Taking special care of your health, particularly after the age of 60, will help you ward off illnesses before their onset and also will help prepare your body to fight the illnesses that may not be prevented. After age 60, hidden health dangers such as heart attack, stroke, cancer, osteoporosis, lung disorders and infectious diseases are more prevalent, and can appear with little warning.
Some simple lifestyle changes can significantly help manage or even avoid many potentially life-threatening conditions.
Take care of yourself
This is crucial in the senior years.
■ Don’t smoke.
■ Maintain a weight that is close to normal.
■ Get regular physical activity.
■ Eat a diet low in saturated and trans fats.
■ Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
Remember, after age 50 nutrition becomes increasingly important, so eat wisely and avoid empty calories. Keep in mind, however, that unexplained weight loss is a greater worry than a modest weight gain, particularly if it’s accompanied by waning strength and some loss of height. The latter is a sign of osteoporosis.
Seniors are reminded to stay active with workouts that build muscle mass, strength and bone density as well as cardiovascular fitness.
Take an active role
It’s important to learn as much as you can about any existing illnesses or conditions and ways to manage them. With a better understanding of current conditions and medication usages, time with your physician will be better spent on higher level discussions about ways to combat these illnesses and live a better quality life.
Your appointment with your doctor is your opportunity to address unanswered questions and state your concerns. Set goals for your appointment in advance. Make a list of the issues and symptoms you’d like to discuss with your doctor ahead of time and bring it with you.
Be sure to ask questions if you don’t understand. Don’t be embarrassed to discuss finances; ask about out-of-pocket costs. If a prescribed drug is too costly, ask if there is a less expensive option.
seek preventive measures
Most preventive screenings are covered by Medicare. Seniors should stay up to date on vaccinations such as flu, pneumonia and hepatitis. Additional tests are available and include cancer screenings; diabetes screening and self-management training. Bone mass or density measurements are also available along with cardiovascular screenings; and smoking cessation.
One important area, often neglected by healthy seniors, is vision. A comprehensive, dilated eye examination is recommended at least every two years after age 60 to check for glaucoma, macular degeneration, retinopathy and other age-related eye disorders.
Monitor your health
Your health is monitored, in part, by charting changes that take place over time. In addition to monitoring blood sugar, it’s also wise to track blood pressure.
The combination of high blood sugar and high blood pressure is associated with many of the most serious complications of diabetes such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, glaucoma and retinopathy.
If you have high blood pressure, it’s a good idea to take blood pressure readings several times a day and discuss these with your physician. Also be sure to keep a file of cholesterol screening tests. This will provide a snapshot of progression made with lifestyle changes prescribed by your physician.
Your continued good health is, in large part, a matter of attitude. Take a positive, active approach and communicate openly with your physician.
To Your Health is written by the staff of Boulder City Hospital. For more information, call 702-293-4111, ext. 576, or visit bouldercityhospital.org.