Healthy Aging Tips

The celebration of Grandparents Day this week is a good time to highlight ways this large segment of the population can stay healthy as they age.

Many grandparents are baby boomers — the post-World War II generation born between 1946 and 1964. They account for about 26 percent of the U.S. population. Of the existing 76.4 million baby boomers, about 10,000 are turning 65 each day. These staggering statistics represent challenges and opportunities for the healthcare industry.

Primary care physicians are increasingly providing the aging population with “wellness and prevention” guidelines so that their patients can remain engaged in active and productive lives decades past retirement.

There has been a lot of progress in cancer detection and early intervention of heart disease, but large segments of the aging population are still neglecting “preventive services” that include routine cancer screenings and even basic checkups, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Only 25 percent of adults aged 50 to 64 years — and less than 50 percent of adults aged 65 years or older — are up to date on their health screenings, the CDC says. These services include screenings for chronic conditions, immunizations for diseases such as influenza and pneumonia, and counseling about personal health behaviors, the agency says.

“A significant number of seniors receive routine physicals and stay in regular contact with their doctor, but there’s still room for improvement,” said Mark Caruso, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group physician with Baptist Health Primary Care. “Wellness and prevention are key to healthy aging.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) provides a complete list of recommended screenings for U.S. adults of all ages, with many of the guidelines targeting men and women over the age of 50.

Here are the top 5 steps that they can take toward healthy aging:

1. Get Regular Health Screenings/Checkups:
The recommendations cover the well-known guidelines for heart disease risk factors (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar), and colorectal and breast cancer screenings, but there are many other screenings that don’t get as much publicity. All adults are encouraged to consult with their primary care physicians about the proper health screenings, particularly men and women over the age of 50.

2. Exercise/Increase Mobility:
Many studies have proven the benefits of regular exercise or a lifestyle that is more active than sedentary. The studies also have found that when older people lose their mobility or ability to do daily things on their own, it happens because they’re not active enough. Even mild-to-moderate exercise can benefit older adults afflicted with arthritis and other chronic conditions that restrict mobility. Staying physically active can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities.  The CDC offers these physical activity guidelines for older adults.

3. Follow Nutritional Guidelines:
Healthier living through proper eating has been chronicled in numerous studies that promote eating the right balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources. Staying away from added sugars and too much sodium, for example, can help control or prevent heart disease factors such as diabetes or high blood pressure. As adults get older, proper nutrition becomes even more vital for more robust living. Here’s a nutrition guide for older adults from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

4. Manage Chronic Conditions:
Aging often comes with the challenges of treating and living with chronic diseases, including arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and  painful neuroskeletal conditions that affect movement and quality of life. Managing these conditions is critical to extend an active lifestyle.  Treatments often include medications that need monitoring for side effects and potentially harmful interactions with each other. Older adults should consult with their doctors about lifestyle modifications as well, including regular exercise and nutrition to keep chronic conditions from interfering with quality of life.

5. Keep Busy With Low Stress:
Older adults who are more engaged in regular activities, whether volunteering or working, tend to have greater overall well-being, especially when it comes to mental health, according to many studies. The important aspect of “keeping busy” is not to let stress affect your health. Feeling emotional or nervous, or having trouble sleeping and eating are all normal reactions to stress. As you get older, sleeping patterns can become disrupted as a natural consequence of aging. Living with less stress can help overcome many chronic health conditions, including heart disease.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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