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Healthy Aging Tips

Maintaining an activity-filled lifestyle can help older adults enjoy more happy years with fewer trips to the doctor. Chronic illness plays a key role in the quality of life, and it accounts for 95 percent of healthcare expenditures among older adults. Here are some tips for staving off these diseases and living well:

Eat Well

Don’t underestimate the importance of a proper diet. As people age, the risk for a number of illnesses increases. Proper nutrition can stave off a number of ailments, increase energy and even improve mood. A well-planned diet can reduce the risk of a number of diseases, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Bone loss
  • Cancer
  • Anemia

Be active

This isn’t new, but it remains one of the best pieces of advice for adults who crave good health. Exercise doesn't have to be that intensive to provide benefits. There are many safe, low-impact activities for seniors. Certain exercises build coordination and muscle and decrease the risk of falls. Also, it’s never too late to start. Exercise can:

  • Help alleviate diseases and disabilities
  • Manage stress
  • Improve mood
  • Prevent or delay disease
  • Strengthen muscles
  • Improve balance
  • Improve blood flow

Get your sleep

Overall, Americans underrate sleep. Sure, it keeps us from being overly tired at the end of the day. But it also has profound effects on our health. Multiple studies link the lack of sleep to heart problems, strokes, obesity, clogged arteries and high blood pressure. It also increases inflammation in the body. Older adults with poor sleep can also experience additional issues, such as:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Increased falls
  • Increase in the use of over the counter sleep aids
  • Memory and attention issues
  • Sleep apnea

Prevent falls

Falls can take a drastic toll on older adults, causing bone fractures that can result in long hospital stays and hip implants. But falls don’t have to be an inevitable part of aging. Make sure your daily environment is safe from fall-related hazards. Some things to consider:

  • Remove loose rugs, especially throw rungs
  • Add handrails to walking areas
  • Put sturdy hold bars in the tub and shower area
  • Place a small plastic chair in the shower
  • Consider a lift chair. These are electric recliners that also lift forward, helping people to get in and out of chairs

Manage Stress

Stress makes us more prone to illnesses such as influenza and pneumonia, which are particularly dangerous to older Americans. Joining a group or club provides seniors with built-in social activities. Picking up a new hobby can be beneficial. And certain exercises and activities can help people manage stress. Some gentle, low-impact activities include:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Tai Chi
  • Water aerobics
  • Bike riding
  • Leisure walking
  • 81%

    According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, around 81 percent of seniors take prescription medication.

  • 100K

    Nearly 100,000 emergency room visits by older adults (starting at age 65) occur annually due to adverse drug reactions.

  • 40%

    Over 40 percent of people over age 65 take five to nine medications every day and 14-18 prescriptions per year.

  • 48

    A 2012 American Geriatric Society list of inappropriate medications for older adults says that at least 48 medications may lead to an adverse reaction.

Drugs and Medical Devices Every Senior Needs to Be Aware of

There are a number of drugs and medical devices that can cause problems for seniors. While not all patients may experience problems, it is important to be informed and be aware of possible complications.

Actos (pioglitazone), Takeda, 1999

  • Purpose: to manage type 2 diabetes
  • Complications: Heart failure, blurred vision, lactic acidosis, bone fractures and bladder cancer
  • Note to diabetes patients: Insulin overdosing is a common problem that can lead to hospitalization, so monitoring diet, activities and insulin dosage is important.

Avandia (rosiglitazone), GlaxoSmithKline, 1999

  • Purpose: to manage type 2 diabetes
  • Complications: edema, difficulty breathing, fast heartbeat, dark urine, yellowing of eyes or skin, nausea, abdominal pain, vision problems, bone fractures, heart attacks and congestive heart failure

Byetta/Bydureon (exenatide), Amylin, 2005

  • Purpose: to manage type 2 diabetes
  • Complications: pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, kidney damage

Crestor (rosuvastatin), AstraZeneca, 2003

  • Purpose: to prevent heart attacks by blocking cholesterol buildup
  • Complications: muscle deterioration, cardiomyopathy, type 2 diabetes, memory loss, kidney and liver damage, organ failure, heart problems and death

