The average lifespan of a person in the United States is 78.93, an increase of about 11 years from life expectancy in 1950.
As life expectancy grows, geriatric medicine helps to look at the health needs of the aged. It is more important than ever before. Medical testing goes a long way towards aging well. It helps to prevent illnesses and ensure that senior citizens enjoy the best physical and mental health until the end of their lives.
The good news is that there are many elderly people who live well into their 90s without serious health problems or mental decline. Granted, a healthy genetic predisposition helps, but there are also many things a person can do to ensure they enjoy a long and fulfilling life well into their twilight years. All that is required is preventive medicine, exercise, good food, forging meaningful relationships and a bit of planning in advance.
By planning, we mean focusing on things that can be done to ensure a long, healthy and meaningful life for senior citizens. Here are some suggestions below:
Test for Bone Density
As people get older, their bones become weaker and sometimes so brittle that even minor accidents can cause fractures. Seniors, especially post-menopausal women, are at risk of osteoporosis. This is when bone breakdown is faster than bone formation, leading to low mineral density. The International Osteoporosis Foundation reports that there are currently 44 million men and women aged 50 and older in the United States who are suffering from osteoporosis and low bone mass.
Unfortunately, osteoporosis is often underdiagnosed because its symptoms are not overt. For this reason, it is important that senior citizens test for bone density as a preventive care measure. The bone density test uses X-rays to measure the amount of calcium and other minerals in your bones. While osteoporosis cannot be reversed, getting an early diagnosis through preventive screening can ensure a better quality of life by helping those in need regain bone density if necessary.
Senior Flu Shots
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends flu shots for people who are 65 years of age or older, as they are most at risk from complications resulting from the flu.
The CDC’s recommendation for senior flu shots is for good reason: The CDC estimates that 70 to 85 percent of deaths related to the flu concern people aged 65 and older, whereas Northwestern Medicine says it claims 40,000 elderly lives each year.
A quadrivalent vaccine, such as Fluad, is recommended, as it enhances elderly people’s immune responses. Fluad, contains the MF59 adjuvant, which is an additive to create a more fortified immune response than a standard flu vaccine.
However, even a high dose flu vaccine can help, as it has four times the antigen (inactivated virus) as a regular flu shot. Results from clinical trials showed that subjects over 65 years of age had 24 percent fewer flu illnesses compared to those who were injected with the standard flu vaccine.
The CDC also recommends that those 65 years of age or older get a pneumococcal vaccine to prevent diseases like pneumonia, meningitis and other diseases. In addition, seniors should practice everyday preventive actions like handwashing and avoiding people who are sick.
Annual Check Up
A geriatric assessment goes a long way to ensure senior health, as it is a multidimensional evaluation of a person’s physical and mental health so that potential problems can be identified early. The test includes an assessment of physical health, with blood pressure taken, cholesterol exams, colonoscopies, colorectal cancer screenings, test for bone density, as well as an evaluation of nutritional habits, weight, hearing, vision and mood. These evaluations are necessary to ensure good health.
Geriatricians help slow down problems before they get out of control, and not only prolong life expectancy but also help seniors have fulfilling lives until the end of their years.
As people age, their chance of having high cholesterol goes up. Fortunately, a cholesterol test can show you how to make changes before it is too late. A simple blood test can tell you if your cholesterol levels are too high. A doctor will consider your age, cholesterol level, lifestyle and other factors in order to recommend a cholesterol management plan. The plan may include changing your diet, exercising or taking medication if necessary.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Since 5000BC, people have practiced mindful meditation and enjoyed the many benefits it offers. Mindfulness is especially beneficial to the elderly, as it promotes good health.
All you need to do is sit still or lie down, focus on your breathing and let your thoughts drift. Instead of worrying about the future and dwelling on the past, mindfulness allows you to focus on the present.
The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is a standardized eight-week program, developed in the 1970s by the the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, it was developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a student of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk. The program assists people deal with stress and depression and is especially beneficial for seniors wishing to live a full life. There are, however, easy ways to practice mindfulness without taking a formal course. You can find easy ways to practice mindfulness and meditation during your everyday life.
Prevention and Preparedness
Retirement does not need to mean loneliness. It is a time to cultivate hobbies, meet with friends and travel. Light exercise, good nutrition, health check-ups and a social life can go a long way towards ensuring elderly people’s well-being.
Exercise can help prolong a person’s well-being: not just their physical well-being but also their mental health.
Preparedness is equally as important. It is essential for seniors to think about their future and possible health problems they may face. It is important to talk to family well in advance so that they are aware of your wishes later on in life. Too often these things are not discussed, causing confusion.
Aging well is just about thinking in advance and taking measures for a good life.