Did you know that heart disease, many forms of cancer, and Alzheimer’s are preventable aging diseases? I didn’t. What steps are you taking to ensure a long and healthy life? Are you aware of how much control you actually have in preventing many of the most common chronic diseases? Did you know that most of the top chronic diseases that are claiming lives every day can be prevented simply by exercising and eating a healthy diet? Seriously…if you’re strapped for time, and want the “quick fix” for leading a long and healthy life, get it: it’s as simple as exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. The CDC recommendations for how much exercise are right here; it takes an astonishingly small amount of time.
The purpose of bringing these diseases up is that you understand and take the initiative of adopting the lifestyle choices that will ensure a long and healthy life. Here’s what you can control, if you choose:
1. Heart Disease
Heart disease affects 37 percent of men and 26 percent of women 65 and older, according to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. As people age, they’re increasingly living with risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, that increase the chances of having a stroke or developing heart disease.
Action Steps: Exercise, eat a healthy diet. Make sure you sleep enough. If you do that, you’ll keep your cholesterol and blood pressure in a healthy range, maintain your healthy weight, and reduce your blood sugar. No smoking.
This year, more than 1 million Americans and more than 10 million people worldwide are going to be diagnosed with cancer, a disease commonly believed to be preventable. (Study) Turns out that between 90–95% of cancer is related to environment and lifestyle. Between 25-30% of cancer is tobacco use related.
Action Steps: If you smoke, stop. Eat more fruits and vegetables, consume alcohol moderately, restrict your calories, exercise, avoid direct exposure to sunlight, eat meat minimally, avoid processed foods, consume of whole grains.
3. Respiratory Diseases
Respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are the third most common cause of death among people 65 and older. Guess what? Smoking cigarettes causes about 90% of COPD cases.
Action Steps: Stop smoking. Avoid second hand smoke.
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4. Alzheimer’s Disease
About 11 percent of people over 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. Turns out about half of Alzheimer’s cases are believed to be preventable by addressing 7 controllable risk factors. These are, are, in descending order, low education, smoking, physical inactivity, depression, mid-life hypertension, diabetes and mid-life obesity.
Action Steps: Keep learning. Low educational attainment impacts the largest percent of the global population. Use or lose it. Stop smoking. Exercise. Get happy. Control your blood pressure. Eat a healthy diet and maintain healthy weight.
The CDC estimates that 25 percent of people ages 65 and older are living with diabetes, a significant senior health risk. According to CDC data, diabetes caused 54,161 deaths among adults over age 65 in 2014. Diabetes can be identified and addressed early with simple blood tests for blood sugar levels. The sooner you know that you have or are at risk for diabetes, the sooner you can start making changes to control the disease and improve your long-term senior health outlook.
Action Steps: Control your weight, exercise (get moving!), eliminate processed foods & sodas, eat a diet of fresh, whole foods, mostly plants, with some whole grains, and very moderate wine consumption.
6. Substance Abuse
20% of people over 65 have had a substance or alcohol abuse problem at some point in their lives. Alcohol and tobacco top the list, and contribute to many of the diseases on this list.
Action Steps: Stop smoking, limit alcohol to not more than 2 drinks per day for men, and 1 per day for women
Obesity is an important senior health risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer — all chronic conditions that impact quality of life. As the numbers on the scale increase, so does the risk for disease. Of the adults between 65 and 74, 36.2 percent of men and 40.7 percent of women are obese — meaning that their body mass index is greater than or equal to 30 — according to the CDC. It can also be a signal that an older adult isn’t as active or mobile as he or she once was.
Action Steps: Lose weight. Eat a diet of fresh, whole foods, mostly plants, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods and
What’s the big takeaway? Just four behaviors cause much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases and conditions:
- Lack of exercise or physical activity
- Poor nutrition
- Tobacco use
- Drinking too much alcohol
It all boils down to making healthy lifestyle choices, like quitting smoking and losing weight, being physically active and eating a healthy diet. If you adopt these health lifestyle choices, you can be among the 41% of people over 65 who say their health is very good or excellent.