Prepare for Aging While Young

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May 29, 2014


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Attending college, launching careers or starting families are often priorities for the 20- and 30-something crowd. But preparing for aging? That’s a tough order. Typically, young adults don’t think much about aging, and its potential link to chronic health problems.

But good health should be a way of life from the earliest stage of adulthood. The prescription for your senior years: If you want to age well, you need to start now. That’s the prevailing “wellness and prevention” theme that a growing number of family medicine physicians, internists and primary care doctors are trying to get across to their patients.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle as early as possible includes healthy eating, regular exercise and “preventive physicals,” according to Anaisys Ballesteros, D.O., a family practice specialist with Baptist Health Medical Group.

“While you’re young, you can avoid chronic problem years down the road,” Dr. Ballesteros said. “It’s important to stay ahead of the game with preventive physical exams and health screenings, depending on your age group.”

Screenings for breast and colorectal cancers, for example, are recommended starting at mid-life: 40 to 50 years of age. But when it comes to other health issues, including risk factors for heart disease, age is not necessarily a factor.

Medical research indicates that young adults need to look out for high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and even conditions associated with older adults, such as bone and joint health. But often younger adults in their 20s and 30s don’t realize the importance that even stress can play in such risk factors, or overall health, according to medical experts.

“Most people don’t like to speak about mental health and stress management, but these are important factors from a young age in a person’s healthy development,” Dr. Ballesteros said.

There’s also the matter of understanding your family medical history. Early onset of heart disease, for example, has been tied to genetics.

“Most importantly, if you know you have a pre-disposition for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer, you need to discuss this family history with your doctor,” Dr. Ballesteros said.

How do you get young people to think about their long-term health? Much of that responsibility is falling on employers across the nation, Dr. Ballesteros said. More companies, she said, are actively getting employees to get  annual physicals, sometimes even offering basic lab services and health insurance rebates as incentives.

“Companies understand that if they keep their employees healthy in the long-term, they can save both lives and money,” she said.

Here are the primary factors in preparing for aging while young:

1. Exercise: Countless studies remind the public of the benefits of regular exercise for overall health and stress management.

2. Eating Healthy: Nutritional experts recommend a balanced diet containing the proper portions of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein sources.

3. Regular Check-ups: Regular physical exams and blood tests are very important in detecting early risk factors for heart disease and other conditions.

4. Stress Management: Many studies have found that stress seems to worsen or increase the risk of conditions such as obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems and asthma.

5. Don’t smoke: Avoiding habits that are detrimental to your health may be an obvious factor, but many young people are still opting to smoke cigarettes despite decades of studies linking chemicals in tobacco products to various cancers and heart disease, according to federal research.

“As a nation, we are getting better at doing something about our health, but we need to keep promoting the importance of taking care of ourselves in our younger years,”  Dr. Ballesteros said.


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