Learn expert health tips for all stages of life.
Most of us understand that taking care of our health is key to a long and happy life. But as we mature decade by decade, we’re often at a loss as to what we should or shouldn’t do to stay healthy.
For sound professional advice, Jefferson City Magazine consulted several doctors associated with the area’s top health care facilities to learn how to enjoy optimal health at all ages.
From Capital Region Medical Center: Dr. Kevin Lease, internal medicine; Dr. Chris Link, integrated medicine; and Dr. Eston Schwartz, oncology. From St Mary’s Health Center: Dr. John Lucio and Dr. William Blake Rodgers, spine and pain management; Dr. Jodi Berendzen, OB/GYN; and Dr. John Adams Jr., vascular surgeon. From Jefferson City Medical Group: Dr. Sara Echelmeyer, gastroenterologist, and Dr. Krishna Mettu, diplomate, American Board of Sleep Medicine.
Mettu: “The secret to being rich and healthy in the later part of the life can be achieved by being productive during earlier stages of life. Ensuring that you get adequate and quality sleep is a big contributing factor. Having a good night sleep is important and helps one’s overall health and well-being.”
Link: “There are really four things that you need to do to remain healthy and markedly prevent most chronic illnesses. At least 10 studies in the last 10 years show that by doing these four things, you will decrease diabetes by 90 percent, heart attacks by 80 percent, strokes by 50 percent and cancer by 35 percent.”
1. If you smoke, stop.
2. Eat several servings of colorful, nutrient-dense vegetables every day.
3. Maintain a healthy weight throughout life.
4. Move every day in some way.
• Consistently buckle up in cars, and wear helmets when riding motorcycles and bicycles. “Accidental injuries are common in this age group,” Lease says.
• Protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Immunize for HPV , if not already. HPV is the No. 1 cause of abnormal Pap tests, cervical cancer and genital warts. “We think almost 100 percent of cervical cancer is caused by this virus,” Schwartz says. “Also, most of the head and neck cancers, such as cancers of the tonsils and the throat, we think are also caused by this virus.”
• Start cervical cancer screening with Pap smears and clinical breast exams in the early 20s.
• Discuss preventive health topics with your doctors, such as menstrual cycle regulation, safe sex practices, pregnancy planning and prevention, preconception counseling and pregnancy health, Berendzen recommends.
• Establish good sleep patterns and a regular sleep schedule. Mettu advises refraining from exercising four to six hours before bedtime. Also avoid nicotine and alcohol, and if you have trouble falling asleep, limit coffee to two cups a day, and don’t drink in the evenings. “Certain foods containing tryptophan can aid in sleeping such as dairy products, bananas, yogurt, whole grain, turkey, crackers and peanut butter,” he says. Turn off electronics 30 minutes before going to bed, and refrain from charging electronic devices in the bedroom where the glow can disrupt sleep.
• Keep up with vaccinations based on underlying health conditions. These may include: influenza, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, hepatitis, meningococcal, pneumococcal and herpes zoster.
• Avoid tanning booths.
Berendzen: “In this crazy, busy world, stress management is something that we all must address and find what works best. Reproductive health topics change throughout a woman’s life, but I always encourage women to be familiar with their bodies so that they can ‘listen’ and recognize when something seems wrong.”
• Cholesterol screening is recommended for men beginning at 35.
• Discuss any psychosocial issues, such as anxiety and depression, with your doctor, Berendzen says. These can be related to various causes and can significantly impact health.
• Get enough calcium. “Women reach their peak bone mass in their 30s,” Lease says. “Physical activity and a healthy diet with adequate calcium intake help to maximize it.”
• Watch what you eat. According to Link, most adults start putting on a pound or two a year after age 30, so almost all adults need to reduce their carbohydrates in the form of processed foods as they get older. “There have been several studies in the last year that carbohydrates significantly increase weight around the waist, significantly increase cholesterol and significantly increase diabetes,” Link says. “Eat whole food, and strictly limit the amount of processed foods that come in boxes and bags.” He also says to keep in mind that not all whole grains are created equal. “Whole grain bread is really not whole grain at all, for any grain once ground into flour becomes sugar, which means it has a high glycemic index. Foods such as potatoes, bread, cereal, chips and crackers turn to sugar immediately in your stomach.”
• Enjoy whole-fat dairy, which has recently been shown to decrease weight, decrease diabetes and also increase fertility in young women.
Rodgers: “There is no question that back trouble is the leading cause of missed work and lost economic productivity in the U.S. Many of the problems that arise in the spine are related to lifestyle and could be prevented or at least eased significantly. Choosing a healthy diet, following a consistent exercise regimen and avoiding all forms of nicotine greatly improve spinal health. Surgery of the spine, my personal specialty, is always a last resort and could be avoided in many instances by observing these three simple lifestyle guidelines.”
