Aging

Children born today in the United States can expect to live nearly 78 years. That life expectancy is a great leap forward from 1900, when the average newborn couldn’t expect to reach age 50. Similar increases have been seen in in developed nations all around the world. In the 20th century, life expectancy increased more than it had in any century since the beginning of human civilization.

Life expectancy at various ages in teh United States

And the longer you live, the longer you can expect to live. Average life expectancy for a newborn American is 78 years, while it is 84 years for a 65-year-old and 87 years for a 75-year old.

But extending the lifespan has also increased the burden of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, macular degeneration, and other conditions that tend to affect older individuals. Most of these diseases, though, aren't inevitable consequences of aging. Instead, many are preventable.

Solid research from long-term studies such as the Framingham Heart Study, the Nurses' Health Study, and others have shown that the combination of not smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar in check can prevent three-quarters or more of these chronic conditions.

Aging Articles

Easing into exercise

Even if you’ve never done formal exercise, some regular moderate exercise — ideally for at least 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure and many other risk factors linked to heart disease. More »

Focus on concentration

Everyone’s attention tends to wander with age. Certain lifestyle strategies, such as working in blocks of time and practicing stimulating activities, can help people sharpen their focus and improve the brain’s executive function skills, such as planning, making decisions, and paying attention. More »

Tips to minimize the risks of anesthesia

Getting anesthesia as an older person has some risk, but less so than the risk from underlying health conditions, the surgical procedure itself, and the care that’s received after surgery. To cope with risks, one can ask a doctor if a delirium risk evaluation would be helpful before surgery; ask if delirium prevention approaches can be put into place after surgery; have family member or friend monitor recovery and watch for mental changes (and report them); and ask if the risks of anesthesia may outweigh the benefits of a procedure. (Locked) More »

Be ready for emergencies

New data from the National Poll on Healthy Aging show that most adults ages 50 to 80 are ill prepared for severe weather, long-term power outages, or other emergency situations. Taking action now, including creating an emergency at-home kit and preparing for possible health needs, can avoid stress, expenses, and risks if an emergency happens. (Locked) More »

How to improve your episodic memory

Older adults who have trouble recalling past events often chalk it up to “senior moments,” but the problem is a breakdown in their episodic memory. While people can’t reverse the effect of aging on this type of memory loss, certain strategies can help a person learn and retain new information, better access past details, and use that knowledge in the future. (Locked) More »

The act of balancing

As people age, their sense of balance can sharply decline, which can raise the risk of injuries and even death from falls. Changes in flexibility, muscle strength and power, body sensation, reflexes, and even mental function all contribute to declining balance. Adding balance exercises and multifaceted movements can help. More »

Conversations about life’s final chapter

Only about one in three Americans has any type of legal documentation (known as an advance directive) to guide decisions about medical care should he or she become unable to communicate. But avoiding the topic can leave people unprepared if their health—or the health of a parent, spouse, or friend— suddenly takes a turn for the worse. A good first step is filling out a health decisions worksheet, which helps people consider and explain their goals for future care in detail. The next step is choosing a medical decision maker, known as a health care proxy. (Locked) More »

Now hear this: Don’t ignore sudden hearing loss

Everyone’s hearing naturally declines with age, and people often have one ear that hears better than the other. But if hearing loss appears suddenly in one ear for no apparent reason, that can be a sign of sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or SHL, a kind of nerve deafness, that can lead to permanent hearing loss if not treated promptly. More »

Outrunning the risk of dementia

If dementia runs in the family, research suggests there are ways to perhaps avoid the same fate. Adopting certain lifestyle habits—such as engaging in regular aerobic exercise; following a healthy diet, like the Mediterranean, DASH, or MIND diet; not smoking; and keeping alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day on average—may offer protection against dementia, delay its appearance, and even slow its progression. More »