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Healthy Living for Seniors

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What is Healthy Aging?

If all Americans took scientifically recommended action to prevent heart disease, the number of heart attacks would be cut by two-thirds, the number of strokes would be cut by one-third, and life expectancy would increase by 1.3 years. If we would stop smoking, get screened for cancer, eat healthy food, and exercise regularly, the number of cancer deaths could be cut by 60 percent. If Americans achieved only moderate weight loss, diabetes would be cut by over 50 percent.

So, in order to age in a healthful manner and add life to our years, we should:

  • Exercise
  • Eat well
  • Receive preventive clinical services
  • Exercise our brain
  • Recognize and treat depression
  • Educate and support the caregiving role
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Benefits of Exercise

Studies have shown that exercise provides many health benefits, and that elders can gain a lot by staying physically active.

Do you have a regular physical activity program?

  • Endurance or aerobic activity like brisk walking
  • Strength exercises, like lifting weights or using resistance bands
  • Balance exercises like tai chi
  • Flexing or stretching

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Like most people, you've probably heard that physical activity and exercise are good for you. In fact, being physically active on a regular basis is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Even moderate exercise can improve the health of people who are frail or who have chronic disease. Being physically active can also help you stay strong and fit enough to keep doing the things you like to do as you get older. Making physical activity a regular part of your life can improve your health and help you maintain your independence.

Inactive older adults become weak in four areas that are important for staying healthy and independent: endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Research suggests that you can maintain or at least partially restore these four areas through exercise and physical activity and that doing so improves fitness. Endurance, or aerobic activities like brisk walking or swimming, that increases your breathing and heart rate. Strength exercises like lifting weights and using resistance bands can increase muscle strength. Lower-body strength exercises also will improve your balance. Balance exercises like tai chi can improve your ability to control and maintain your body's position. Good balance is important to help prevent falls and avoid the disability that may result from falling. Stretching can help your body stay flexible and limber, which gives you more freedom of movement for your regular physical activity as well as for your everyday activities.

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Eating Well

Eating a well-planned, balanced mix of foods every day has many health benefits.

Do you eat well?

  • Choose a variety of healthy foods
  • Avoid empty calories, which are foods with lots of calories but few nutrients, such as chips, cookies, soda and alcohol
  • Pick foods that are low in cholesterol and fat, especially saturated and trans fats

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For instance, eating well may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, some kinds of cancer, and anemia. If you already have one or more of these chronic diseases, eating well and being physically active may help you better manage them. Healthy eating may also help you reduce high blood pressure, lower high cholesterol, and manage diabetes. Studies show that a good diet in your later years reduces your risk of osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers.

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Preventive Clinical Services

There are a core set of recommended preventive services that are very effective in preventing disease or detecting disease early. Among these services are screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers, and vaccinations against influenza and pneumococcal disease.

Despite the effectiveness of these potentially life-saving preventive services, only one-quarter of adults aged 50 to 64 years in the United States, and fewer than 40 percent of adults aged 65 years and older are up to date on these services.

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Cognitive Health

The lack of cognitive health from mild cognitive decline to dementia can have profound implications for an individual's overall health and well-being.

  • Do you take care of yourself emotionally?
  • Do you provide care to a family member/friend?
  • Do you have mild cognitive decline or dementia?

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Cognition is a vital part of healthy aging and quality of life. Cognition is a combination of mental processes that includes the ability to learn new things, intuition, judgment, language, and remembering. Elders and others experiencing cognitive decline may be unable to care for themselves or to conduct necessary activities of daily living, such as meal preparation and money management. Limitations with the ability to effectively manage medications and existing medical conditions are particular concerns when an individual is experiencing cognitive decline or dementia. If cognitive decline can be prevented or better treated, quality of life improves.

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Depression

Depression is a true and treatable medical condition, not a normal part of aging.

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However elders are at an increased risk for experiencing depression. If you are concerned about a loved one, offer to go with him or her to see a health care provider to be diagnosed and treated. Depression is not just having "the blues" or the emotions we feel when grieving the loss of a loved one. It is a true medical condition that is treatable, like diabetes or hypertension.

The good news is that the majority of elders are not depressed. Some estimates of major depression in elders living in the community range from less than 1% to about 5%.

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Caregiving

Caregiving exerts a tremendous toll on caregivers' health and well-being, and accounts for significant costs to families and society.

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Caregiver demand is driven by the steady increase in our elder population and functional impairment. As the number of elders rise, so does the number of needed caregivers. The number of people 65 years old and older in the U.S. is expected to rise by over 100% between 2000 and 2030, at a rate of 2.3% each year, with Nevada even higher. Unfortunately, however, over that same 30-year period the number of family members who are available to provide care for these older adults is expected to increase by only 25%, at a rate of 0.8% per year.

Family caregiving has been associated with increased levels of depression and anxiety, as well as higher use of psychoactive medications, poorer self-reported physical health, compromised immune function, and increased mortality. Over half of caregivers indicate that their decline in health compromises their ability to provide care.

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Social Network

Are you socially active?

  • Living situation: Family; Congretate; Boarding; Loved Ones; Alone
  • Attend religious activities
  • Volunteer or Work
  • Friends
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