• Discuss changes and issues associated with the menopausal transition with your doctor.
• Begin breast cancer screening mammograms. Adams recommends starting screenings earlier if there is a family history or an abnormal gene in the family that would increase your risk for breast cancer. Schwartz agrees and says: “Say your mom developed breast cancer at age 30; you subtract 10 years from that when you start your first mammogram, at age 20. If you have the BRCA gene, then you should start testing your children at age 18.”
• Get up, and move around often, Link says, particularly if you have a job that requires a lot of sitting. [Aim for] several episodes of getting up and moving around, a brief burst of exercise for five or 10 minutes, such as a brisk walk or simple pushups. Take the elevator down, and take the stairs up. It doesn’t have to be high-level aerobic exercise;you just need to get out there and move.
• Women should begin cholesterol screenings.
Echelmeyer: “In 2014, colorectal cancer is expected to cause over 50,000 deaths. The lifetime incidence is approximately 20 percent, or one in five men and women will develop colon or rectal cancer in their lifetime. We know that tobacco, obesity and diets high in red meat and low in fiber increase the risk for colorectal cancer. In some patients with genetic risk factors, a daily aspirin can help prevent colorectal cancer, but this should be discussed with the patient’s health care provider.”
• Begin colon cancer screening at age 50 with a standard colonoscopy and at age 45 if you are African American, Echelmeyer says. “Those with a family history [first family diagnosed before age 60] of colon cancer or high-risk polyps should begin cancer screening at age 40, or 10 years prior to the age of their relative at diagnosis, and then five years thereafter.”
• Consider having lung cancer screening if you are or were a smoker. According to Schwartz, lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in America. “We think beginning in 2015, health insurance companies are going to start paying for low-dose CAT scans for those who have smoked for 15 years or longer.”
• Consume more fiber and less processed foods. “There have been multiple studies of people from Africa, where the rate of colon cancer is very low,” Schwartz says. “When thesepopulations move to this country, their rate of colon cancer goes up to mirror ours.”
• Make sure you are getting enough protein. “Most adults should get about 20 grams of protein, about the size of a deck of cards, or 4 ounces, with each meal,” Link says. “This is because your body can only absorb about 20 to 30 grams of protein at a time. Some studies indicate that too little protein when you get to be 50 and older increases the risk of disease.”
• Monitor your sleep. According to Mettu, sleep problems can interface with several other medical subspecialties clinical disease conditions such as neurology, cardiology, pulmonary medicine, endocrinology, rheumatology, dentistry, ENT, behavioral and psychiatry, to name a few. Women’s risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include being overweight, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pregnancy and menopause.
• Look into prostrate screening. “Prostate cancer screening is controversial, so discuss the risks and benefits with your physician,” Lease says.
• Get vaccinated for shingles. “Shingles vaccination is recommended to decrease the risk of painful shingles rash by about 50 percent,” Lease says.
Adams: “The main health issues that vascular surgical specialists encounter include manifestations of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Plaque buildup within the blood vessels result in blockages and can cause stroke, heart attacks and lower limb circulation problems. In severe cases, patients can progress to limb loss. Vascular disease affects approximately 20 percent of our population over the age of 65.”
• Influenza vaccines are recommended during the fall season for adults 65 and older to be better protected, Lease says.
• For women in their 60s and 70s, screening for breast cancer, osteoporosis and colorectal cancer are important. “If a woman has had normal cervical screenings and no new sexual partners, they can stop cervical screenings at age 65,” Lease says.
• Exercise regularly. This is especially important for cancer survivors, according to Schwartz. “Several studies of women who have had breast cancer and women and men who have had colon cancer show that cancer return is reduced by 50 percent if moderate to vigorous exercise is followed three times a week,” he says.
Your 70s and beyond
Rodgers: “Obviously, the arthritic effects of aging cannot be prevented completely, but many health problems, particularly back and neck trouble, are the cumulative result of choices we make every day.”
• Address chronic pain. “Patients should understand that there is a lot they can do to help their pain,” Lucio says. “The use of interventional techniques should be saved for last, and the use of narcotics should be de-emphasized in favor of over-the-counter and prescription-strength nonsteroidal medications like Tylenol, ibuprofen and Celebrex, to name a few.”
• Be aware of sleep disorders that are more common in older adults, especially institutionalized older people living in nursing homes, Mettu says. These can include: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, advance sleep phase syndrome, restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, REM sleep behavior disorder and insomnia (contributed from medical illnesses, medications, depression, alcohol use or loss of a loved one).
• Understand that aneurysm formation can be a more pressing health issue as we age. “Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) are the most common aneurysm that occur in the elderly population and can result in rupture and death if not detected and repaired,” Adams says. “Approximately 3 to 5 percent of patients over the age of 70 have a AAA.”
