The goals of prevention in an older adult usually depend on the person's health, level of function, and risk profile, as for the following:
Exercise, including aerobic exercise, is still important. Weight lifting helps protect against muscle weakness, age-related loss of muscle tissue, and osteoporosis by strengthening muscles and increasing bone density. Aerobic exercise increases endurance and may slightly lower the risk of some heart and blood vessel disorders. In older adults, dancing and tai chi, which can be enjoyable forms of exercise, may have additional benefits, such as enhancing balance and thus helping to prevent falls.
Stopping smoking is helpful at any age. It can
Alcohol is metabolized differently in older adults. Older adults who drink alcohol need to be aware that more than one drink per day may increase their risk of injuries and other health problems.
Drugs and vaccines:
Understanding drug therapy is particularly important for older adults because they are more susceptible to the side effects of drugs (see Aging and Drugs). Factors that can increase susceptibility include age-related differences in how the body processes (metabolizes) and uses many drugs. These differences can lead to interactions between drugs or between drugs and foods. These interactions may not occur in younger people.
A primary care doctor, nurse practitioner, and pharmacist can provide information on all prescription and nonprescription drugs. Knowing the brand and generic name of all drugs taken, each drug's purpose, the length of time each drug is to be taken, and the activities, foods, drinks, and other drugs to be avoided while taking a drug can help older adults avoid problems. Older adults should bring all of their drugs, both prescription and nonprescription, to their doctor appointments so that these drugs can be reviewed with their doctor.
Older adults should get the following vaccine:
These vaccines are important because older adults are more susceptible to pneumonia, tetanus, and shingles and because influenza is more likely to lead to pneumonia and other severe problems in older adults.
The same simple, common-sense safety measures that prevent injuries in younger adults are also useful for older adults (see Sidebar 1: Safety 101). Preventing falls is especially important.
Falls are a leading cause of serious health problems in older adults. The following can help prevent falls:
Older adults may have to limit or give up driving if their vision, reflexes, or overall function is poor. They should not drive when they are taking drugs that cause drowsiness, and they should not drive at night if their night vision is poor (see The Older Driver).
Last full review/revision February 2014 by James T. Pacala, MD, MS