On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

Staying Ahead of the Sixty Curve

Approaching sixty brings a lot of exciting life changes: spending less time working and more time with family, welcoming grandchildren, traveling and planning for retirement. Your sixties and beyond can be the prime years of your life, but to enjoy these years to the fullest, you need to be at your healthiest. Keep these conditions in mind as you approach your golden years and take the appropriate measures for early detection and ideally, prevention.

Osteoporosis

Maintaining healthy joints and bones helps ensure that you can keep doing the activities you love, with the people you love, well into older age. Osteoporosis affects many seniors, especially women, and can make simple activities painful and uncomfortable. Oklahoma has a very high hip fracture rate -- tying with two other states for the worst in the nation -- which speaks to our bone and overall physical health. To detect signs of osteoporosis as early as possible, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends bone density tests for women age 65 or older or for those who have gone through menopause, for men age 70 or older, or for anyone who has broken a bone after age 50. The three most important things you can do to keep your bones healthy and strong throughout your lifetime are to get adequate amounts of calcium, adequate amounts of vitamin D and regular exercise, combining aerobic exercise with weight-bearing and strength training exercise.

Influenza and Pneumonia

The flu and pneumonia have a lot in common. They share similar symptoms, can both spread virally, and can take a toll on immune systems, especially in older individuals. It is critically important for those over 60 years of age to take extra precautions when it comes to the flu and pneumonia, as both can be deadly to even the healthiest of bodies. Often, the influenza virus can evolve into pneumonia over time and wreak havoc on the respiratory system.

Oklahomans are doing a wonderful job of preventing these sicknesses by being properly vaccinated. In 2014, our state ranked 2nd in the nation for seniors 65 and older who had been vaccinated for the pneumonia virus (75 percent), and 7th in the nation for those who had received a flu shot (67 percent). This is an extremely positive trend that needs to continue, as vaccinations are absolutely key to preventing the spread of these viruses, not just among seniors, but among babies and other vulnerable groups.

You can take the following steps to help prevent the spread of pneumonia and the flu:

  • Get your flu shot every year, ideally between mid-September to late November
  • Get the pneumococcal vaccine. The Center for Disease Control recommends 2 pneumococcal vaccines for adults 65 years or older. You should receive a dose of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) first, followed at least one year later by a dose of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23).
  • Practice good hygiene and don't share items that could carry disease.
  • Refrain from smoking.
  • Practice a healthy lifestyle with ideal nutrition and exercise.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.

Shingles

The shingles virus is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus that attacks the nerves and surrounding skin. If you’ve had chickenpox in your lifetime, you are at risk for shingles, which means 95 percent of adults are susceptible to this extremely painful and debilitating virus. Complications and nerve pain from shingles can last for years, and because the triggers of shingles are unknown, the only way to help prevent this virus is to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends the varicella-zoster (or Zostavax) for all adults at age 60.

Alzheimer’s

A recent study estimated that by 2025, there will be 96,000 cases of Alzheimer’s among Oklahomans aged 65 or older: 17 percent of our state’s senior population. Research is unclear on exactly what causes this disease, however the general consensus among medical professionals is that regular exercise, mental stimulation, quality sleep and management of stress are all ways to help prevent memory loss later in life. As the National Memory Screening Program states, “The goals are to slow or prevent the loss of brain cells, maintain the brain's capacity to make up for any loss, and let remaining brain cells function well.” Familiarize yourself with the 10 signs of Alzheimer’s and if signs exist, pursue screenings.

For more information about screenings, contact your primary care physician or call one of the INTEGRIS primary care clinics in your area.

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