FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – (September 14, 2009) – In recent news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the life expectancy rate in America has reached an all-time high. Overall, Americans can now expect to live an average of nearly 78 (77.9) years. While modern medicine and technology, along with the benefits of cleaner air, have done their part to add more time to the average lifespan, there are still issues to consider when it comes to what optimizes healthy aging.
“Although the average life expectancy has increased, living to an old age doesn’t necessarily guarantee life quality,” says Sharron Guillett, director of the new nursing program at Stratford University. “However, healthy aging is within reach; it just takes being mindful of the lifestyle choices you make.”
The CDC also reports that roughly one-third of all the deaths in the United States of individuals over 65 were preventable. Those deaths are largely attributed to lifestyle choices, such as eating a poor diet and not being physical activity. The good news is that there are things people can do in order to stay healthy as they age, including addressing the following areas:
- Physical health. When it comes to physical health, it is important to stay active, which includes getting exercise and doing some form of strength training. You don’t have to join a gym to do this, simply walking briskly around the neighborhood or in a shopping mall is great exercise. For strength training you can buy hand weights or even lift canned products like soups or vegetables found in your cupboard to get started. Additionally, it is important to try to reduce falls, as they are the leading cause of injury deaths and the most common cause of injury leading to hospitalization for those over 65. Ask your health care provider about ways to improve balance, but the best ways to prevent falls are to wear proper shoes, get rid of slippery throw rugs, make sure you have good lighting in your home, especially in stairways, and get your vision checked. Many falls are related to poor eye sight. Additionally, it is important to eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and to avoid unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and excessive drinking. Protecting yourself from the flu and pneumonia by getting flu shots and the pneumovax vaccine are also recommended.
- Mental health. Keeping a sharp mind is a key factor to improving the quality of life as you age. To do this, you should engage in brain exercises on a daily basis. Things that exercise the mind and help keep Alzheimer’s at bay include reading, puzzles, games, and using the computer. Another fun thing to try is building new pathways in your brain by doing routine things, like brushing your teeth, with your non-dominant hand.
- Emotional well-being. According to the National Institutes of Health, depression is a wide-spread problem among the elderly. It is important to stay emotionally connected to people you care about, in order to improve your outlook and keep positive feelings flowing. Try to become active in groups, clubs, game nights, and meeting up regularly with family and friends in order to stay emotionally well.
It is also important to get routine exams, such as mammograms and colon cancer screenings, in order to detect problems early on. In addition, most elderly people find it comforting when they have their plans for elder care planned out and taken care of.
“We all want to live long healthy lives, but we don’t always take the time to do things to make it happen,” adds Guillett. “While it is important to live in the moment and live each day to the fullest, we also need to remember to live today with tomorrow in mind. The choices we make today will pay off in the future.”
About Stratford University:
Stratford University operates campuses in Tysons Corner and Woodbridge. They have been approved to offer a nursing degree program, with the first students taking courses in October 2009 at the Falls Church. The length of the program ranges from 2-2.5 years for those with transfer credit, to 3 years with no prior college experience. It also offers 28 undergraduate and graduate degrees in the areas of Culinary Arts and Hospitality, Health Sciences, Business Administration, and Information Technology. The degree programs are offered both on campus, as well as online. For more information on Stratford University, please visit www.stratford.edu.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Life Expectancy at All Time High. August 2009.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The State of Aging and Health in America 2007.
National Institutes of Health. Depression – elderly.