According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, 46 million seniors live in the United States today. On top of that, older Americans – those age 65 and older – now account for 15% of the overall U.S. population. By 2050, as many as 1 in 5 Americans could be elderly.
While we may be living longer, older adults are not necessarily living healthier, more active lives.
Quality of life depends on your ability to decrease your risk for chronic diseases like:
So, let’s take a look at each one to see what healthy habits you can start, even as an older adult, to live a long, healthy life.
Older Adults and Diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association more than 25% of older adults in the United States have diabetes. Researchers say the aging of the overall population is a significant driver of the diabetes epidemic.
The recommendations for treating older adults with diabetes vary based on age and how healthy you are. If you’re healthy and have good cognitive function, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan similar to those for younger adults with diabetes. If your mobility is hampered, or if you have additional health issues, your plan will be individualized.
As in younger patients with type 2 diabetes, reducing your risk starts with things like:
- Smoking cessation
- Treatment of high blood pressure
- High cholesterol treatment
Most treatment plans will start with eating a healthy diet and physical activity.
Older Adults and COPD
Older adults are prone to the negative health effects that come with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It’s a group of lung disorders that cause blocked airways. The most common forms are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
If you have COPD you may do things like:
- Become short of breath
- Cough Frequently
- Feel like you can’t breathe
According to the National Institutes of Health, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Their researchers also remind us that COPD has no cure yet. However, lifestyle changes and treatments can help you feel better, stay more active, and slow the progress of the disease.
The goals of COPD treatment include:
- Relieving your symptoms
- Slowing the progress of the disease
- Improving your exercise tolerance or your ability to stay active
- Preventing and treating complications
- Improving your overall health
The overall goal is to keep your lungs as healthy as possible.
Older Adults and Heart Disease
The American Heart Association estimates 81 percent of people who die of coronary heart disease are older adults—65 years old or older. The leading risks include:
- Physical inactivity
- Poor diet
- Binge drinking
If you are an older adult with heart disease, maintaining health means adhering to a self-management plan which includes:
- Physical activity
- Positive dietary behaviors
- Reduction of smoking and binge drinking
You should develop a self-management plan with your doctor and have the confidence to stick with it—at any age.
The miracles of modern medicine and research provide you with the ability to live longer. But the onus falls on you to take care of yourself. It’s never too late, even as an older adult, to develop a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising. You can improve your quality of life significantly, and the effects are immediate.
If you're looking for more information our guide “The Most Concerning Health Issues for Older Adults” will list some others and help you to decrease your risk. Download it today.