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Sharp Health News

Staying healthy, post-retirement

March 25, 2019

Staying healthy, post-retirement

The post-retirement years are the payoff for decades of hard work spent building a career, home, family and community. However, in order to fully enjoy this stage of life, it's important to take steps to safeguard your physical and mental health, and overall quality of life.

More than 50 million people over age 65 live in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2020, nearly 17 percent of Americans will be 65 or older, and by 2060 that number is expected to rise to 25 percent.

Managing the various challenges of advancing age means addressing things such as chronic health conditions, mental acuity, mood and emotion regulation, physical injury, and nutrition.

Aiming for wellness, with regular check-ins
"Wellness is the state we all strive for and that is why we seek out care when we need it," says Dr. Amber Ortega, a board-certified family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy. "However, it is important to also seek out health maintenance — at least once or twice a year — especially during your senior years."

According to Dr. Ortega, the post-retirement years are when to start asking the "When do I stop?" question about health screenings. Older adult patients also need to consider the risks and side effects of medications. Certain medicines are not as safe for use by seniors as they are for younger patients, due to decreased metabolism and changes in the way the body uses those medications. Patients should talk with their doctor about the medications they are taking, and how long they should continue to take them.

Dr. Ortega also recommends older adults consider the following health topics:

Medications and vaccinations
  • Statins, baby aspirin or other medications: Now is the time to talk to your provider about calculating your risk of heart attack and stroke using weight, cholesterol levels and most recent blood pressure.
  • Pneumonia vaccine: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a pneumonia vaccine for all adults age 65 and older.
  • Shingles vaccine: If you've had chickenpox, you are at risk for shingles. If you are 50 or older, talk to your doctor about the vaccine.
  • Flu vaccine: Remember to get your annual flu vaccine and ask your doctor about getting a Tdap — which stands for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis — shot every 10 years.
  • Colon cancer: Colon cancer screening, using colonoscopy or other options, up to age 75 is recommended.
  • Breast cancer: Routine mammogram screening every one or two years is recommended for the general female population.
  • Lung cancer: For men ages 65 to 75 who have ever smoked, you may want to ask about getting an ultrasound to screen for an abdominal aortic aneurysm, in addition to lung cancer screening.
  • Prostate cancer: Men over 70 should ask their doctor about continuing prostate cancer screening.
  • Skin cancer: Sun damage adds up through the years. Talk to your doctor about any changes in your skin, including moles or other spots, and always wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above.
  • Diabetes: At 70, you might also ask your doctor whether you should continue screening for diabetes.
  • Bone density: Women in this age group also want to ask about screening for osteoporosis.
  • Hepatitis C: For anyone born between 1945 and 1965, you should also be screened at least once in your lifetime for hepatitis C infection, which can cause liver damage.
  • Eye health: Have your eyes examined annually.
  • Hearing: Talk to your doctor about having your hearing screened once you reach age 65.
  • Mental health and cognition: Regular screening for depression is recommended — talk to your doctor if you have been feeling sad, isolated or hopeless, or if your relationships or the activities you once enjoyed have been negatively affected.
  • Keep your balance: Talk to your provider about preventing falls, which can reduce your risk of hip fractures.
  • Stay active: Participate in moderate-intensity exercise at least 150 minutes each week and do strength-training exercises two or more days each week, working all the major muscles.
  • Eat well: Maintain a well-balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins from animal and plant sources, and limited sodium.
  • Sleep well: Get an adequate amount of sleep each night — at least six consecutive hours per night.
  • Limit drugs and alcohol: Alcohol can impair older adults more than younger people, and can also increase the risk of accidents and falls. Limit alcohol and drug use. If you smoke, make a plan to quit.
  • Stay connected: Healthy relationships remain important to your overall health — stay connected to others to help keep you active, have a sense of purpose and encourage you to take care of yourself.
"It is important to have honest conversations about your health and to share any concerns with your doctor," Dr. Ortega says. "Seniors should also talk with their primary care provider about end-of-life care and advance health care directives. While this can be a difficult subject, it ensures that care decisions can be made before they are needed and everyone — including you, your loved ones and your health care providers — will be on the same page moving forward."

This article is the final in a series featuring Dr. Amber Ortega on the health issues that arise and questions you should ask your doctor in each chapter of your life. Earlier articles featured ways to take charge of your health in your 20s, what to know about your health in your 30s and 40s, and how to maximize your health in your 50s and 60s.

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