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

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 »

Blood vessel disease linked to dementia

Blood vessel problems can have a significant effect on the health of the brain, including contributing to the development of dementia. Improving and safeguarding blood flow to and through the brain should help delay, minimize, or even prevent memory loss well into old age. The steps you take to protect the arteries in your heart and keep them healthy should do the same thing in your brain. These include controlling blood pressure, exercising, and eating a healthy diet. (Locked) More »

Novel foot-health program reduces falls in older people

About a third of people over age 65 fall each year, and foot problems are one of the major causes. A program aimed at improving the foot health of older people through examinations, exercises, advice, and orthotic shoe inserts may help prevent falls. (Locked) More »

Another drug prevents breast cancer in postmenopausal women

Exemestane (Aromasin), tamoxifen (Nolvadex, generic) and raloxifene (Evista) are three drugs used to prevent breast cancer in postmenopausal women who are at elevated risk for the disease. Exemestane appears to have less frightening side effects — hot flashes, joint pain, and loss of bone density. All three of these drugs target estrogen, which fuels the growth of most breast cancers, but exemestane belongs to a different class of drugs, called aromatase inhibitors, which work by blocking the body's production of estrogen. Previous studies have shown that aromatase inhibitors are more effective than tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer from recurring. This study, funded Pfizer, and conducted under the auspices of the National Cancer Institute's clinical trials unit, looked at whether exemestane could reduce the likelihood of a first occurrence of breast cancer. (Locked) More »

Psychotherapy at midlife

Midlife is not too late for women to reap the benefits of change by seeking the help they need to gain greater satisfaction in their lives. One avenue to change is psychotherapy. Successful psychotherapy can heighten your awareness and insight into your actions, thoughts, and feelings and help you learn and practice more effective ways of thinking and behaving. Either alone or combined with medication, psychotherapy is valuable in treating a wide range of mental health conditions. But even if you're not trying to solve a fixed psychological problem, psychotherapy may provide help in challenging situations or guidance in creating a happier or more fulfilled life. More »