Fosamax (alendronate sodium), Merck, 1995

  • Purpose: to treat osteoporosis in postmenopausal women; to prevent and treat bone conditions like male osteoporosis and Paget’s disease
  • Complications: ONJ (jaw death), joint and muscle pain, irregular heartbeat, inflammation and ulcers of the esophagus

Granuflo and NaturaLyte, Fresenius Medical Care, 2003

  • Purpose: to treat acute and chronic kidney failure; used in hemodialysis solutions
  • Complications: metabolic alkalosis, which can lead to irregular heartbeat, low potassium and oxygen, and high carbon dioxide and death

Januvia/Janumet (sitagliptin), Merck & Co., 2006

  • Purpose: to manage type 2 diabetes
  • Complications: pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, kidney problems

Pradaxa (dabigatran), Boehringer Ingelheim, 2010

  • Purpose: blood thinner used to prevent strokes
  • Complications: uncontrolled bleeding, heart attack, liver failure and death

Tradjenta, Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly, 2011

  • Purpose: to manage type 2 diabetes
  • Complications: pancreatitis

Victoza (liraglutide), Novo Nordisk, 2010

  • Purpose: to manage type 2 diabetes
  • Complications: pancreatitis, thyroid cancer

Hip Replacements

  • In 2010, more than 450,000 hip replacements were performed in America, mostly on seniors.
  • Main manufacturers: DePuy, Stryker, and Zimmer, Smith and Nephew, Biomet and Wright Medical
  • Problematic implants: Pinnacle, ASR, Durom Cup
  • Complications: metal parts rubbing against each other can release toxic ions, loosening of parts, bone fractures, dislocation, necrosis, improper alignment, revision surgeries

Knee Replacements

  • In 2010, nearly 700,000 knee replacements were performed in America, mostly on seniors.
  • Manufacturers: Zimmer, DePuy, Smith and Nephew, Stryker and Biomet
  • Problematic devices: NexGen High-Flex
  • Complications: loosening of implant, bone loss, dislocation, bone fracture, infection, necrosis

Transvaginal Mesh

  • Purpose: medical device that treats pelvic organ prolapse in women
  • Complications: mesh erosion, organ perforation, revision surgery
View Sources
  1. Alexander, G.; Conti, R.; Johnson, M.; Lindau, S.; Qalo, D.; & Shumam, P. (2008 December 24). Use of prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements among older adults in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association, 300:24. Retrieved from http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=183125
  2. Budnitz, D.; Lovegrove, M.; Shehab, N.; & Richards, C. (2011 November 24). Emergency Hospitalizations for Adverse Drug Events in Older Americans. The New England Journal of Medicine, 365. Retrieved from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1103053
  3. Food and Drug Administration. (2009, May 12). Digoxin. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm128096.htm
  4. Food and Drug Administration. (2008, February). Ditropan. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/Safety-RelatedDrugLabelingChanges/ucm113884.htm
  5. Bharwani, N. (2011, December 13). Four most dangerous drug groups for seniors. Retrieved from http://nbharwani.com/2011/medicine-hat-news/four-most-dangerous-groups-of-drugs-for-seniors
  6. CBS News. (2007, September 13). Prescription peril eases with Beers list.
  7. Abbot Laboratories. (201, August 1). Synthroid. Retrieved from http://www.rxabbvie.com/pdf/Synthroid.pdf
  8. AARP. (2012) December 7). 9 Types of medication older adults should use with caution. Retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-07-2011/medications-older-adults-should-use-with-caution.html
  9. Martin, T. (2011 November 25). Common Drugs the Culprit in Most ER Visits by seniors, Study Finds. The Wall Street Journal.
  10. Goodwin, J. (2011, November 25). Four common meds send thousands of seniors to hospital. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/medical/health/medical/treatments/story/2011-11-25/Four-common-meds-send-thousands-of-seniors-to-hospital/51397208/1
  11. Food and Drug Administration. (1997, June 2). Approval package: Lanoxin. Retrieved from http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/97/020405ap_Lanoxin_apltr.pdf
  12. Merck.(2011, February). Sinemet. Retrieved from http://www.merck.com/product/usa/pi_circulars/s/sinemet/sinemet_pi.pdf
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