Preventive Health Care Tips for Seniors

As you get older, preventive health becomes even more important. When you age, your body becomes weaker. With an older immune system, it is harder to resist getting sick, and it will take you longer to recover.

Not only does it take longer, but while you are sick you are much more vulnerable to other types of illnesses. Even a minor cold could gradually spiral and become something much more serious if you do not treat it in time.

Preventive health care focuses on taking certain precautions to avoid becoming ill. Waiting until you are physically not feeling well is not recommended as a senior, since many serious medical issues for seniors do not start showing symptoms until it is too late. If you stay up to date with preventive health care and live a healthy lifestyle, you should be able to avoid getting sick at all. Preventive health care for seniors largely focuses on staying current with necessary screenings and checkups, as well as living a healthy lifestyle.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

There is a lot of focus on maintaining a healthy weight as a child and young adult, but not as much of a focus on weight as a senior. However, when you are a senior, maintaining a healthy weight is still very important. Seniors are at risk of gaining weight because many seniors become less physically active as they age. Even if you were very physically active as an adult, you may have a hard time engaging in those same activities as your body ages and grows weaker. In some situations, you may have a condition that physically keeps you from being as active as you would like. In these situations, you may have to make dietary changes in order to stay within a healthy weight range. If you are overweight, you will be at risk for the following conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Bone issues

In addition to being overweight, seniors are also at risk of being underweight. There are several conditions that will cause you to lose weight, even if you normally have a healthy diet. Some seniors also have a difficult time making food for themselves. One of the simplest forms of preventive health care is creating a new diet that focuses on healthy foods high in nutrients. If you maintain a healthy weight, you can prevent a number of physical ailments, which can potentially turn into very serious health issues.

Depression Screening

Preventive health care typically focuses on physical conditions, but your mental health is equally important. One of the screenings you should consider as you get older is a depression screening. Some seniors make the mistake of believing depression is a natural part of aging and will go away over time. This is not the case. Depression is most common when you make major changes in your life. For example, while it may seem like a happy time in your life, retiring from the workforce may actually make you depressed. The reason this can be depressing is you are making a major change to your life schedule, which could throw everything else off in your life. In addition, you may not socialize as much as you used to. You may also have a hard time filling your new free time, which leads to depression.

Sometimes, distinguishing between depression and general sadness is difficult. With depression, you consistently feel hopeless and lethargic. You will have a difficult time getting motivated, even when performing activities you used to find enjoyable. The longer you wait to treat depression, the more apathetic you become, which makes future treatment much more difficult. Depression is very serious for seniors. If you are depressed, it is much harder to take care of yourself, which puts you at risk for a number of other health conditions.

In order to avoid depression, you should include a depression screening as part of your normal checkup. Your doctor can provide you with a questionnaire that will help you assess whether you are at risk for depression.

Preventing Falls

Preventive health care is not always about avoiding illnesses. As a senior, one of the most serious risks to your body comes from falling. Avoiding a fall may seem like it is very simple, but it is a serious risk for seniors. The older you become, the more damage a fall can do. What could have been considered a minor fall in your youth may now result in a fractured hip or broken bone. Falls are especially dangerous if you are living alone, and it may potentially be several days before someone checks up on you. The following factors can all contribute to increasing your odds of falling:

  • Becoming less agile, leading to a decline in balance, coordination and flexibility. This naturally occurs as you get older
  • A decline in vision, making it harder to spot hazards. Severe vision problems may also lead to other balance issues.
  • Many medications cause dizziness or dehydration, both of which put you at higher risk for a fall.
  • Sudden changes to your environment are much harder to adapt to when you are older. If you are not used to something being in your home, you are more likely to trip over it.

An easy way to prevent falling is to discuss the issue with your health care provider. Your health care provider can recommend different medications to reduce dizziness, making it easier to move around your house. You should speak with your family and care providers, as well, about making changes to your home, so it is easier to move around in. Some common changes include increasing lighting, so obstacles are more visible. This is especially important at the top and bottom of stairs. In your bathroom, you can install grab bars near the toilet, as well as in the shower. If you have severe mobility concerns, you may want to use a shower chair to avoid slipping on the shower floor.

Stay up to date with your vision screenings, so it is easier for you to avoid obstacles both inside and outside of your home. If you find yourself constantly holding onto walls and furniture, or relying on someone else when you are walking, consider seeing a physical therapist to help improve your overall balance and gait.

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