An older adult can help prevent diseases from developing or getting worse. For example, lifestyle changes like eating a healthier diet and exercising can improve blood pressure and diabetes.
Lifestyle & Management
- Help a person live longer
- Lower the risk of heart disease and cancers
- Improve lung health and blood circulation.
Make a plan for quitting with your healthcare provider.
Here are some tips to help an older adult quit:
- Set a date for the last cigarette. On that day, get rid of all tobacco and anything related to it.
- Get nicotine replacement therapy if smoking more than 10 cigarettes a day, A healthcare provider can order a nicotine patch, gum, nasal spray, or inhaler for the smoker. This may help reduce their physical cravings for nicotine, which is an addictive part of tobacco.
- Get bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban), varenicline (Chantix), or similar medications alone or with nicotine replacement therapy to help with quitting. A healthcare provider can decide whether this is a good step for the older adult.
- Visit a healthcare provider and support group, and get counseling. These steps can help a person quit.
- Avoid people or situations that make it tempting to smoke.
- After quitting, switch from coffee and alcoholic drinks to juices or water. Take walks instead of coffee breaks. Chew gum or suck on hard candy to deal with cravings.
A person needs to do two types of activity if they can:
Do 30 minutes a day of moderate activity (such as brisk walking). Do this at least 10 minutes at a time and spread it throughout the week. If the activity is vigorous (hard to do) the person can do 75 to 150 minutes of exercise a week.
Strengthen muscles by activities like lifting weights or using resistance bands or machines. Use all major muscle groups on two separate days a week.
It is never too late to become more active and get the health benefits
- Doing exercises to maintain or improve balance (such as Tai-chi). This is very important if a person has had a fall or fears having one.
- Understanding whether medical conditions affect the ability to do some activities safely.
A healthcare professional provider can say whether a person needs to avoid or make sure they do some activities. Caution may be needed due to medical and heart problems. A person may need certain heart tests before starting to exercise or doing vigorous activity.
A healthcare provider may recommend working with a physical therapist, or taking a group exercise class.
Check to see if a person’s health insurance offers a Silver Sneakers program. It provides access to participating gyms, fitness centers, and classes for older adults.
- Whole grains and legumes, like beans and soy
- Vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds
- Fish or lean meat and poultry
- Low-fat dairy foods.
Avoid foods that are high in salt, fat, or sugar, such as fatty meats, fried food, and highly processed foods.
Eating a healthy diet can be hard because:
- Disabilities can make it hard to go shopping or prepare food
- Healthy foods may be too expensive
- Dental problems can make it hard to chew
- Lack of appetite can come from medications or other health problems.
A healthcare provider needs to know about these problems, so they can find ways to help.
If a person needs to gain or lose weight, their healthcare provider can help decide on reasonable goals and a plan to get there. A healthcare provider may ask the person to see a dietician or nutritionist.
Older adults have a higher risk of problems with alcohol:
- Changes in older adults’ body affect the impact of alcohol. These changes can cause higher alcohol concentrations in older adults. This means the same drink can affect an older adult more strongly than a younger person.
- Alcohol can interact with many medications. It also can make many medical conditions worse, including:
- High blood pressure
- Dementia or other problems with memory, thinking, and learning
- Liver disease
- Inability to control urine flow
- Stomach bleeding
- Sleep problems
- Balance, which leads to falls
An unexpected fall can cause serious injury. It can result in hospitalization, surgery, care in a rehabilitation facility, or even long-term nursing home care. A healthcare professional needs to ask older adults at annual check ups about any falls or problems with balance and walking.
Falls often are the first step to losing independence.
To avoid a fall, see a healthcare provider for advice about to lower the risk of falling. Providers will:
- Evaluate balance, walking ability and speed, bone health, blood pressure, heart health.
- Look for physical disabilities.
- Check vision and hearing.
- Check medications and suggest changes, if needed.
- Recommend seeing a physical therapist to work on strength and balance or a falls-prevention or other exercise program.
- Recommend that a professional check out the home to make it safer. The professional may suggest changes, like hand rails and grab bars, bright lighting, and removal of loose rugs and electrical cords.
Hazards in the home
Lower risk of accidental injury by:
- Lowering the water temperature in the hot-water heater to prevent serious burns. The temperature needs to be 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
- Installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Installing alarms and automatic shut-off features on appliances like electric kettles.
- Removing guns or making sure they are safely stored.
- Knowing how to use home medical equipment, such as oxygen.
A healthcare professional may recommend that a trained occupational therapist or other specialist check a person’s home for hazards.
Car crashes are a leading cause of accidental death in adults up to age 75. The crash rate for older drivers is higher than for any other age groups except for drivers under 25. To reduce the risks of a car crash:
- Always wear seat belts.
- Have regular driving tests.
- Take a refresher driving course.
- Check vision regularly and wear the right eyeglasses.
- Don’t drink and drive.
- Don’t use a cell phone or text while driving.
Many older adults also reduce their risk by not driving at night, on busy highways, or in bad weather.
- Treat unhealthy or missing teeth or diseased gums because they can make it difficult to eat normally. Untreated problems can lead to poor nutrition.
- Treat dry mouth, which many older adults have. They can get dry mouth from medications or lack of hydration. Dry mouth can cause or worsen tooth problems.
- Visit the dentist at least twice a year to have teeth and mouth cleaned and examined.
- Brush and floss regularly.
- Do any rinses the dentist may recommend to help with dry mouth.
- Discuss the need for dentures or dental implants, if needed.
Fair-skinned people, and people who have had a lot of time in the sun are at higher risk of getting skin cancer. However, darker skinned people also get skin cancer.
Don’t wait for the annual skin check, if you notice:
- A change in size, shape, color, or borders of a mole.
- A change in appearance of the skin.
- New unexplained area of discoloration, scaliness, or roughness.
- New appearance of a nodule or pale, sunken area.
Limit the amount of time in direct sunlight. Also, wear protective clothing and sunscreen. Sunscreen needs to have at least a SPF 30.
Taking aspirin to prevent heart attack or stroke is best for older adults who:
- Have other risks for heart disease, such as smoking, high blood pressure, or strong family history.
- Are under age 70.
Last Updated May 2023
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