September is Healthy Aging Month

Good Morning CT at Nine

(WTNH) — September is Healthy Aging Awareness Month. Dr. Imran Ali explains what every older adult needs to know.

Why dedicate a whole month on healthy aging and what does healthy aging actually mean?

Dr. Imran Ali:

Well the fact is that we are currently seeing an explosion in the amount of older adults than we have never seen before. Healthy aging is important and it is best summed up in one word: prevention. The goal is to prevent major disease that gets you to the hospital. Besides keeping you out of the hospital a big part of healthy aging is maintaining your function. That means keeping your mind as short and your body as active as the years go by. A big part of unhealthy aging is to neglect your muscle strength and your nutrition because as we age we lose muscle mass and that when you become weak and more dependent on others for help.

What can we do to prevent diseases that happen to the Elderly?

Dr. Imran Ali:

We have to first rethink the way we describe age. That starts with getting rid of terms like elderly. In the Geriatrics world we use the term Older Adult now instead. We think that age puts a limit on what we can do and that is why people think that getting old means that things like urinary incontinence, memory loss and depression are to be expected. This is far from the truth. Early intervention is important. This includes screening for Dementia, Osteoporosis, Heart Failure and Joint Disease and yes vaccines. You should never be denied medical treatment based on your age alone and the medical community is understanding this now as old cut off ages for treatments like bone marrow transplants are not a hard rule.

Everybody is afraid of developing dementia, what can we do about it?

Dr. Imran Ali:

This is unfortunately an area that we do not have any definitive treatments out there. The medications that we have can only in some cases slow down the progression of dementia, it cannot either reverse it nor can it stop it in its tracks. The vitamins that you see advertised all over TV have not been tested in older adults. Exercise is still the most powerful tool we have for strengthening cognition. During exercise, chemicals called beta endorphins are released and these actually affect the brain right at the level of the hippocampus, which is key when it comes to memory. Don’t forget nutrition, too much sugar and hydrogenated oils are things you want to avoid.

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