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A Closer Look at the Physical Health of Seniors
 
 

A Closer Look at the Physical Health of Seniors

Maintaining good health with aging is not just a matter of the likelihood of disease, or typical life span, that happens to run in your family. Health care professionals advise seniors that lifestyle choices have a profound impact on their longevity and level of health enjoyed as they age.

Taking care of your body and managing stress are crucial for seniors to continue to thrive. Whether a senior is 55 or 80, he or she can make changes that can turn around poor health, aches and pains and propensity for disease. Following are key behaviors needed for seniors to feel healthy and happy.

Choices for healthy aging to facilitate disease prevention, optimal well-being, and longevity


Dan Buettner a journalist for National Geographic Magazine who traveled the world for seven years to research centenarians' secrets to longevity, found the following behaviors common among 100+ individuals in diverse regions of the world.

Have positive people in your life who lead healthy and active lives

Have a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning, whether a sport, hobby, friendships, volunteer work, second career etc
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Eat small quantities and mostly plant based foods, with a little meat if desired

Avoid alcohol, or drink minimal amount if desired

Manage stress by taking time out, no matter how busy, to connect with God or a source, or state, of being that gives you calm and inner peace.

Incorporate physical activity into daily routines: The centenarians in 7 diverse regions of the world overwhelmingly have physically active lifestyles. That does not refer to a formal exercise program in most cases: Instead, these long-lived individuals incorporate physically engaging routine or recreational activities into everyday lives.

What keeps people going strong at age

100 and beyond?

Gardening

Shopping

Cleaning

Cooking:

Stirring cutting and slicing

Reaching, bending, stretching, lifting, carrying

Walking as a mode of transportation

Taking the stairs

Car trips - moving the body in and out of the car

Active leisure:

Bowling,

Dancing,

Yoga,

Bike riding,

Hiking.

Just about anything involving physical movement or exertion

Their was an underlying theme to this--being self sufficient: fixing or building things instead of buying, cooking instead of someone cooking for you (within reason)... Relying on oneself for routine daily activities requires physical engagement.

Other important keys to healthy aging include drinking plenty of water, avoiding smoking and unnecessary use of drugs, and using care to guard against falls and other injuries. Moreover, seniors should be cognizant of when it is time to give up driving-embrace the use of buses, taxis, rides from friends, and especially walking. Older individuals should see their doctors for recommended health screenings, just as people of all ages.

The Physical Aging Process - What To Expect, What is Normal

The health of seniors gradually diminishes with aging, but the changes are manageable, and not all adverse. The genes you were born with determine some of your health as you age, but choices made can balance out hereditary factors. By the same token, so called "good genes", such as a family heritage of longevity, can be detrimentally reversed by poor choices, such as smoking, overeating and lack of physical engagement. Following are physical changes that generally occur with aging.

Body composition and metabolism - As the body ages, it is normal for the metabolism to slow down, and muscles to decrease and fat increases. However, building or keeping your muscle strength is very possible for seniors, if they decrease calories to counter the slower metabolism. It is only when they become sedentary that muscles begin to atrophy. A cycle will occur without proper physical movement and exertion: Muscles will weaken, and this will cause the metabolism to slow down even more, which can result in weight gain and other health problems. Alternatively, with exercise, the metabolism stays the same or can increase, and muscles stay or get strong.

Heart, lungs and blood circulation - The heart will be less efficient and larger in the senior years: Thus, it needs to work b bit harder. Energy will decrease somewhat for each decade of aging. Lungs also loose efficiency in sedentary people, but not necessarily, if the body keeps moving and doing what it was made to do. We could conclude the body is made to move and work, not to sit, because health studies indicate that keeping active prolongs life and health: It is meant to bend, stretch, reach, walk at a goodly pace, turn and twist in a comfortable fashion.

Kidneys - The kidneys become smaller and are not as good at eliminating toxins and waste from the body. Seniors can counter this by avoiding toxins as much as possible, such as-drugs and alcohol, smoke, sprays, and foods with questionable ingredients. Drinking extra water also helps the kidneys to clear waste.

Urinary tract - It is natural with age for seniors to have some incontinence, but this is not a problem for all seniors. Lack of bodily activity, and some medicines can make it harder for the bladder to contain liquids. There are ways to stop incontinence-seniors and their doctors should address it. It can be ameliorated.

