressure. Sometimes your blood pressure will drop quickly when you stand, which can cause dizziness and possibly
It’s a good idea for your blood pressure to be checked in both lying and standing positions. A significant drop in blood pressure on standing is called postural hypotension and may affect how your doctor treats your high blood pressure.
Hearing loss is common as we age. It occurs in 30 per cent of those older than 65 and in 50 per cent of those older than 85. The good news is that it is usually treatable. In the most common type of hearing loss, there is difficulty hearing high pitched sounds, especially when there is background noise.
If you are having hearing problems, have your hearing checked. Hearing tests are simple and hearing aids usually help the hearing loss. Remember too, removing wax from your ears often dramatically improves hearing so you may not need a hearing aid. Deafness causes elderly people to isolate themselves socially and contributes to depression. Why suffer from the results of hearing loss when you don’t have to?
Have your eyes checked. Increased pressure in the eye, glaucoma, is the most common cause of blindness in Canada. Moreover, it is preventable if discovered before any symptoms occur! Older people have a higher risk of this serious but treatable condition.
Everyone over age 65 is in the at-risk population that should receive influenza vaccine (a flu shot) yearly. The only ones in this group who should not receive the vaccine are those who have serious allergic reactions when they eat eggs.
Influenza vaccine can prevent flu and the complications of pneumonia and death. At particularly high risk of these problems are older people with chronic heart, lung and kidney diseases, diabetes and diseases or drugs that affect their immune systems.
The vaccine is effective, safe and inexpensive. Special flu shot clinics organized for the elderly often make it easier to receive the vaccine.
Treat yourself well. Ask yourself three questions and then get busy.