Aging and Health in America, 2013
Longer life spans and aging baby boomers will combine to double the population of older Americans during the next 25 years to about 72 million.
Heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes continue to be the leading cause of death among older adults.
State of Aging and Health in America 2013 [PDF - 3 MB] provides a snapshot of our nation’s progress in promoting prevention, improving the health and well-being of older adults, and reducing behaviors that contribute to premature death and disability.
The report looks at 15 key health indicators that address health status (physically unhealthy days, frequent mental distress, oral health and disability); health behaviors (physical inactivity, nutrition, obesity and smoking); preventive care and screening (flu and pneumonia vaccine, breast and colorectal cancer screening); and fall injuries for Americans aged 65 years or older.
As the baby boomer population ages, it is important to take steps to ensure older adults live long and healthy lives.
Less than half of men and women aged 65 years or older are up-to-date on preventive services including flu vaccine, pneumonia vaccine, colorectal cancer screening, and mammography for women.
Mammography is the best available method to detect breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stage before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms. Women aged 50-74 should get mammograms every two years.
Colorectal cancer screening tests can find precancerous polyps so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
They can also detect colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best. Older adults should be screened for colorectal cancer by having a fecal occult blood test (FOBT) during the past year, a flexible sigmoidoscopy within 5 years and FOBT within 3 years, or a colonoscopy within 10 years.
Flu and pneumonia is the seventh leading cause of death among adults 65 years or older, despite the availability of effective vaccines. Older adults should get the flu vaccine every year and get the pneumonia vaccine at least once.
Be Physically Active
Regular physical activity is one of the most important things older adults can do for their health. Physical activity can prevent many of the health problems that may come with age, including the risk of falls.
How Much Activity Do Older Adults Need?
2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.
1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging or running) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.
An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables Daily
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some cancers and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other substances that are important for good health.
Adults aged 65 years or older should eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables daily.
Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. For help quitting, visit www.smokefree.gov or call 1-800-Quit-Now.
Take Medication for High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of illness and death among older adults. Of the almost 67 million Americans with high blood pressure, more than half do not have it under control.
Health care providers, such as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, can track their patients’ blood pressure, prescribe once-a-day medications, and give clear instructions on how to take blood pressure medications.
Patients should take the initiative to monitor their blood pressure between medical visits, take medications as prescribed, tell their doctor about any side effects, and make lifestyle changes, such as eating a low-sodium diet, exercising, and stopping smoking.