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

Anticholinergic drugs linked with dementia

Anticholinergic medications used to treat bladder conditions, Parkinson’s disease, and depression are associated with an increased risk of dementia, suggests a new study. People who got dementia had taken the medications for between four and 20 years, and the longer they took the drugs, the greater the risk. More »

Do I ever need a stress test?

A stress test does not reliably identify people at risk for a heart attack or sudden death and is not recommend for otherwise healthy men. However, it can be used as part of an evaluation if a person has heart disease symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath. (Locked) More »

Does loneliness play a role in cardiovascular problems?

Many older adults are at risk for social isolation because they’re divorced or have lost a partner. But loneliness may slightly raise the risk of heart attack and stroke, perhaps by increasing stress hormones that can harm the cardiovascular system. One explanation for this phenomenon is that solitary people don’t have anyone to help them manage stress and cope with difficult situations. Ways to increase social connectivity include signing up for a class, joining a group (such as a book club), or volunteering. (Locked) More »

Easy upper-body boosters

The loss of muscle mass begins in one’s 30s and accelerates after age 60. A loss of upper-body strength can make it more difficult to complete daily activities, and it may also increase the risk for muscle injury during an activity that involves reaching. A physical therapy program can help increase muscle mass in older age. A program typically involves gentle stretching to keep muscles supple, plus strengthening exercises like triceps curls, with low amounts of weight (just a few pounds) and a high number of repetitions. More »

Exercise: Better starting later than never

Exercising regularly throughout life is the best way to preserve heart health. But starting to exercise even in late middle age may lessen the risk of heart failure, a condition in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. More »

How to sleep through the night

Men tend to spend more time in light sleep as they age, which makes it easier to wake up in the night and harder to fall back to sleep. While men can’t change this new sleep cycle, they can address issues that often disrupt their slumber and interfere with sleep quality. These include sleep apnea, nocturia (waking up to use the bathroom), restless leg syndrome, diet, and poor sleep habits. More »

Avoiding heart problems in your 80s

Advancing age may warrant changes to preventive therapies for heart disease. For example, most people in their 80s may do better with systolic blood pressure readings closer to 140 mm Hg or above, rather than 120 mm Hg. The decision to take statins and aspirin depends on a person’s history of heart disease and other risk factors. But a person’s degree of frailty—a syndrome marked by slowness, weakness, fatigue, and often weight loss—may be even more relevant than actual age when making medication decisions. (Locked) More »

Extra protein does not build more muscle

While it might seem natural to think that increasing protein intake could help improve muscle strength and performance, a new study confirmed that taking in more than the Recommended Dietary Allowance did not improve lean body mass, muscle performance, or physical function among older men. More »