It’s never too early to think about healthy aging, because what you do now can improve your future health for years to come. You might not realize it, but we start aging when we stop growing. That means we start aging when we hit 21 years of age.
While we cannot stop aging, we can age in a healthy way when we approach aging as a normal process and do the best we can to live in a healthy way and enjoy our life.
Keep in mind physical health isn’t the only thing to think about. I talk to patients about physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects of their lives. The overall goals for healthy aging are to focus on endurance, keeping mobility, being active, and living independently for as long as possible.
The primary biological activities or factors shown to increase the chance of aging optimally are exercise, nutrition, sleep, avoidance of disease-causing agents such as smoking, practicing preventive medicine and early treatment of diseases and medical conditions like COPD and osteoporosis, which can lead to falls and broken hips.
Healthy Aging and Metabolic Syndrome
One thing we watch for is metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious health problems. The group of conditions which signal metabolic syndrome include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Excess body fat around the wait
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
Metabolic syndrome is very common in the United States – up to one-third of adults have it, but it’s something you can address with weight loss, exercise, a nutritious diet and quitting smoking. Sometimes treatments are prescribed to reduce blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol levels.
We perform routine screening to prevent further complications and health issues from heart disease, diabetes and cancers. Starting in their 40s we will talk with patients about history of heart disease or other concerns and schedule screenings based on their level of risk.
Cancer screenings are important to prevent or catch cancers while they are still easily treated. Genetic counseling is an option if they have a family history of some cancers. Utilizing screening tests for stroke, heart disease, cancer, etc., combined with healthy nutrition and exercise, and other behavioral modifications, can help prevent premature deaths and complications.
It’s also important to get the recommended immunizations for your given age to improve the immune system and also prevent complications from communicable or preventable diseases such as the flu and shingles.
As many as 60 percent of elderly people have depression, and it’s an important aspect of health at any age. I talk to patients about how they are doing, especially as they retire and adjust to life outside of work.
Screening for memory and dementia are also important. We can talk about brain exercises and work with family on what to expect down the road.
Healthy aging isn’t something we talk about one time. It’s a topic we come back to multiple times in the care of our patients because it’s a lifetime goal. Listening is just as important as counseling, because we all want to be heard and respected. My role is to give patients evidence-based truth, to educate them and listen to their concerns so they can take positive steps to improve their health for years to come.
Reach out to your Primary Care provider for more information.