(LONG BEACH, Calif. – June 17, 2013) — Americans are living longer than ever, but in California they are also more likely to be living more years in poor health, according to a recently released report by a leading healthcare foundation. The Golden State ranked just 25th in the state-by-state analysis that looked at 34 measures of senior health including physical inactivity, obesity, hospital readmission rates, self-reported health status and flu vaccinations.
“Poor senior health is an emerging healthcare crisis that not only prevents many older Americans from enjoying their golden years in good health but places an unnecessary burden on our nation’s healthcare system,” said Romilla Batra, M.D., vice president and medical director of SCAN. “Fortunately, there are seven things seniors can do to take control and live healthier, happier and longer lives.”
1. Stay current on your care. Know your numbers, get annual checkups, and stay current on your immunizations. Numbers like blood pressure and cholesterol levels are important. When these numbers are in the healthy range, you are at much lower risk for health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Equally as important is making sure you receive immunizations for flu, shingles and tetanus.
2. Sleep tight. Sleep helps your brain and your body work properly. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Most of us need less as we age. If you were fine with seven hours when you were in your 40s, you may only need six hours in your 70s. So how much sleep do you need? If you are often sleepy during the day, you may not be getting enough sleep. Let that be your guide.
3. Focus on brain fitness. Studies have shown that exercising your mind can improve its function. One of the best – and most interesting – ways to “exercise” your mind is to keep learning new skills. Even doing everyday things differently can help. To that end brush your teeth with your “other” hand. Attend a class offered by a local senior center. Or, here’s a fun suggestion: Borrow a math book from a student and see if you are, as the TV show asks, “Smarter Than a 5th Grader.”
4. Have fun. Who knew enjoying yourself was good for your physical health? It’s true – one study showed that those who took part in more leisure activities had lower blood pressure, smaller waists and less body fat. They were in better physical shape, too. Now you could argue that it’s because they are in good shape they are able to have more fun. But the key phrase is “leisure activities,” not “physical activities.
5. Eat right. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and fish provides the nutrients you need and can help protect against cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Eating right includes drinking plenty of water and limiting the number of alcoholic drinks you consume each day.
6. Move your body. Some people don’t realize that even a little movement is better than none. The key is to be as active as you possibly can. Make active choices throughout the day. If you have a dog, walk it at least once a day. Do some gardening and housework if possible. But be sure to speak with your doctor if you are considering significantly altering your daily exercise routine.
7. Don't smoke. Smoking harms every organ in the body. Nearly one in five deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to cigarette smoking. Many health plans offer smoking cessation programs. It’s never too late to quit. Even longtime smokers can reap some benefits from quitting.
For 35 years SCAN Health Plan has been focusing exclusively on the unique needs of seniors and others on Medicare. The company currently has nearly 145,000 members in California. Further information may be obtained at scanhealthplan.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/scanhealthplan.
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