The years tend to sneak up on us, but these tips can help you learn how to age well and maintain your health and happiness as time marches on.
Age is just a number, or so the old saying goes. By placing a priority on our health and wellness, we can often feel younger than we are. But with the passing years, health concerns may still arise — that’s why it’s important to stay on top of recommended screenings and inform your doctor about any symptoms. Here, we’ve rounded up the best My Vanderbilt Health advice on how to age well so that you can feel comfortable and confident in any decade.
Find a health home and schedule appropriate screenings.
One of the best ways to stay on top of your health as you age is to build a relationship with a trusted primary care physician or nurse practitioner who will get to know your medical history and who can serve as your first point of contact for your medical needs. Think of your PCP’s or your NP’s clinic as your health home base. These additional tips will help you navigate the necessary screenings as you learn how to age well.
- Take a family medical history. Your family’s history, as well as your own, can help inform your physician of any potential increased risks for illness or disease. Your provider can then determine whether you need to be tested or monitored.
- Women, follow this age-specific guide regarding important screenings and tests you should receive, including a mammogram to detect breast cancer and a bone mineral density test to screen for osteoporosis.
- Men, ensure you are up to date on vaccinations, tests and screenings you’ll need throughout your lifetime. Men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the last year, but regular visits are important for monitoring changes in your body, especially for signs of common cancers that can creep up.
- Get a colonoscopy at age 45 to screen for colorectal cancer, and continue to schedule the procedure every 10 years.
- Be honest about your smoking history so your doctor can determine if you need an annual lung cancer screening starting at age 50.
Address pain and other symptoms with your physician.
As we age, aches, pains and other symptoms may crop up, but that doesn’t mean you have to just live with them. Talk through concerns with your doctor to find solutions that keep you active and enjoying life.
- Be mindful of back pain, which could be a sign of adult scoliosis, a condition that’s often treatable with physical therapy.
- Let your physician know if you have trouble opening jars, have shaky handwriting or if you tend to drop things easily. These symptoms can signal cervical myelopathy, a condition that affects the cervical portion of the spinal cord and progresses with age.
- Report any signs of numbness, tingling or weakness in your hands and fingers. As we reach middle age, we’re more susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome, which can result from repetitive motion.
- Don’t let bladder leakage slow you down. Pelvic floor physical therapy can help both men and women who are experiencing urinary incontinence.
Build a strong body and mind
We may not be able to halt the aging process, but we can do everything in our power to maintain our health through diet and exercise.
- Engage in a variety of exercise programs that address strength, heart health, flexibility and balance to ward off disease and prevent falls.
- Boost bone health with activities like running, walking and lifting weights. Bone health is just as much a concern for women as it is men.
- Try the Mediterranean or the DASH diet to help protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Remember that if it’s good for the heart, it’s good for the brain.
- Give the low-glycemic diet a try to prevent age-related macular degeneration.
Care for older generations
As we age, everyone around us does too. You might have the responsibility of not only managing your own health but also caring for loved ones like your parents as they reach their golden years. Here are a few tips on helping them age well.
- Ask your aging folks about vaccines, doctor’s appointments, their activity levels, etc. Here’s how to start the conversation and keep it going.
- Help them put plans in place to ensure they’re taking all of their prescriptions and avoiding any medication errors.
- Discuss care plans, financial concerns or any other details early to help reduce stress for both you and your parents.
Vanderbilt Primary Care providers can work with you to help ensure your best health, throughout life. Click here to see the locations and options available for Vanderbilt Primary Care.