Heart disease and stroke are the main cause of death and disability in older Australians. Cancer is also an important cause of death and disability. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to decrease your risk of suffering from these diseases. Prevention is the best intervention but needs to start as early as possible.
To decrease your chance of heart disease or stroke you should review the following:
- Check your blood pressure
- Check your cholesterol
- Review your diet
- Assess your level of physical activity
- Stop smoking if you smoke
- Check your blood sugar level (bsl)
- Consider taking an anti-clotting medication if you are at risk
Physical Activity for Older Australians
Continuing to be active in your maturing years is important for your overall health and well-being. Now is the time to start with daily exercise if you have been too busy before. It is important to seek medical advice prior to starting on a new exercise program especially if you have been unwell or led a sedentary lifestyle. At Age Right we can provide suggestions for a safe level of exercise to help keep you healthy.
Regular activity helps to:
- Reduce your vascular risk factors
- Reduce your risk of cognitive decline/ dementia
- Improve muscle strength and tone decreasing your falls risk
- Decrease your risk of osteoporosis
- Decrease social isolation and loneliness
- Improve your mental health
- Increase your energy levels
- Help you sleep better
- Maintain your independence and quality of life
- Improve your concentration
Blood pressure monitoring
Blood pressure is the body’s way of regulating the blood flow through the body and is an indicator to the circulation’s overall health.
Blood pressure fluctuates during the day and from day to day. It is dependent on your activity at the time, stress and time of day. It is also affected by our genetics. It is important to monitor your blood pressure and know the ideal blood pressure targets for you. This can be monitored when you attend the GP, some pharmacies and can be monitored at home by you. An investigation can be organised to monitor your blood pressure over 24 hours to understand the true fluctuations that are occurring.
Blood pressure can be affected by your fluid intake, diet and activity level. Here at Age Right we can review your recordings and design a plan for optimising your blood pressure for your age and medical conditions. Some people may need medication to increase their blood pressure especially if they experience dizziness or have a history of falls. Other people may need to increase their medications to achieve the ideal target. It is also important to review your blood pressure medication every year to ensure the dosage is correct for your current renal and liver function which breaks down the medications you consume.
Monitoring your cholesterol
Knowing your current cholesterol level is important for optimising your health and well-being. There is good cholesterol and there is bad cholesterol. Both are tested when your lipid profile is ordered from a pathology service and help determine your total cholesterol reading.
The level of cholesterol in our blood affects the level of lipid deposition and cholesterol build-up in our vessels throughout our lives starting in childhood. This contributes to our risk of future heart attacks and strokes. It is important to have a healthy diet to minimise the amount of bad cholesterol over time.
Our cholesterol level is also dependent on our genetics so if there is a family history of hypercholesterolaemia there is an increased chance you will also have this condition.
There are many medications to help lower cholesterol levels. The most popular medication is from the family group called statins. There has been some publicity linking some statins to cognitive decline. Come chat to the staff at Age Right if you are concerned about your cholesterol levels and/ or medication and tailor a plan suited for you.
As we get older, the benefit of taking cholesterol medication can be outweighed by the side effects or potential side effects of taking these medications. This will be assessed during your consultation at Age Right.
It is never too late to stop smoking. The benefits from ceasing smoking increase over time so now is the time to stop. There are many ways to stop. There is the cold turkey method which works for some people. Others prefer to slowing cut-down and then cease the activity. Another way is to substitute cigarettes with pharmacological interventions. Devising the right plan for you is essential. Your GP is a great resource for this life changing plan or speak to the staff at Age Right at the time of your consultation.
The benefits of ceasing smoking can be seen within:
- Six hours your heart rate slow and your blood pressure becomes stable.
- One day – almost all the nicotine is out of your bloodstream,
- The level of carbon monoxide in your blood decreases and oxygen delivery to your heart and muscles improves.
- One week: your sense of taste and smell improves.
- Three months- the frequency of your cough and wheeze improves
- Your lung’s ability to self-clean starts to recover.
- Your immune system begins to recover.
- Blood flow improves.
- Six months: you will cough up less phlegm and your stress level decreases.
- Two to five years: there is a large drop in your risk of heart disease and stroke.
The most common cancer affecting Victorian women is breast cancer. Screening is advised every two years until the age 74 years old. See Breast Screen Victoria for your nearest screening centre.
Cervical screening is recommended every two years up to 70 years of age. There will be a change to every five years with a new screening test soon to be utilised.
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Victorians. The national bowel cancer screening program is a simple at-home bowel screening test recommended every two years to the age of 74 years old.
Vaccinations are recommended throughout your life including the twilight years. The flu vax is available every year prior to flu season. Vaccination against shingles is now available to decrease the risk of herpes zoster and post herpetic neuralgia.