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

Living alone linked to higher risk of cardiovascular death

  According to a new study, adults aged 45 to 79 with heart disease may die sooner if they live alone. For them, living alone may be a stressful psychosocial situation, whereas living alone at ages 80 or older may indicate independence and self-sufficiency.   (Locked) More »

Goodbye to yearly pap smears for some women over 65

If you're over 65, you may no longer need to see your clinician for a Pap smear every year, according to new cervical cancer screening recommendations from both the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and American Cancer Society. (Locked) More »

A possible brain food that you've probably never heard of

There's some research that lends some credence to claims that the nutrient Choline may be something of a "brain food" that fends off cognitive decline in old age. In the brain, choline speeds up the creation and release of acetylcholine, a protein that carries signals among brain cells and is important for memory and assorted other brain functions.  (Locked) More »

Disordered eating in midlife and beyond

Aging can be a challenge to body image. For some women, it may bring on — or rekindle — an eating disorder. Eating disorders are usually regarded as a problem of adolescents and young women; their prevalence among older women is less clear. Secrecy and shame often accompany these disorders, and women may not seek help — particularly if they fear being forced to gain unwanted weight or stigmatized as having a "teenager's disease." Despite the underdiagnosis of eating disorders in older people, treatment professionals are now reporting an upswing in requests for help from older women. For some of these women, the problem is new, and others have struggled with disordered eating for decades. More »

Sex and the older woman

With many older women enjoying sex and few using condoms, it's not surprising that some are acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs). According to the Centers for Disease Control there has been an uptick in other STIs in postmenopausal women. Safe-sex is especially important for postmenopausal women, because they are more vulnerable to STIs than younger women. And STIs in older women may go undetected because they are often without symptoms, and clinicians aren't always tuned in to screening older women. STIs of concern include human papilloma virus (HPV), herpes, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea. HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C. and syphilis.  (Locked) More »

Feet and falling

There's been a surge of research connecting falls to foot pain and perhaps also to common foot problems like bunions and clawed toes. But until recently only a handful of studies have investigated a more direct connection between foot pain and falls. The studies that have been done have focused on high-risk groups, not the general "community-dwelling" population of older people. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society identified those with foot pain and those without, and followed them for a year. By a sizable margin, the people who fell were more likely to have been bothered by foot pain than the people who didn't fall. More »

Screening after age 75

If you're close to age 75, you may have followed the same schedule for mammograms, Pap smears, and other screening tests for decades. And if you're like many women, you may be surprised that your physician is suggesting fewer tests or longer intervals between them. The practice seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom. After all, the risk for many degenerative diseases increases with age, so shouldn't older women be monitored even more closely? The answer is, "It depends on the woman." More »