Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Healthy Aging

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Sally Smith: Welcome to Age to Age. I'm Sally Smith. Let's talk. Today we're lucky to have Dr. Jerry Reeves. We're particularly lucky to have him because he is the Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean College of Medicine at the Medical University. He's going to talk on the Top Ten Resolutions for Healthy Aging. I believe No. 1 was visit your doctor annually.

Dr. Jerry Reves: That's right Sally. I think that this is a team sport and the team is the individual patient and the other member of the team is the physician because the two when working together can formulate a plan of action for the year that optimizes one's health and so these are the two most important people. It sounds a little self-serving for a doctor to recommend that someone see a doctor, but I actually think, it's important because no matter how informed your listeners are they do need some outside counseling and there's no one better than their physician.

Sally Smith: Well, I like to think of it in terms of a car. When your car is very new and shiny, you don't worry about it breaking down on the long trip. But let's face it, as you get to be a little bit older or your car gets to be a little bit older, a good general check up is not a bad idea to get those tires looked at or oil changed and annually it sounds like a real fine idea to me.

Dr. Jerry Reves:Yup, it's preventive maintenance.

Sally Smith: I like the idea of preventive, it's so much smarter in this day and age, to do the preventive and along with that, I believe you mentioned screening tests. I wondered if they sort of pick a date? I've heard that people sometimes pick a date, like their birthday and they try to take care of everything at the same time; dental, mammography, annual check up. Are there any advantages to remembering it that way?

Dr. Jerry Reves: Well, I think that's a very good suggestion that you're making, that you do it at the same time every year and whatever it is, the best reminder, might be your anniversary, just so you'll be alive for your loved one. But whatever it is, I think it should be once a year and I think having it related to some important or significant event like your birth to prevent your death is a good idea.

Sally Smith: I like that. I think I'll put that on my list for next year. I was interested in your third priority which was control blood pressure. Tell me why this would be number 3.

Dr. Jerry Reves: Hypertension or high blood pressure is considered the silent killer. It's responsible directly or indirectly, it's not clear which, for stroke, which is you know is a devastating problem for a significant number of Americans and it's also a precursor or a cause of coronary artery disease or heart attacks. And so no one knows if they have high blood pressure, you have to go have it checked and once it's found, you have to get it under control because if you don't, you're much more likely to have a stroke or a heart attack both of which can be lethal or cause significant disability.

Sally Smith: I noticed that your next two items really to me sounded like the strategy for what to do about high blood pressure. You have exercise and also diet. What about exercise?

Dr. Jerry Reves: It turns out that exercise is probably the single greatest thing that someone can do to prevent heart disease, to prevent diabetes, to prevent many, many of the problems including cancer. So, exercise is truly important strategy as you say to stay well. It's not that easy to do. Most people when they think of exercise they think about but they don't actually do it.

And the real question is: Are you going to get up and do something or you're just going to about it? But they exercise a week, 30 minutes in duration, breaking a sweat and regularity is the kind of exercise that I'm talking about and it isn't enough to get up and go to the refrigerator.

Sally Smith: [laughs]

Dr. Jerry Reves: You've got to actually do something for a sustained period and you've got to do it often but it does prevent many diseases.

Sally Smith: One person told me it's not so important what exercise you do as it is to find something you really enjoy doing so that you will get up and do it four times a week and do it enthusiastically.

Dr. Jerry Reves: Sustaining exercise is the hardest thing and you either find something that you can't do without or another approach to it is to change around and maybe walk briskly one day, run another day, play tennis the third day, swim on fourth and mix it all up so that you don't get bored. If you get bored with the same routine, some people cannot sustain their exercise.

Dr. Jerry Reves: But if you find an exercise that you really love, that's the best strategy but otherwise you've got to mix them up or else you'll probably get off of the exercise routine.

Sally Smith: Well, another one of the monumental issues that we all think about is the all encompassing word "diet". What are the key points to keeping that weight and diet healthy?

Dr. Jerry Reves: Diet is probably as hard or challenging as exercise. You can't consume more calories than you expend if you want to keep your weight off. And as you grow older, one of the natural tendencies is you need less calories to begin with, you tend to eat more so you tend to start growing in places that's not flattering and certainly not healthy. It's very hard to keep weight off after you get past say age 50 or so and you've got to either count calories or else just eat healthy food.

Dr. Jerry Reves: That means food that are not high in saturated fats and you have to also eat vegetables as opposed to all that variety of terrible foods that's out in the fastfood stores. And you also need to eat grains, which have been shown to reduce cancer and cholesterol. So, it's what you eat, how much you eat and what you do to balance the eating in the form of exercise.

Sally Smith: Okay, you also have on here: Kick unhealthy habits. And I'm thinking of course smoking and second hand smoke. But smoking and maybe taking more than the allowed amount of alcohol and that sort of thing. How quickly can people bounce back if they're strong enough to kick that smoking habit. Do they bounce back pretty quickly? Does your body stop where it is when you stop smoking and never gets worse or once you stop does your body get a little bit better and regain some of its health it lost while you were smoking so often?

