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

Another drug prevents breast cancer in postmenopausal women

Exemestane (Aromasin), tamoxifen (Nolvadex, generic) and raloxifene (Evista) are three drugs used to prevent breast cancer in postmenopausal women who are at elevated risk for the disease. Exemestane appears to have less frightening side effects — hot flashes, joint pain, and loss of bone density. All three of these drugs target estrogen, which fuels the growth of most breast cancers, but exemestane belongs to a different class of drugs, called aromatase inhibitors, which work by blocking the body's production of estrogen. Previous studies have shown that aromatase inhibitors are more effective than tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer from recurring. This study, funded Pfizer, and conducted under the auspices of the National Cancer Institute's clinical trials unit, looked at whether exemestane could reduce the likelihood of a first occurrence of breast cancer. (Locked) More »

Psychotherapy at midlife

Midlife is not too late for women to reap the benefits of change by seeking the help they need to gain greater satisfaction in their lives. One avenue to change is psychotherapy. Successful psychotherapy can heighten your awareness and insight into your actions, thoughts, and feelings and help you learn and practice more effective ways of thinking and behaving. Either alone or combined with medication, psychotherapy is valuable in treating a wide range of mental health conditions. But even if you're not trying to solve a fixed psychological problem, psychotherapy may provide help in challenging situations or guidance in creating a happier or more fulfilled life. More »

Are there limits to laser refractive surgery after midlife?

Even if you've worn glasses or contacts for decades, you may be wondering about having your vision surgically corrected. If your eyes are otherwise healthy, laser refractive surgery may provide the results you're looking for. But the risks and benefits do shift around midlife, so you need a thorough evaluation and a frank assessment of what you might gain — or lose. More »

When patients suddenly become confused

Hospital delirium is the most common complication of hospitalization among people ages 65 and over. When delirium isn't recognized, it can hinder recovery. Prolonged delirium is associated with poor long-term outcomes and a higher mortality rate. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid delirium or minimize its impact. More »