Skin and hair - The skin becomes drier and less elastic. Moisture products and avoiding extra exposure to the sun can counteract the skin's aging. Hair naturally becomes thinner with age, but new grey hair grows in at a healthy rate.

Bones -Bones tend to weaken with age, meaning seniors can get osteoporosis. Vitamin D and calcium help to protect the bones, as can avoiding smoking and doing weight bearing exercise.

Central nervous system-the brain - Brain function decreases with age, but it need not effect seniors, because with use, the brain bounces back or does not become inefficient. Moving the body will increase blood flow to the brain and learning new things will increase brainpower.

Height -As the body compresses, it is normal around age 80 to lose up to 2 inches of height.

Vision and hearing -It is normal around age 40 to experience weakening vision. Presbyopia brings the need for reading glasses, and distance and night vision decline, as does the ability to see sharply. Audible signals such as high frequencies and tone patterns, making it harder to decipher words and sounds.

Sleep quality -Most maturing adults need less sleep, tend to sleep lighter, and wake up more frequently during the night. They may also wake up earlier than they have in younger years.

Sexual response - Women and men produce less hormones starting around age 50, which slows down sexual response. However, the sex drive does not decrease in men and not in all women. Women's changes with menopause can bring physical changes that make sex less enjoyable, however a doctor can recommend treatment for women in this area.

Most Prevalent Geriatric diseases

USA Leading Causes of Death in 2007 for

Males and Females of All Races

Rank

Age 65-85+

1

1

Cardiovascular Disease

2

2

Cancer

3

3

Cerebrovascular Disease

115,961

4

4

Chron.Low.Resperitory Dis.

Respiratory

Disease

109,562

5

Alzheimer's Disease

1. Cardiovascular diseases affect the heart and blood vessels, leading to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia and heart valve problems. Mainly caused by plaque build up-narrowing of arteries making blood flow difficult, sometimes causing blood clots. Blood clots cause stroke and heat attack. Lifestyle factors leading to cardiovascular diseases can include: sedentary lifestyle, or lack of physical activity, smoking, overweight and alcohol overuse.

2. Cancer includes over 100 diseases, caused by genetics. Some risk factors are smoking, unhealthy diet and sun exposure (skin cancer is the most common cancer type). Also, being older increases the risk of cancer. Toxins in the environment may relate to cancer occurrence. Frequent screenings can catch cancers early when most treatable. Eating fruits, vegetables and plenty of fiber may prevent certain cancers. Many cancers are curable with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and biological therapy-using biological response modifiers that assist the body in fighting the disease.

3. Cerebrovascular disease (stroke) is also a cardiovascular disease that affects arteries to the brain. It is often caused by atherosclerosis, leading to a stroke. Risk factors are smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and being over age 65.

4. Chronic lower respiratory disease-includes COPD: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis, emphysema. Risk factors include: smoking and exposure to irritants such as chemicals and dust. Once the disease is present there is not a definite cure, so it must be managed by quitting smoking and avoiding contact with offending irritants, and treatment with cortasteroids and inhalants, or in severe cases, lung transplant. Air filters or cleaners and getting quality sleep may also lesson symptoms.

5. Alzheimer's Disease- you can distinguish between normal changes in cognition due to aging and Alzheimer's' through the following contrast of symptoms: If it is Alzheimer's, poor judgment will be evident routinely, versus only once in awhile, and money management will be highly lacking, versus just missing an occasional payment deadline. The Alzheimer's sufferer will also have pronounced inability to determine present date, time and time of season, versus temporarily forgetting what whether it is Tuesday or Wednesday. Ability to converse and recall faces will be continually compromised as compared with occasionally forgetting a familiar word, and losing things will be an everyday event as opposed to misplacing the keys now and then.

The causes of Alzheimer's appear to be genetics and growing older, but head injury and overall poor health may come into play. To decrease chances of getting Alzheimer's be sure to wear a seatbelt, and protect the head for sports, bicycle riding, etc. as well as everyday activities where bumps to the head may occur. Some indicators point to the following factors to decrease chances of getting Alzheimer's: proper blood pressure and weight, exercising often and having an active social life. Particularly encouraged is keeping the brain active by learning new things, and overall mental stimulation.
Other chronic diseases and health issues of a physical nature common to seniors include diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, Parkinson's, liver and kidney disease and serious or fatal accidental injuries, particularly falls.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a physician. Health recommendations can vary; therefore it is necessary to consult your doctor for recommendations specific to your unique composition and needs.

 
 
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