Healthy Aging

healthy aging

Staying Healthy Over 50

Another new year is about to roll around and those of us reading this have made it!  The question we always try to answer with this column is how can we stay healthy as we continue to grow older.  There is some good guidance from the National Institute of Aging that appears at the website shown below and readers should learn about healthy aging from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging that is nicely presented in the website reference.

There is nothing new in the report, and the key things we should be doing to stay healthy as we age are shown in the table to the right.  Some of these merit some comment.  For example, it is never too late to stop smoking and doing so is a sure way to extend life.  Second hand smoking is also to be avoided since many diseases that smokers develop occur in those who are exposed to smoking.

Exercise and diet are still the two foremost actions that we should do to stay healthy and we have written about this many times in this column.  The data continue to reflect that regular exercise does two things for us.  First, it allows us to function better in regular daily activities and, more importantly, it delays the onset of many diseases.  At the start of a new year, it is time to make that annual pledge to engage in regular exercise (meaning at least four times a week) and to make the exercise bring you to a sweat.  As the Nike slogan says: Just Do It.  If you want to know what to do just visit this site:

Every day, usually three times a day, we make major decisions about our health when we put things in our mouth at meal time or snack time.  This, like exercise, is something that requires real dedication and discipline.  We know what to eat and what not to eat - that is not the problem.  The problem is eating the right things and turning away those things we know are bad for us.  The right things are fruits, fish, nuts and vegetables and the wrong things are saturated fats, sugar, high cholesterol, and trans fats (all listed on the food we purchase).  Healthy eaters ingest high-fiber cereal, reduced-fat dairy products, non-white bread, whole grains, beans and legumes, vegetables, and low amounts of red and processed meat, fast food and high sugar drinks.  The unhealthy eaters are the meats, potatoes, white bread and fast food consumers.  It takes will power to choose the right stuff to eat, but that choice helps avoid coronary heart disease and many other afflictions that come with age.

One of the things that might not be as well known is the value of engaging in good relationships and participating in social activities.  These things tend to improve one's mental health and overall happiness while delaying the onset of some diseases.  For most people this is natural and enjoyable and therefore easy, but for some it is not, but it is important.

There is a long list of screening and preventive measures in the table to the right.  All of these should be pursued with the aid of one's physician.  Regular visits to a doctor for screening and proper preventive medicine is part of the strategy to living a longer and more healthy life.  Many diseases can be detected early and cured or at least kept under control.  As we age, we inevitably will change and slow down in many respects, but we can also slow the rate of change and preserve health.  So this year, look at the table and dedicate yourself to making sure you are doing all you can to stay healthy as you age.  Happy New Year!

Healthy Aging newsletter

Health Information Library: Healthy Diets Overview

Podcast: Aging - The Obesity Problem

Video: MUSC Weight Management Center

Daily Steps to Good Health:

  • Do not smoke or be around smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Drink in moderation
  • Participate in social activities
  • Take a multi-vitamin capsule
  • Keep current in all immunizations (especially flu)
  • Watch weight - avoid obesity or skinniness

Screening and Preventive Measures:

Heart and Vascular Disease

  • Blood pressure control
  • Abdominal aneurysm (male smokers)
  • Annual cholesterol measurements
  • Diabetes screen
  • Daily baby aspirin


  • Mammography for women over 50 every 1 to 2 years
  • Cervical cancer screen (Pap Test) ages 50 to 65 every 3 years
  • Colorectal cancer screen men and women 50 and older

Bone Disease

  • Bone density screen all women over 65

Mental Health

  • Depression screen men and women over 50

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