More than 80% of U.S. adults 55 and older suffer from one or more chronic conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, cancer and arthritis, according to the National Council on Aging. An annual visit with your primary care provider can help keep your health on track.
Clinical preventive services, such as annual vaccinations and screenings for chronic conditions, can minimize the risk for diseases or find them early when treatment is most effective. Although many of us are focused on not getting COVID-19 this season, remember that flu season will soon be upon us and will continue into late fall and winter months. The flu can also lead to other health problems such as pneumonia, which can result in hospitalization, especially for those who are older. Getting your flu shot this year is more important than ever.
Older adults should be screened for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers, as well as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, on a regular basis. Unfortunately, only 25% of adults ages 50 to 64 and less than 50% of those 65 or older are up to date on these potentially lifesaving screenings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A visit to your primary care provider can help you stay up to date on your specific health needs.
In general, to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent conditions like heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis, you should continue to stay active as you age. The CDC recommends getting at least 160 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, which can range from a short walk around the neighborhood to gardening outside. An active person has better physical function, which in turn reduces your risk of falls and fall-related injuries. Being active can also help you maintain a healthy weight, which prevents the risk of diseases and illnesses such as diabetes and osteoarthritis.
During the ongoing pandemic, 8 of 10 COVID-19-related deaths reported in the U.S. have been among adults 65 and older, according to the CDC. The risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and influenza increases with age, with senior citizens at the highest risk for hospitalization or death. In order to keep yourself safe from respiratory illnesses, such as the flu and COVID-19, it’s important to social distance, limit your interactions with other people, especially in crowds, and take preventive measures when venturing outside. These precautions include wearing a mask or face covering at all times, keeping a distance of six feet away from others, using hand sanitizer that is made up of 60% alcohol, and avoiding touching handrails and other commonly touched surfaces if possible. In addition, avoid touching your face and continue to wash your hands with soap and water as much as you can.
During the pandemic, we recognize that some people may feel nervous about visiting your physician for your annual checkup. We are taking extra precautions to keep our employees and patients safe during this time. This includes constantly disinfecting surfaces, wearing masks, maintaining social distancing in the waiting rooms and limiting the number of people in our offices. Many offices are also continuing to use telehealth services for virtual visits. These measures are intended to ensure our offices are safe for patients, especially those who are most at risk for being diagnosed with COVID-19, like elderly patients.
It is especially important during this time for high-risk patients and older adults to focus on their overall health and continue to visit their primary care physician.
Contact your physician to schedule your annual exam and talk to them about how you can stay healthy this fall.
Dr. Glover is with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Primary Care.