As people age, a healthy lifestyle as well as regular visits to a doctor become more and more important. With June being Men’s Health Month, here are some pointers for senior men and their loved ones to achieve and maintain a healthy body and mind.
1. Regular visits to the doctor
Even if a senior feels like they are in perfect health, it is important to see a doctor regularly in order to be proactive and to prevent potential health concerns that may occur due to aging. Seniors should see their regular doctors for a checkup at least once a year, if not more frequently—especially in regards to heart disease. Heart disease kills one in four men in the United States, and it is the leading cause of death. Between 70% and 89% of all heart attacks occur in men, and nearly half of them show no outward symptoms before their first occurrence. A cholesterol test from a doctor can serve as a warning and lead to lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, that can help prevent cardiac arrest.
2. Visiting the doctor when you feel sick
Just as a regular visit to the doctor is important, so too is making an appointment to see a doctor if a senior feels ill. Men are more likely than women to ignore symptoms and not seek out medical attention. In fact, 40% of men surveyed said they would wait a couple of days before visiting a doctor and 17% of men said they would wait at least a week, if not longer. A decline in health can happen fast, especially in the aging. If a senior feels ill, he should schedule an appointment immediately.
3. Weighing the pros and cons of a prostate screening
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. Most men who get prostate cancer are over the age of 65, and one in 35 men die from it. It is a slow-forming cancer and symptoms may not occur in a person’s lifetime. Senior men should discuss their personal risk of prostate cancer with their physician.
Getting screened is an informed decision done only after being made aware by a health care provider about the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits of the screening. Men who want to be screened should be tested with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The digital rectal exam (DRE) may also be done as a part of screening.
4. Getting tested for Colon cancer
Another common cancer in elderly men is colon cancer. Doctors recommend having the colon examined regularly once a person is in their fifties. Some of the same risks that come with a prostate exam can also occur with a colon exam, so a conversation with a doctor is important.
5. Getting your eyes, ears and teeth checked
Aside from check-ups with general physicians, senior men should schedule appointments with specialists such as eye doctors; ear, nose and throat specialists; and dentists. Along with decreased vision in the aging, people over 60 are at a much greater risk of eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. It is important to get hearing checked as well, as one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 suffer from some form of hearing loss. Teeth and gum diseases are also more common in the aging, so a regular dental examination is also a key to a healthy lifestyle.
6. Bone health in Senior Men
Men over the age of 70 are recommended to undergo a bone density test from their doctor. Falls become more common in the aging, and having healthy bones can prevent fractures and breaks. Senior men should make sure they are receiving healthy amounts of vitamin D and calcium.
7. Taking good care of the body’s largest organ
While a major source for vitamin D is sunlight, too much exposure to the sun can lead to a variety of skin issues. The skin is the largest organ in the body, so it is no surprise that it the most common place to get cancer in elderly men. It is important to wear sunscreen when working or spending time outside. If a senior notices anything unusual on his skin, he should seek the opinion of a dermatologist.
8. Stop smoking
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Men who smoke are 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer than those who do not. More than eight in every 100 adults over the age of 65 smoke and while that number is lower than most other groups, it is still at a dangerous level. It is never too late quit smoking.
9. Get your vaccines
Getting vaccinated is not just for children, as many diseases affect older Americans more than any other group. One of these diseases is shingles—half of all cases of shingles occur in those over 60. Though shingles is usually not deadly, it is very painful. Doctors recommend the Zoster vaccine, which helps prevent shingles, to all adults over 60. Pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for adults over 65 as they help prevent infections in the lungs and blood stream. The flu can be deadly in the elderly, so seasonal flu shots are recommended for seniors.
10. Managing stress
People deal with different levels of stress throughout their life, but when they age, the stress changes. Often, stress is associated with change, meaning stress in senior men may be related to the changes occurring in their life. The triggers of stress may change in older adults, but the symptoms remain the same: headaches, anxiety, overeating, and difficulty sleeping. A healthy diet and exercise can help mitigate these triggers and symptoms. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and there is absolutely no shame in seeking help from a mental health professional. Family members and loved ones should be supportive in a senior’s time of need as well.
The health concerns that come with aging can be daunting, but with regular visits to a medical professional, healthy eating, exercise and a support system in place, staying healthy is not as challenging as it seems.