As people age, they are more susceptible to developing chronic diseases. Developing these diseases can be due to various factors such as a decline in the immune system, changes in lifestyle, and an increase in health risks. However, there are many things you can do to help prevent these diseases from occurring. Here are some ways to prevent common chronic diseases in older adults:
1. Preventative Measures Against Cancer
Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is the second biggest cause of preventable death in America, leading to cancer. Talk with your doctor about what a healthy weight is and how you can maintain it through a specific diet and exercise regimen. Not smoking helps reduce your risk of developing any cancer by at least 30%.
If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit. Wash hands regularly. This reduces your chance of getting infections, which leads to cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia. Limit your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning beds to prevent skin cancer. Cover up with clothing or use sunscreen when going out in the sun.
2. Preventive Measures Against Heart Disease and Stroke
Maintain a healthy weight by eating a proper diet and exercising regularly. Stop smoking if you currently smoke. Limit how much alcohol you drink, and do not use illegal drugs—control stress levels. If you feel that your stress levels are out of control, talk with your doctor or go to support groups to find ways to cope with them effectively. Reduce salt intake and eat foods high in potassium, such as soybeans and sweet potatoes, to help lower blood pressure.
Know your family history for heart disease and stroke because this affects the kind of treatment you get after a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke. Maintain an active lifestyle—walk frequently, engage in light exercise, learn yoga, etc. If you’ve already had a stroke, make sure to join a support group for stroke victims. This group will help you recover and lower your risk of having another stroke.
3. Preventive Measures Against Diabetes
Maintain a healthy weight by eating a proper diet and exercising regularly. If you are overweight, talk with your doctor about how to lose it in a healthy way that will support your overall health. Stop smoking if you currently smoke. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink because this can reduce insulin sensitivity. Get tested for diabetes at least once every three years, starting at age 45. Make sure to check your cholesterol levels as well, since high LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglyceride levels increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association provides support groups for people living with diabetes. These groups help patients strengthen their support network, share experiences, find answers to questions, and receive other valuable resources.
4. Preventive Measures Against Osteoporosis and Osteopenia
If you are at risk for developing osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about getting tested. To prevent or reduce the chances of getting this disease, have adequate vitamin D and calcium intake by eating a proper diet and taking supplements if necessary. Get enough weight-bearing exercise such as walking, running, biking, etc. Stop smoking if you currently smoke. Limit how much alcohol you drink because it can increase the amount of calcium excreted in the urine.
5. Preventative Measures Against Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Be sun smart, just like with skin cancer, to reduce your chance of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness in those over 65. Know your family history for Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease because this affects the kind of treatment you get after a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke. Limit how much alcohol you drink because it can increase the amount of calcium excreted in the urine.
6. Preventive Measures Against Influenza and Pneumonia
Get an annual flu vaccine starting at age 65. Everyone above age 65 should be vaccinated against influenza every year unless they have a contraindication to this vaccine, such as allergies to eggs or other components. The pneumonia vaccine is also recommended for those above 65 years old if they smoke, had surgery on their stomach or intestines, or have had a stroke.
7. Preventive Measures Against Vision Loss and Eye Disease
Cover up from sunlight or tanning beds to prevent skin cancer, leading to vision loss and cataracts. Get screened for glaucoma every two years starting at age 40 by your eye doctor since this disease can cause blindness if left untreated. See an eye doctor right away if you notice any problems with your eyes. Early symptoms can include blurry vision, seeing halos around lights, frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions, etc.
Older adults must get regular check-ups and preventative care to stay healthy. The key to living a long, healthy life is early detection, helping you live longer.