7 Health Challenges of Aging
Experts explain how to prepare for the health issues people face as they age.
The good news is that you'll probably keep your own teeth, and implants and
bleaching can make your teeth look years younger than the rest of your body.
Only about 25% of people over age 60 wear dentures today.
"I practice in Framingham, Minn., a small, middle-class town, and I
haven't done dentures in five years," says Kimberly Harms, DDS, consumer
advisor for the American Dental Association. "That's because of a lifetime
of good dental health and
diet. Unfortunately, the people who haven't had a lifetime of good health care
and healthy practices are at risk for losing their teeth."
She advises brushing twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing daily
to remove plaque, and visiting your dentist regularly.
Mental Health: Memory and Emotional Well-being
Forget what you think you know about memory loss and old age. It is not
inevitable. So why do so many people say, "My memory isn't what it used to
be," or "I'm having a senior moment?" Stress, anxiety, and mental
overload are most likely responsible. "Stop multitasking," says
Brangman, who is professor and division chief and geriatric medicine director
at the Central New York Alzheimer's Disease Center, SUNY Upstate Medical
University in Syracuse, N.Y. "Our brains are made for us to do one thing at
a time. Multitasking overloads the brain so people aren't remembering things
and get concerned they're having memory problems."
Doing the things that keep your heart healthy will also keep your brain
healthy. "The same blood vessels that go to the heart branch off and go to
the brain. Exercise, control your blood pressure, quit smoking,
and if you have diabetes, keep it under control."
She says the evidence of alcohol's benefits is mixed. "Hard alcohol
seems to be of no benefit, but wine may be. Moderation is the key."
Staying mentally active is as important as staying physically active, says
Raymond L. Crowel, PsyD, vice president for mental health and substance abuse
services for Mental Health America in Alexandria, Va. (The organization was
formerly known as the National Mental Health Association.) Join a book club,
stay up on current events, engage in stimulating conversations, and do
crossword puzzles. "The new rage is Sudoku puzzles. They're absorbing and
require a tremendous amount of concentration, and there's a lot of satisfaction
in getting it right."
One of the perplexing problems of aging is Alzheimer's disease. About 3% of
men and women aged 65 to 74 have Alzheimer's disease, and nearly half of those
aged 85 and older may have the disease. "We're not aware of anything people
can do to prevent Alzheimer's or dementia, but we're learning
new things about the brain every day," Crowel tells WebMD.
Among all age groups, depression is often
underdiagnosed and untreated. Many people mistakenly believe that depression is
a natural condition of old age. Of the nearly 35 million Americans aged 65 and
older, an estimated 2 million have a depressive illness and 5 million more may
have depressive symptoms that fall short of meeting full diagnostic