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

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 »

Advice about taking aspirin and statins after age 75

Low-dose aspirin and statins are mainstays for preventing heart disease. But for people ages 75 and older, there is less information about the safety and efficacy of these drugs than there is for younger people. According to estimates, nearly half of people ages 70 and older without heart disease take daily aspirin. But as people age, they may be more prone to bleeding, a potentially dangerous side effect of aspirin. Statins are associated with fewer and less serious complications than aspirin, yet people tend to worry more about statin side effects, especially muscle aches. For avoiding heart attacks, taking a statin is probably a safer and more effective approach than taking aspirin. But older people should consult with a doctor about whether to start, stay on, or stop either of these medications. (Locked) 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 »

Is it too late to save your posture?

It’s usually not too late to improve posture, even with rounded shoulders or healed compression fractures. The key is strengthening and stretching the upper back, chest, and core muscles. Shoulder strengtheners include scapula squeezes and rows. Core strengtheners include modified planks or simply tightening the abdominal muscles, pulling the navel in toward the spine. It’s also important to cut down on activities that have led to poor posture, such as sitting slouched for long periods in front of a computer or TV. (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 »

Are you at risk for a secondary cataract?

Sometimes a side effect of cataract surgery triggers the return of cataract symptoms. The side effect is called posterior capsule opacification, also known as a secondary cataract. It occurs when cells from the old cataract remain in the eye and continue to grow, blocking the light to the retina. An eye doctor can treat this problem with YAG laser capsulotomy, a simple, quick, and painless laser procedure that clears a pathway for light to travel to the retina. More »

Is it time to rethink how much you drink?

Contrary to popular belief, moderate alcohol use might not benefit cardiovascular health, especially for people who are 65 and older. People also often miscalculate what counts as a single drink and don’t recognize that many mixed drinks contain more than one serving of alcohol. In addition, they may not appreciate that alcohol affects people differently with increasing age. Tips for cutting back on alcohol include limiting drinking to restaurants and social occasions and diluting wine or cocktails with sparkling water and ice. More »