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

Making decisions about your future medical care

Legal documentation that protects a person’s future medical treatment choices is generally known as an advance directive. That umbrella term covers several documents. A living will spells out treatment preferences if a person is unable to make treatment decisions. A health care proxy form names the person who’ll make health care decisions if a person lacks the capacity to make them. A POLST (physician orders for life-sustaining treatment) turns a person’s health care preferences into a medical order that must be followed by doctors, hospital staffers, and paramedics immediately, not after legal interpretation.    (Locked) More »

A new look at treating Alzheimer's disease

Targeting tau proteins, and not just beta-amyloid, may be one of the best ways to identify Alzheimer’s disease early and develop more targeted treatments before the symptoms of the disease become too severe. Several drugs are in development that take this new approach. (Locked) More »

Making peace with your germs

Many of the trillions of microbes that inhabit our bodies are essential to our health. A Mediterranean diet, good hygiene, and wise use of antibiotics promote microbial diversity. Probiotics may help restore beneficial bacteria. More »

Steps to stay independent when you live alone

Older adults who live alone should consider using services and strategies that will help them stay independent longer. To stay safe, older adults should consider wearing a device that can contact 911 at the touch of a button, and keeping an emergency kit with food and medications on hand. They must make an effort to maintain social connections, even if it’s just visiting with a neighbor briefly. It’s also helpful to take advantage of services that deliver groceries, run errands, and clean homes. More »

How old is your heart?

An online “heart age” calculator can help people understand their risk of heart attack and stroke. The estimate is based on a person’s blood pressure reading, smoking history, body mass index, and whether they have diabetes. About 75% of heart attacks are due to risk factors that increase heart age. In the United States, 50% of men and 40% of women have a heart age that’s five or more years greater than their actual age. (Locked) More »

Low back pain attacks: One pill may be enough

Adding muscle relaxers or narcotic pain relievers to the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) naproxen (Aleve) did not improve pain or function for people who went to emergency rooms seeking help for severe low back pain. More »