Staying Healthy At 50+
Life expectancy has grown dramatically over the last century, but not all those living longer now are living well. The survey “Growing Old in America: The Health and Retirement Study,” (HRS) sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, found some compelling insights into the health of older Americans.
* Less than half of HRS participants aged 55 to 64 said they are in very good or excellent health.
* Only about one quarter of participants aged 65 and older said they are in very good or excellent health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading causes of death for U.S. adults aged 65 or older are heart disease, cancer and stroke. These account for 61 percent of all deaths in this age group.
What many people don’t realize is that behavior changes and preventive screenings can help them live better and longer lives.
Men and women over 50 can take action to improve their overall health. It’s never too late to start.
* Be tobacco free. To talk to someone about how, call the National Quitline at 1-800-QUITNOW.
* Get active. Start small and work up to 30 minutes or more of moderate activity several days a week. Talk to your doctor about what you can do.
* Eat healthy. Lean meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fat free or low fat milk and milk products are best for people of any age.
* Maintain a healthy weight. Balance calorie intake with calories spent in exercise. Talk to your doctor if you start to gain or lose weight unexpectedly.
* Get immunized. Influenza and pneumonia kill an average of 36,000 people a year, most of whom are women aged 65 or older. The right immunizations can prevent not only the flu and pneumonia, but whooping cough and shingles as well.
Clinicians order diagnostic tests when they suspect someone has a disease. Screening tests, however, help check for problems before symptoms are apparent. Health experts from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend the following screenings for men and women over age 50:
Colorectal Cancer. This is the third most common type of cancer for both men and women and the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. More than 90 percent of cases are diagnosed in people aged 50 or older. The Task Force recommends
* A fecal occult blood test every year
* Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
Depression.Emotional health is as important as physical health. If you have felt down, sad or hopeless over the last two weeks, or have felt little interest or pleasure in doing things, you might have depression. Talk to your doctor about getting screened.
High Blood Pressure. Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years. If you have high blood pressure, have a blood test for diabetes.
High Cholesterol. Have your cholesterol checked regularly.
Women over age 50 should have the following screenings as well:
Breast Cancer. Mammogram every one to two years. The risk of getting breast cancer increases as a woman gets older. Nearly eight of 10 cases of breast cancer are found in women over age 50.
Cervical Cancer. Pap smear every one to three years.
Check with your doctor about what screenings you should have. Targeted screenings based on age, gender, underlying health condition or family history can make all the difference for a healthy life.
Courtesy of Family Features