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

Bedsores (Decubitus Ulcers)

Bedsores, also called pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, are areas of broken skin that can develop in people who: Have been confined to bed for extended periods of time Are unable to move for short periods of time, especially if they are thin or have blood vessel disease or neurological diseases Use a wheelchair or bedside chair (a hospital chair that allows a patient to sit upright next to the bed) Bedsores are common in people in hospitals and nursing homes and in people being cared for at home. Bedsores form where the weight of the person's body presses the skin against the firm surface of the bed. In people confined to bed, bedsores are most common over the hip, spine, lower back, tailbone, shoulder blades, elbows and heels. In people who use a wheelchair, bedsores tend to occur on the buttocks and bottoms of the feet. This pressure temporarily cuts off the skin's blood supply. This injures skin cells. Unless the pressure is relieved and blood flows to the skin again, the skin soon begins to show signs of injury. The pressure that causes bedsores does not have to be very intense. Normally, our skin is protected from being injured by pressure because we move frequently, even when asleep. At first, there may be only a patch of redness. If this red patch is not protected from additional pressure, the redness can form blisters or open sores (ulcers). In severe cases, damage may extend through the skin and create a deep crater that exposes muscle or bone. Muscle is even more prone to severe injury from pressure than skin. A bedsore can involve several layers of damaged tissue. Although pressure on the skin is the main cause of bedsores, other factors often contribute to the problem. These include: Shearing and friction — Shearing and friction causes skin to stretch and blood vessels to kink, which can impair blood circulation in the skin. In a person confined to bed, shearing and friction occurs each time a person slides across the bed sheets. Moisture — Wetness from perspiration, urine or feces makes skin under pressure more likely to suffer injury. People who can't control their bladders or bowels (people who are incontinent) are at high risk of developing bedsores. Decreased movement — Bedsores are common in people who can't lift themselves off the bed sheets or roll from side to side. Without these small movements throughout the day, skin that is pressing against the bed does not get a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients. Blood flow is inadequate in these parts of the skin. (People who can move without assistance have a lower risk of bedsores because they can shift their weight periodically.) Decreased sensation — Bedsores are common in people who have nerve problems that decrease their ability to feel pain or discomfort. Without these feelings, the person cannot feel the effects of prolonged pressure on the skin. Circulatory problems — People with atherosclerosis, circulatory problems from long-term diabetes or localized swelling (edema) may be more likely to develop bedsores. This is because the blood flow in their skin is weak, even before pressure is applied to the skin. Poor nutrition —Bedsores are more likely to develop in people who don't get enough protein, vitamins and minerals. Age — Elderly people, especially those over 85, are more likely to develop bedsores because skin usually becomes more fragile with age. Bedsores can lead to severe medical complications, including bone and blood infections.   (Locked) More »

Age Spots (Solar Lentigo, Liver Spots)

As you age, years of being in the sun start to add up. Age spots (also called liver spots or solar lentigo) are collections of pigment caused by exposure to the sun. Pigment is deposited as a response to injury, just like a scar is a response to a cut. The pigment collects in areas injured because of thin skin or greater sun exposure. Age spots also can be caused by bruising that leaves blood pigment behind. They are most common in people older than 55. The spots commonly appear on the hands, but they can be almost anywhere, especially sun-exposed areas, such as the face, back, arms, feet and shoulders. (Locked) More »

When patients suddenly become confused

Hospital delirium is the most common complication of hospitalization among people ages 65 and over. When delirium isn't recognized, it can hinder recovery. Prolonged delirium is associated with poor long-term outcomes and a higher mortality rate. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid delirium or minimize its impact. More »

Testosterone replacement: A cautionary tale

Testosterone therapy has been viewed as a way to counter the effects of aging where bone calcium declines, muscle mass decreases, body fat increases and red blood cell counts decline. But there is no proof that testosterone therapy will reverse these changes and its safety for older men remains controversial. A study found that men who took daily testosterone had a higher incidence of cardiovascular events. Its role in prostate disease, both benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer is unresolved. (Locked) More »

Cancer screening as we age

There is some controversy about whether or not people should continue to get screening tests for certain cancers after age 75. Variables include the person's overall health and whether or not additional life expectancy can be achieved. More »