What Do We Know About Healthy Aging? (Part 2)

Quit Smoking

It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been smoking, research confirms that even if you’re 60 or older and been smoking for decades, quitting will improve your health. Quitting smoking at any age will:

  • Lower your risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, and lung disease
  • Improve your blood circulation
  • Improve your sense of taste and smell
  • Increase your ability to exercise
  • Set a healthy example for others

Men 55 to 74 years and women 60 to 74 years old current smokers were three times more likely to die within the six-year follow-up period than those who had never smoked.

What Can you Do?

If you smoke, quit. Quitting smoking is good for your health and may add years to your life. A study found that older adults who quit smoking between the ages of 45 and 54 lived about six years longer compared to those who continued to smoke. Adults who quit between the ages of 55 to 64 lived about four years longer. It’s never too late to stop smoking and reap the benefits of breathing easier, having more energy, saving money, and improving your health.

Alcohol and Other Substances

Like all adults, older adults should avoid or limit alcohol consumption. In fact, aging can lead to social and physical changes that make older adults more susceptible to alcohol misuse and abuse and more vulnerable to the consequences of alcohol. Alcohol dependence or heavy drinking affects every organ in the body including the brain.

In addition to being cautious with alcohol, older adults and their caregivers should be aware of other substances that can be misused or abused. Because older adults are commonly prescribed opioids for pain and benzodiazepines for anxiety or trouble sleeping, they may be at risk for misuse and dependence on these substances.

What Can You Do?

It’s important to be aware of how much you are drinking and the harm that drinking can cause. If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse or alcohol use, talk with your doctor or a mental health professional. You can also try finding a support group for older adults with substance or alcohol abuse issues.

Go to the Doctor Regularly

Going to the doctor for regular health screenings is essential for healthy aging. Regular getting check-ups helps doctors catch chronic diseases early and can help patients reduce risk factors for diseases such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. People who go to the doctor regularly also report improved quality of life and feelings of wellness.

Harmful changes in the cells and molecules of your body may occur years before you start to experience any symptoms of disease. Tests that detect these changes can help medical professional diagnose and treat disease early, improve health outcomes.

What Can You Do?

Visit the doctor at least once a year and possibly more depending on your health. Regular screenings can uncover diseases and conditions you may not yet be aware of, such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. If you only seek medical attention when you’re experiencing symptoms, you may lose the chance of having your doctor catch a disease in its earliest stages, when it would be most treatable. Regular check-ups can help ensure you could start treatment months or years earlier than would have been possible otherwise.