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

Doctors often mum about sex after a heart attack

Most doctors don’t offer counseling about resuming sexual activity after a heart attack, especially to people who are older or female. When doctors do give advice, it often includes restrictions that are not supported by evidence.  (Locked) More »

Good news about early-stage breast cancer for older women

Older women have many options for breast cancer screening and treatment. They should make these decisions based on their health, life expectancy, and personal preferences. They can expect to do as well as younger women with the same type of breast cancer. (Locked) More »

How our senses change with age

Although there is great variability from person to person in how the senses diminish with age, here are some changes that are common: Visual acuity, or sharpness of focus, tends to get worse with age. Cataracts, which can make vision fuzzy, are relatively common and usually occur later in life. Another age-related vision problem, macular degeneration, causes a loss of vision in the center of the visual field. Hearing loss in both ears (what doctors call presbycusis), increases with age, beginning between ages 40 and 50. However, many people over age 65 never experience hearing loss that interferes with their lives. If you find yourself often asking friends or family to repeat themselves, or if they suggest you may have a hearing problem, see your doctor. A hearing aid can help considerably. More »

Aging

Humans are the only species known to live decades past their reproductive years. Other creatures succumb to predators or diseases while still in their prime. During the 20th century, the average life span of people living in developed countries increased 60%, from about 50 years to 80 years. As a result, health problems linked to aging, once almost a curiosity, are now an important part of medicine. The major organ systems change in certain ways as a natural consequence of aging. Here are some of the changes we can all expect as we age. More »

Technology and your health: A quick-start guide

Electronic devices such as computers and smartphones are now common tools used in health care. Doctors use them to access electronic medical records and health apps. The information can be shared with patients to help them understand their treatment. Doctors also use them to send information to other physicians and to communicate with patients. Patients and their families can use electronic devices to gain access to their health records, to communicate with their doctor, and to ask for prescription refills. (Locked) More »

Volunteering can be good for both mind and body

Volunteering has many benefits. The social interaction makes people feel connected to others, which staves off loneliness and depression. Volunteering also makes people feel effective, because they’re making a difference in others’ lives. In addition, volunteering boosts self-esteem, and it can lift mood. Volunteering is also associated with healthy outcomes, such as lower blood pressure, increased well-being, and a reduction in the risk of dying. It’s unclear exactly how much time one must volunteer to boost health. Studies have noted benefits from 100 to 200 hours per year.   (Locked) More »

Living wills become more common

A study found that the number of older adults with advance directives or "living wills" has increased sharply but this didn't appear to make it less likely for people to die in the hospital. (Locked) More »