Seeing your primary care provider on at least an annual basis allows him or her to help keep tabs on your overall physical health. If you have chronic medical problems, however, the visits with your provider can sometimes be dominated by focusing on the management of those problems.
It’s important to remember that as we age, there are a number of yearly preventative measures that address physical problems of elderly people. Below are three key ways you can stay healthy.
As we age, our immune systems stop functioning as well as they used to, putting us at increased risk of acquiring infections. As a result, it is critical that the elderly stay up-to-date on immunizations. In particular, it is important to get:
- Shingles vaccine: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all people over the age of 60 receive the shingles vaccine, a one-time shot designed to prevent the painful skin rash and nerve pain caused by the shingles virus.
- Tdap: The CDC recommends that people get the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough)—better known as Tdap—booster every 10 years.
- Pneumococcal vaccine: All adults over the age of 65 should receive a pneumococcal vaccine to prevent infection (pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis) caused by the pneumococcal bacteria. There are two types of the vaccine, and you should discuss with your healthcare provider which one(s) you need.
- Annual flu shot: People over the age of 65 are at increased risk of serious complications from influenza infection, therefore it is critical that they get the flu shot every year before flu season starts (early fall).
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Annual Eye Exams
There are many different eye conditions, such as macular degeneration and cataracts that can affect vision in the elderly. Often, when people’s vision starts to deteriorate, they will go to their local drug store and buy an inexpensive pair of reading glasses in the hopes of solving their problem. It is important, however, to see your eye doctor so that he or she can evaluate you for more serious eye conditions.
More than 70 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have some degree of gum disease. Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss and studies have shown that tooth loss is associated with both physical and mental decline.
Additionally, gum disease has been strongly linked with heart disease. Good daily oral healthcare and yearly visits to your dentist are an important part of maintaining your overall physical health.
Originally posted in May 2016 and updated.