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Preventing illness, maintaining our health as we age, part 2

October 7, 2008
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Most of us, if not all of us, would like to live our lives to the fullest each and every day; as we age, this wish for fulfillment becomes (at times) a somewhat overwhelming obsession for some people. We want to maintain our day-to-day activities and continue to enjoy the things that bring us pleasure, regardless of our age. We do not want to be debilitated by health problems and, for certain, we do not want to become overly dependent on our loved ones.

It is safe to say that living well in old age is more important than just living to old age. The good news is that many of us are doing just that.

According to the National Institute on Aging, "older people today are not just living longer; they are generally better off - healthier and wealthier -than ever before."

Referring to statistics generated by the aforementioned source, "almost three-quarters of Americans 65 years of age and up report their health as good or excellent, and the rate of disability among older persons is declining at an accelerating pace, in a country that already enjoys one of the lowest disability rates in the world."

There is an old saying that goes "feeling old is a state of mind," and the cliche may be truer now than ever. Modern medicine has extended our lifespan, and now is rewriting the old rules of aging. Indeed, normal aging (whatever that is) may be an outdated if not misleading concept, as there are great differences in how individual people age as well as many factors that influence our quality of life as we age. Some of the changes, physically and mentally, normally associated with aging may not be "normal" at all but rather the results of untreated health problems or a lifetime of poor health habits. Experts in the field of aging agree that only about 30 percent of physical aging can be attributed to our genetic background; the rest of how well, or not, we age is up to us.

So where do we start? Many of the scourges of aging might be prevented if we followed the old-fashioned advice of eating right, staying active, and getting plenty of sleep. In fact, the same advice can go a long way to keeping not only our bodies healthy as we age, but our brains as well.

Good mental health is as important to overall quality of life as physical health. What may, at times, seem like declining mental fitness in older people may in actuality by symptoms of treatable health conditions.

For instance, the incidence of depression increases with age, yet depression that can often be treated successfully in most people is often not recognized or treated properly in the aging community. It is important to recognize and remember that multiple chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart disease, as well as many of the medications taken by older people, can cause dramatic changes in mental functioning. Many of the cognitive problems commonly associated with aging (failing memory, diminished mental sharpness) may be minimized, delayed, or actually prevented by a lifelong commitment to better physical and mental health practices.

Thank you for continuing to support my efforts to be a contributor to health- and otherwise-related issues as we age. If you have any questions or comments, please call me at North Country Home Services, Inc. 483-4502, or e-mail me at Next time we will be taking a look at the air we breathe as part 3 of preventing illness, maintaining our health as we age.

Next Time: Preventing illness, maintaining our health as we age, part 3.



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