Dr. Jerry Reves: The helpful results of stopping smoking initially will be things like your lungs will improve almost immediately. Your breathing should be improved and things of that kind. You will also end up potentially gaining weight so you have to be careful about that because it turns out nicotine suppresses appetite and so one of the things that you have to be careful early on.

But once you've really been away from smoking for some time, the people who have abruptly stopped and been successful at it, they find that their whole mental attitude is much better, they tend to have a much healthier lifestyle and so yes it takes time but they do overtime get to a state that they haven't been in until they started smoking long ago.

Sally Smith: Well, one thing also that I was interested in something that can have huge beneficial results that I have heard talked about a good bit among doctors that I have talked to but it doesn't seem to be as well known in the general public is your comment to take a baby aspirin every night. How universal is this? Can you hurt yourself, I guess I should say?

Dr. Jerry Reves: Aspirin is generally recommended for most people over 55-60. Everyday, a baby aspirin not a big full strength aspirin and the reason for that is aspirin actually inhibits coagulation just enough to prevent a heart attack or a stroke. And that's why in most people become prone to developing a heart attack or a stroke and a baby aspirin a day will prevent that.

But I must say that you should not do this without permission of your physician because even a baby aspirin carries risk and there are certain people who should never take an aspiring because of risk of having an ulcer or internal bleeding, those things of that kind.

Dr. Jerry Reves: And so, this is a simple strategy, an inexpensive strategy, one that most doctors will put most patients on. I caution you to just go take it on your own. You need to get good medical advice on that.

Sally Smith: Is that the same for your next two items, which are take vitamins and take calcium? Are they pretty much over the counter supplements once you get to a certain age?

Dr. Jerry Reves: I think that most physicians would say that taking supplemental vitamin as you age is a good idea and they are over the counter, they don't have the risk. Everything in moderation. But if you take the one-a-day that are available in the drug store, this is a safe dose of a drug or multiple vitamins that are in there. It will never get to a toxic level.

So, I think that's a very safe recommendation to take one of those but again I would advise my doctor that I'm doing it or I plan to do it. What does he think or she think? And they will generally agree that you should take that.

Dr. Jerry Reves: And the calcium used to be that we thought that calcium and osteoporosis bone thinning was a problem only for women but the latest information is that men as well as women to have strong bones, need to take supplemental calcium and again that's over the counter and it's safe in moderation; about 1,500 grams a day is a safe dose that I would pass it by my doctor. But, I think that is something you can do, very inexpensive and if done everyday, should keep you from fracturing some of the bones particularly hip and others that as we get older become problems.

Sally Smith: One thing, I know we talked about diet and exercise which play into your final point, which is watch your weight. So many of the media articles lately are about the epidemic of obesity and mortality connected to obesity and I wondered, is this what you with the dangers of obesity?

Dr. Jerry Reves: Absolutely. There is an incontrovertible evidence that people who weigh too much are going to have problems like diabetes which lead to other problems like heart and vascular disease. Increased weight also predisposes you to all kinds of physical injuries and also, the sedentary lifestyle that leads to the obesity leads you to cause to have suffered cancer of some varieties.

And so obesity or even just being overweight is an unhealthy state. It is something that we can control, it's hard but it's doable and it's something that the person is responsible for and it is important to pursue a lifestyle that means exercise, watching the diet but keeping the weight off and this should enable you to live a longer life than if you don't do those things.

Sally Smith: You know, I think you've hit on an incredibly important point and one that I think has somehow been lost on the American people and that is the fact that you are ultimately responsible for your own health. You can prevent it, you can make these choices, you can be a whole lot healthier and you should be in control and know what's going on with your own self, it is your responsibility to do that.

And I think an informed patient is the way we need to go. People live to be a little bit more proactive and I think that's maybe people are more aware of it now but I don't feel that they were say 50 years ago quite the same way.

Dr. Jerry Reves: Well, that's why they are listening to this broadcast...

Sally Smith: [laughs]

Dr. Jerry Reves: And they want to be in charge and they want to take charge and they look for people like you to bring in others to help them know what to do but in the end you're absolutely right; they have to be responsible and they are responsible or they wouldn't be listening to this.

Sally Smith: Thank you so much Jerry. This has been wonderful to talk with you today and I hope we can talk to you on more subjects every time you answer a question I think of three more questions I want to ask you. So, we'll have to get together again before long. Thank you again for being with us.

I also want to thank my producer, Betsy Reeves, web administrator, Sujit Kara, and thank you all of our listeners for joining us today. We welcome your suggestions. Please give us your comments and any questions on our website. This is Sally Smith, Age to Age saying goodbye and wishing you courage and joy on your journey. We are all connected.

Narrator: If you have any questions about the services or programs offered at the Medical University of South Carolina or you'd like to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians, please call MUSC-Health Connection at 1-843-792-1414.

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