Simple Steps for Post-50 Health
Every day, the news is full of advice, much of it contradictory, about how to stay healthy as you age. It's hard to keep track of all that information, and it's even harder to sort the solid advice from the less-solid stuff gleaned from the latest study du jour.
Here's one way to cut through that clutter and focus on a handful of tried-and-true ways to maintain good health in your second half-century. The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and (AHRQ) and the AARP have compiled two checklists, one for men, one for women, of evidence-based recommendations for health after the big Five-O.
You won't find any surprises -- or, alas, any magic bullets. This is a pretty straightforward boil-down of health tips that, let's face it, we all already know about. But it's good to see them in one, simple list.
The essentials: eat well (fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk products; lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts), stay physically fit (shoot for 30 minutes of moderate activity most days), don't smoke, don't have more than one alcoholic beverage (two for men) per day.
As for medications, men are counseled to check with their doctors about taking daily aspirin to ward off heart disease and reminded to get their flu shots and other vaccinations. Women get the same advice and more: they're told to ask about taking drugs to prevent breast cancer if a close relative has had the disease and are strongly advised not to take estrogen to prevent cardiovascular disease.
The documents also feature charts for keeping track of screening tests you need as you age. These lists are virtually identical for men and women and cover everything from depression and diabetes to high blood pressure and HIV. Bonus tests for women include breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings; men who have smoked should consider screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm.
I'm not 50 quite yet, and I already comply with most of the advice the women's checklist offers. But it can't hurt even us young whippersnappers to have a look and make sure we're headed in the right direction. For instance, I don't always think to keep up with my vaccinations (such as tetanus); the new checklists offer a link to the federal government's recommended vaccine schedule for adults. How about you? Were you aware that adults are supposed to get a booster every ten years?
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