A Guide To Getting Older
At Blue Hills, we believe preventative care is a key component to your overall health. Though technology has aided us in living longer and better lives, we still cannot stop the process of aging. As we age, our bodies and our minds change. We believe it's important to know what to expect so that we may better prepare ourselves. This page was created to help provide you with information to help you get ready for your future. Our wonderful doctors and caring staff are here to help guide you or a loved one through this important stage in life.
Below, you will find information and links to common ailments in older adults, information about preventative screenings, and links to help prepare you for your future. Click on one of the topics below to learn more.
There are a lot of things that come with getting older - getting wrinkles and gray hairs is something we all think about. But while we think about our wrinkles and gray hairs, we also need to be aware of other changes that we may not be able to see as clearly.
As we get older, our hearts tend to work a little harder, our bones tend to shrink in size and density, and our memory may not be as sharp. Well, if we know to expect these things, then we can prepare our bodies to promote good health.
Be sure to include physical activity in your daily routine.
Eat a healthy diet.
Get enough sleep.
The Mayo Clinic has a great, more in depth guide to healthy aging.
"Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis."
"Cancer refers to any one of a large number of diseases characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. Cancer often has the ability to spread throughout your body."
"Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living.
More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn't a weakness and you can't simply "snap out" of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don't get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychotherapy or both."
"Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is vital to your health because it's an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It's also your brain's main source of fuel.
The underlying cause of diabetes varies by type. But, no matter what type of diabetes you have, it can lead to excess sugar in your blood. Too much sugar in your blood can lead to serious health problems.
The CDC has a great Diabetes Prevention Program available to the public.
"Heart disease describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. Diseases under the heart disease umbrella include blood vessel diseases, such as coronary artery disease; heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); and heart defects you're born with (congenital heart defects), among others.
The term "heart disease" is often used interchangeably with the term "cardiovascular disease." Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood
vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart's muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.
Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices."
"Influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. Influenza, commonly called the flu, is not the same as stomach "flu" viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting.
For most people, influenza resolves on its own. But sometimes, influenza and its complications can be deadly.
Your best defense against influenza is to receive an annual vaccination."
"Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine.
Medications, healthy diet and weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones."
"Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus (purulent material), causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia.
Pneumonia can range in seriousness from mild to life-threatening. It is most serious for infants and young children, people older than age 65, and people with health problems or weakened immune systems."
Preparing for the Future
It can be scary to think about the future. First and foremost, your Blue Hill doctors are here with you and your loved one every step of the way. This section will help give you some information about what you can do to prepare you and your family for any future problems.
An Advanced Directive is a legal document that allows you to clearly dictate how to handle medical decisions should you become too ill. An Advanced Directive can be done anytime. Even if you are not sick now, a medical crisis could arise and leave you unable to make your own decisions. Your Advanced Directive is used to tell your family, friends, and medical personnel how to proceed with your medical care and avoid confusion later on.
While an Advanced Directive dictates how you would want medical care to be handled, Five Wishes also includes parameters of how to handle comfort care, spirituality and final wishes. Again, this can be done at any age as it is important to be prepared for whatever the future may hold.
Mental Health is important at every stage in life. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental health in older adults and seniors can have a direct impact on their medical conditions. Depression can complicate common illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. Talking about mental health is still sometimes viewed as taboo and many may disregard depression in older adults, seeing it as inevitable with the changes of life or illnesses. Everyone deserves to live their best life. It is extremely important to recognize the signs and talk to your doctor. Common signs include:
Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite
Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions
Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge
Increased worry or feeling stressed
Anger, irritability or aggressiveness
If you notice these signs in yourself or a loved one, be sure to talk to your doctor today and begin the road to recovery.
Bone Density Exam
The Bone Density Exam or DEXA is a screening for osteoporosis. It is used to measure bone loss.
In women, every 2 years starting at age 65. In men, every 2 years starting at age 70.
Cervical Cancer Screening
A sample of cells is taken from the cervix to look for changes that could lead to cervical cancer.
This normally begins around age 21 and should continue every 3 years until the age of 65.
*It can be discontinued after this age if you have had 2-3 negative readings in 10 years and have no history of cervical cancer.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Also known as a colonoscopy. It is used to detect changes or abnormalities in the colon and rectum.
Every 10 years starting at age 50. It can be more frequent based upon the findings.
This test measures the levels of glucose in the bloodstream. High levels could be a sign of diabetes.
Every 3 years starting at age 45 in asymptomatic adults.
*People with high blood pressure, obesity, or hyperlipidemia may be tested sooner and more frequently.
Lipid Profile Assessment
Used to assess the risk of heart disease, this test measures the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream.
Every 5 years starting at age 45 in asymptomatic adults.
*May be tested sooner and more frequently in adults who are at risk for heart disease.
A mammogram is used to screen for breast cancer by using a specialized x-ray that uses low-dose radiation to see inside the breast.
Every 1-2 years starting at age 40. Yearly after the age of 50.
*A clinical breast exam should also be done yearly by your doctor. Women are also encouraged to perform self breast exams.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening
An ultrasound that looks for an enlarged blood vessel in your abdomen that can cause severe bleeding and death if ruptured.
Only men from age 65 to 75 who have ever smoked.
A prostate exam involves 2 screening tests: a blood test is done to check for prostate-specific antigen in the bloodstream and a digital rectum exam.
Every 1-2 years starting at age 50 for men at average risk.
*May be performed earlier for men at higher risk.
Influenza (Flu) Vaccine
A shot to help prevent the flu
A shot to help prevent pneumonia
A shot to immunize against tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis.
Every 10 years
A shot to help prevent shingles - painful blisters caused by varicella(chicken pox)
The table below is a guide to what prevention screening you may need. They are listed alphabetically and contain a description of what the screening does and when you should be tested. Some screenings pertain to males (marked with a capital M), some pertain to females (marked with a capital F), and many screening pertain to both genders (marked with M and F). If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to call Blue Hills and make an appointment with your doctor today.