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:
Healthy, independent people with no serious disorders: Mainly preventing disorders from developing
People who have several mild chronic disorders and who remain independent: Mainly preventing or slowing the decline in function and avoiding the physical deterioration that can make them increasingly dependent on others
Frail people who have several advanced chronic diseases and who have become mostly dependent on others: Mainly preventing accidents and complications that could cause further loss of independence or death
Exercise Exercise in Older Adults At least 75% of people over age 65 do not exercise at recommended levels despite the known health benefits of exercise including Longer survival Improved quality of life (for example, endurance... read more , including aerobic exercise, is still important. Weight lifting helps protect against muscle weakness, age-related loss of muscle tissue, and osteoporosis Osteoporosis Osteoporosis is a condition in which a decrease in the density of bones weakens the bones, making breaks (fractures) likely. Aging, estrogen deficiency, low vitamin D or calcium intake, and... read more by strengthening muscles and increasing bone density. Aerobic exercise increases endurance and may slightly lower the risk of some heart and blood vessel disorders. Increasing muscle strength and aerobic conditioning can help improve functioning and may lead to a longer life. 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 Smoking Cessation While often very challenging, quitting smoking is one of the most important things smokers can do for their health. Quitting smoking brings immediate health benefits that increase over time... read more is helpful at any age. It can
Help improve endurance
Decrease the frequency and severity of symptoms of certain disorders, such as chest pain (angina Angina Angina is temporary chest pain or a sensation of pressure that occurs while the heart muscle is not receiving enough oxygen. A person with angina usually has discomfort or pressure beneath the... read more ) and cramping, aching leg pain (claudication)
Decrease the risks of certain disorders developing (such as heart attacks, lung disease, and certain cancers)
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.
Medications and vaccines
Understanding what medications may do is particularly important for older adults because they are more susceptible to the side effects of medications. Factors that can increase susceptibility include age-related differences in how the body processes (metabolizes) and uses many medications. These differences can lead to interactions between medications or between medications and foods. These interactions may not occur in younger people.
A primary care doctor, nurse practitioner, and pharmacist can provide information about all prescription and nonprescription medications. Knowing the brand and generic name of all medications taken, each medication’s purpose, the length of time each medication is to be taken, and the activities, foods, drinks, and other medications to be avoided while taking a medication can help older adults avoid problems. Older adults should bring all of their medications, both prescription and nonprescription, to their doctor appointments so that these medications can be reviewed with their doctor.
Older adults should get the following vaccines Overview of Immunization Immunization (vaccination) helps the body defend itself against diseases caused by certain bacteria or viruses. Immunity (the ability of the body to defend itself against diseases caused by... read more :
Pneumococcal vaccine (for pneumonia, 2 types of vaccine—see Pneumococcal Vaccine Pneumococcal Vaccine Pneumococcal vaccines help protect against bacterial infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococci). Pneumococcal infections include ear infections, sinusitis, pneumonia... read more )
Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine The diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects against these three diseases: Diphtheria usually causes inflammation of the throat and mucous membranes... read more (a combination vaccine) once (if they have not previously received a pertussis vaccine) and then tetanus and diphtheria vaccine every 10 years
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 ). Preventing falls is especially important.
Falls Falls in Older People are a leading cause of serious health problems in older adults. The following can help prevent falls:
Cleaning up cluttered areas in the home
Removing or securing throw rugs, edges of carpet, and uncovered phone and electrical cords to the floor
Making sure lighting is adequate
Adding handrails, grab bars, and traction or nonskid surfaces (such as strips or nonslip bathmats) to stairways and bathtubs as needed
Installing handrails near the toilet and in the tub and shower
Not using slippery bath oils
Talking with the doctor about stopping any unnecessary medications and making sure the lowest effective dose of needed medications is being used
Preserving or improving balance (for example, through exercise, dance, or tai chi)
Older adults may have to limit or give up driving The Older Driver Driving provides older people freedom, independence, and key social interactions with their community that many people take for granted in their youth. But the privilege of driving is based... read more if their vision, reflexes, or overall function is poor. They should not drive when they are taking medications or other drugs that cause drowsiness, and they should not drive at night if their night vision is poor.