Starting from Zip: Achieving Healthy Aging
Today, your ZIP code says far too much about your health. Within the United States, there are unacceptable disparities in health, state-by-state and even county-by-county. The effort to make the U.S. a healthy nation starts with ensuring equity. America’s Health Rankings’ 2016 Senior Report takes into account 35 factors, including senior obesity and smoking rates, prevalence of falls, flu vaccination statistics and senior volunteerism.
In the report, unfortunately Nevada ranked 42nd among all the states in elder health. This report was released May 2016. Nevada’s ranking was dragged down by factors including the state’s excessive drinking rate among seniors — self-reported at 9.2 percent, landing the state at No. 49 in that category. Nevada ranked 50th in smoking, flu vaccination coverage, and suffers from comparatively low community support expenditures, according to the report. The state’s strengths include a low prevalence of falls among seniors and a low rate of preventable hospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries.
Improving the health, function, and quality of life of our growing elder population is recognized as a national goal through Healthy People 2020. Unfortunately, many social determinants of health including race, income, and education have contributed to poor health and decreased quality of life for many older adults. In 2010, the incidence of obesity in adults 65 years or older ranged from 16 percent to almost 30 percent of the U.S. population, depending on the state. In some states, as many as 40 percent of older adults engaged in less than 10 minutes of physical activity each week, which contributes to obesity as well as increased injuries due to falls. Furthermore, older adults living in rural communities are burdened by inadequate access to quality health care resources. These disparities vary by sex and are worse for minorities including African Americans and Latinos.
Nevada’s elder’s health and quality of life were again ranked among the lowest nationally in a United Healthcare report recently released, placing 42nd — a single spot above the state’s 2015 ranking. Researchers also analyzed national data on the middle-aged population in 2014 to judge the overall health of the next generation of seniors. They compared that data with statistics on middle aged people in 1999, who are now 65 and older. Overall, this population smokes less but will be entering their senior years with higher rates of obesity and diabetes and lower rates of very good or excellent health status, putting significant strain on the health care system.
Healthy aging is a hot topic. Whether you're concerned about weight gain, sex drive or chronic diseases, the key to healthy aging is a healthy lifestyle. Eating a variety of nutritious foods, practicing portion control and including physical activity in your daily routine can go a long way toward promoting healthy aging.
If an interest in healthy aging leads you to consider anti-aging therapies — such as restrictive diets, supplements or expensive treatments claiming to postpone or even reverse the aging process — be cautious. There's no quick fix when it comes to healthy aging. Know what you're buying, and know how to spot suspicious schemes. Often, anti-aging therapies don't live up to the claims.
Let’s discuss healthy aging issues and recommendations to achieve healthy aging. First, we must live actively and incorporate regular exercise. Do not become a couch potato. Regular exercise maintains your independence to go where you want to and perform your own activities. Regular exercise may prevent or even provide relief from many common chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and arthritis, to name a few. Make your activity fun. One option available by the Center for Healthy Aging is the Senior Healthy Walking program that takes place weekly. Call to find out times and locations.