• Continue colonoscopy screenings until age 75 to 80 at appropriate intervals based on the findings of prior colonoscopies. “Though colonoscopy can often be feared, secondary to the preparation, colonoscopy saves lives and not only detects cancers but prevents them as well,” Echelmeyer says. “No other screening modality has the capability of doing both.”
• Review medications with your physician. Avoid sedating medications when possible to prevent development of confusion and increased fall risk.
• Schedule hearing and vision checks.
• Remain active.
Protect Your Skin Now and Later
According to Dr. Luke Welch of Central Missouri Dermatology, there are precautions to take and certain warning signs to look for to maintain healthy skin throughout your life.
• Tanning beds: They increase your risk of skin cancer substantially, and more research is coming out on the dangers. From an aesthetic standpoint, they will age you sooner and cause the melatonin (pigmentation) in your skin to become more uneven as you age.
• Sunburn: If you have had even one blistering sunburn as a child, your chances of getting skin cancer increase substantially.
• Wear a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more that has both UVB and UVA protection. Remember to put sunscreen on your ears, neck and chest. Damage to the chest and neck accumulates over time, and there are no great cosmetic treatments for these areas once the damage is done. However, there are several good medical treatments to reduce or eliminate pre-cancers in these areas.
Check for dark moles that seem to change in size or color. If you see the mole’s border changing, or if it bleeds or itches, see your doctor immediately. Aggressive forms of melanomas are most common at this age.
Be on the lookout for scaly bumps or pink, pearly bumps that do not go away. Squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma become more common at this stage of life.
40s on up
Continue to look for any skin changes just as during your 20s and 30s. Thankfully, it’s never too late to make changes to reduce your risk of skin cancers. If you have had skin cancer, you should be seeing your dermatologist on a regular basis.
By Jeff Zimmermann, health promotions manager of Boone Hospital Center’s WELLAWARE
We hear it all the time: For overall better health, we need to drink more water. But what if you don’t like the taste of water or need something else to quench your thirst? A trendy new option to help you drink more water and keep hydrated is fruit-infused water. It’s also a healthier alternative to sugary drinks and/or caffeinated beverages.
Every system in our body depends on water. Water flushes out toxins and keeps your body’s environment (skin, muscles, organs, etc.) moist from the inside out. Water carries nutrients to your cells, helps you look and feel your best and provides you with energy.
Experts tend to differ about how much water we need to drink. It is important to understand that we are all different and have specific needs when discussing water intake on a daily basis.
Factors such as your current health status, where you live and your activity level all play an important role. On average, 60 percent of our body is made up of water. The average person needs 2,000 cc of water per day, which is equivalent to a two liter bottle. A simple formula to determine your water needs is to take your body weight, divide it in half and then drink that number in ounces of water. For example, a 200-pound person should drink 100 ounces of water, and a 140-pound person should drink 70 ounces.
Refresh and cool off by adding these items (fresh or frozen) to your water: cucumber, lemons and limes, oranges, grapefruit, grapes, ginger and mint, peach, kiwi, blackberries, watermelon, pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries.
10 Ways to Increase Your Daily Water Intake
1. Start your morning off with a glass of water, right after you wake up.
2. Fill and carry your favorite water bottle with you wherever you go.
3. Drink water with a straw.
4. Eat water-rich foods, such as watermelon, tomatoes, oranges, celery, etc.
5. Drink water before eating a meal or snack.
6. If you are feeling sluggish in the afternoon, drink some water. Fatigue may be a sign of dehydration.
7. Track/log your daily water intake.
8. Cut back on caffeine, and replace caffeinated drinks with water.
9. Drink plenty of water when exercising: before, during and after the workout.
10. Jazz your water up with fresh fruit by using a water bottle infuser.
Teeth for Life
Samuel Barnhart, DDS, PC, with Huntline Dental Group, offers advice for keeping your teeth healthy.
Children and teens: Stay away from candy. Suckers, hard candy and chewy candies are all bad. Chewy candy is particularly bad because it adheres to the tiny grooves on surface of the teeth.
20s: Learn to brush your teeth well. Every tooth has five sides, and all must be brushed and flossed daily.
30s to 40s: Be careful of falling into unhealthy habits such as drinking soda at your desk. Do not smoke or use snuff. By this age, many people have lost one posterior tooth due to pregnancy or other circumstances. Do not wait to restore the space so that you will maintain proper arch form and bone volume.
50s: Be sure to have your fillings checked regularly because they have been there for a long time. Problems can creep in without you knowing it.
60s: Teeth begin to become more brittle due to the pulp chamber shrinking and thus less fluid in the teeth. Watch out for broken teeth, and crown them before fractures become symptomatic.
70s: Continue seeing your dentist every six months. If you have followed the above tips, maintenance usually gets easier.