Whenever someone passes the century market on this planet, they are usually asked, “What is your secret to long life and good health?”
The young have the freedom to live with reckless abandon, confident they will live forever. In reality, we discover as we age that our health often reflects earlier choices and pays dividends later in life. Ask anyone in their 30s and 40s who is warned by their doctor to watch their cholesterol or lectured by a dental hygienist to brush and floss.
In our increasingly sedentary society, there’s no surprise that more than a third of adults are considered to be obese. A 2011 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that each hour people spent sitting down and watching TV after age 25 was linked to a deduction of 22 minutes from their overall life expectancy.
According to the National Institute on Aging, staying active and taking charge of one’s health are key to managing future well-being.
Here are 8 Areas of Age-Related Change that older adults will likely face and how to prepare:
Problem: Forgetfulness is so common as we age that our culture deems it as “having a senior moment”, but there is a difference between momentary confusion and the onset of memory loss and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Solution: Alcohol misuse can increase the risk of damage to the brain, as well as damage to the liver, esophagus, throat and larynx. Scientists do not yet know what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but they do believe it arises from a complex series of brain changes that evolve over decades, possibly a mix of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that affect each person differently. Diet and physical exercise are recommended to reduce the risk. Memory Care may be of great use to those who have access to a senior living community like Regency.
BONES AND JOINTS
Problem: Decades of carrying around our body weight bears down on the bones and movable joints. Osteoporosis weakens bones to the point where they break easily, most often in women. Arthritis comes in different types but usually means cartilage in a joint wearing away. Inflammation can result in pain and stiffness.
Solution: Scientists recommend consuming calcium and vitamin D to prevent weakened bones, as well as exercise. Our bones begin to weaken in our 40s. Lifestyle changes and flexibility exercises can pay off later in life. Weight loss is a recurring theme, as doctors say that losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight can pay big rewards, lowering the possibility of Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, some types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and other problems. At Regency’s communities, residents are encouraged to participate in physical activities to maintain their health.
EYES & EARS
Problem: Around age 40, people slowly begin to notice changes in vision such as inability to read small print without reading glasses. Hearing also declines due to a condition called Presbycusis.
Solution: Vision loss is inevitable, but you can protect yourself by having annual eye exams to detect early signs of cataracts, glaucoma or retinal disorders that may develop around age 60 or as a result of diabetic vision loss. Hearing aids can improve the quality of life for seniors with hearing loss. In younger years, moderating exposure to loud noises can delay hearing loss.
DIGESTIVE & METABOLIC SYSTEM
Problem: About 40 percent of adults ages 40 to 74 — or 41 million people — have pre-diabetes, a condition that raises a person's risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Heartburn can also be an issue as stomach contents can leak back, or reflux, into the esophagus.
Solution: Lifestyle changes such as losing weight and increasing physical activity reduce the development of diabetes by 71 percent in people over age 60.
BLADDER & PROSTATE
Problem: Loss of bladder control is very common in older people, with 1 in 10 people over age 65 experiencing leaking, particularly women. For men, the prostate grows bigger with age, making it harder to pass urine. Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men in the US.
Solution: Ask a doctor if your medicines can affect the amount of urine you produce. Limit alcohol and caffeine while drinking more water to improve bladder health. Seek treatment for urinary incontinence and urinary tract infections. Seniors experiencing these issues greatly benefit from the compassionate care they receive at Regency, where light housekeeping tasks are performed by others.
LOSS OF TEETH
Problem: Bacteria ruins the enamel that protects teeth, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. Infection, if left untreated, can ruin the bones, gums and tissue that support the teeth.
Solution: Brushing twice a day prevents plaque from forming into tartar that leads to destructive gingivitis. Going to a dentist twice a year for a routine cleaning can prevent plaque buildup.
Problem: Years of exposure to sunlight, stress, dehydration, and toxins such as cigarettes lead to changes such as dryness, wrinkles and age spots. Skin cancer is the most common type in the nation. Melanoma can be fatal if it spreads to other organs in the body. Shingles can affect those over 50 who suffered chickenpox earlier in life.
Solution: There is now a shingles vaccine show to boost immunity against the virus. Experts recommend staying out of the sun to keep skin healthy and young looking. We also need to avoid dehydration caused by overheating in the winters and using air conditioning during summertime.
Problem: Falls can come as a result of reduced vision, muscle strength, coordination, and reflexes, as well as inner ear infections, diabetes and heart disease or circulation problems. Increased use of medicines can cause dizziness.
Solution: Removing hazards in the home can reduce tripping incidents. Keeping a healthy weight, moderate exercise, drinking less alcohol, eating less salt, and eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods can all reduce blood pressure and thus lower the risk of stroke, heart disease, eye problems, and kidney failure. Walkers and canes can provide greater support and improve mobility. Talk to a doctor to determine if unwanted side effects of medicines are causing dizziness. Seniors and their families may experience greater peace of mind by moving to a senior community such as Regency where their physical needs are key to the design.
These are just a few of the keys to realizing the Fountain of Youth and living a long, healthy life. Beyond the body itself, attitude and being socially connected also impact our lifespans.
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise plan or making other changes that can affect your health. To learn more, visit http://www.nihseniorhealth.gov.
To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.
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