September is the perfect time to celebrate Healthy Aging® Month. Drawing on the ‘back to school’ memory ingrained in everyone since childhood, Healthy Aging Month is designed to encourage people to rejuvenate and pursue life goals that can positively impact areas of physical, social, financial and mental wellness.
According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), people are living longer. In 1970, the average life expectancy at birth in the United States was 70.8 years; in 2008, it was 78.0 years; and by 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau projects life expectancy will reach 79.5 years. As a result, views on aging are changing. “Disease and disability were once considered an inevitable part of growing older, but that is not necessarily true. While the aging process can put people at greater risk for health issues, many older adults can be healthy and active well into their advancing years,” said Jessica Murphy, Nurse Practitioner, Sheboygan Internal Medicine Associates, SC.
Healthy Aging Month was introduced when the baby boomer generation began turning 50. According to Carolyn Worthington, editor-in-chief of Healthy Aging Month, “We saw a need to draw attention to the myths of aging, to shout out, ‘hey, it is not too late to take control of your health, it is never too late to get started on something new.’ Why not think about the positive aspects of aging instead of the stereotypes and negative aspects?”
Getting older can come with a variety of health challenges, but studies prove that people who take an active role in maintaining good health can reduce their risk of disease and disability. “Exercise, good nutrition, regular health screenings, getting the appropriate vaccines, having enough sleep, and participating in activities are just a few ways to promote healthy aging,” said Murphy.
For several years NIA has investigated ways to support healthy aging and prevent or delay the onset of age-related disease and decline. These studies have provided valuable insights. “What we learn from ongoing and future studies may not only help to increase a person’s longevity, but may also promote ‘active life expectancy’, which is considered the time in late life that is free of disability,” said Murphy.
It has been proven that healthy eating, exercise and physical activity are key components in helping to promote healthy aging, but are there other interventions that can help? NIA-supported and other studies, based on evidence from scientific research, are taking a look at the possible, but benefits and risks of a number of approaches that may lead to new measures to promote healthy aging.
From looking deep within cells at what causes aging to testing the effects of healthy behaviors, some secrets to aging well have been revealed. While the chances of discovering one magic pill or potion to fight off all the effects of aging may not be possible, scientists believe that today’s research will lead to tomorrow’s interventions for a longer, healthier life.
Schluter talks to her patients about the information available on the worldwide web warning them that some of the information is not credible. It is important for people talk to their doctor or health care provider prior to adopting lifestyle, diet supplement changes that claim to benefit their aging process. “When we engage in good communication and work together as a team we can make better, more informed decisions and keep the focus on achieving the healthiest aging process possible,” said Murphy.
There is no better time to pursue a life plan toward healthy aging, than during a person’s annual health care physical. To help get the most out of your visit NIA has developed worksheets that can help improve the patient/doctor experience during the annual office visit. These worksheets are available, by clicking on the links below: