Overall Health for People in their 70s
If you have not yet reached your 70s, you will be pleased to know that half of people surveyed who have already reached their 70s said that their lives had turned out better than they expected.
If you are a woman around age 65, you can expect to live, on average, another 20.6 years. If you are a man of the same age, you can expect to live another 18 years. Of course, whether or not you achieve that lifespan will depend on how well you take care of yourself.
You are less likely to die of cancer than people of our parents' generation, as long as you get timely cancer screenings. For example, colon cancer deaths have fallen over 50 percent since 1970 because of colonoscopies and other screenings.
Other medical advances, such as pacemakers, are also likely to keep you living longer. About 225,000 people a year have pacemakers implanted and the average age when this happens is 75.
You do need to get serious about your diabetes risk, however. Approximately 75 percent of older Americans have either diabetes or prediabetes, and this disease can damage your heart, brain, kidneys, eyes and other organs. If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes, you can improve your health by enrolling in a diabetes prevention program, which will be covered by Medicare.
Your Brain in Your 70s
Because our generation is in better general health than the previous generation, our risk of dementia is about 27 percent lower. That will be a major relief to those of us who have parents with dementia.
You can do your part to protect your brain by eating dark green leafy vegetables like kale, which contain the nutrients folate, lutein and carotenoids. You may also want to read the other articles in this blog about reducing our risk of dementia by following the MIND diet, getting exercise, reducing your stress, getting adequate sleep, seeing your dentist and taking similar measures. (Click on the tab at the top of this article on Medical Concerns to find a number of additional research-based articles.)
Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep is a common complaint of nearly 50 percent of people in their 70s. As a result, you may want to reduce your caffeine consumption in the afternoon and evening, and drink less alcohol. If you still have trouble not getting enough sleep, talk to your doctor about getting help with sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and other problems which could be interfering with your sleep.
Your Eyes and Ears in Your 70s
Do not be surprised if you develop new vision problems at this stage of your life. See your ophthalmologist regularly for checkups. You may need cataract surgery or have to address other vision issues such as dry eyes.
Another common issue which affects about one-third of people in their 70s is hearing loss. The National Institutes of Health reports that 50% of people over the age of 75 have a disabling amount of hearing loss. Modern hearing aids are barely noticeable and much more comfortable than the old ones, so do not hesitate to get one if you think you need one.
People in their 70s are more likely to develop dementia and have shorter lives if they have untreated vision and hearing problems, which is reason enough to take care of these problems.
Muscles and Bones in the Aging Body
If you are a Baby Boomer, it is highly likely that by the time you reach your retirement age you will have noticed some changes to your body. Your joints may be stiffer, you probably have less muscle mass, and you may be getting a little shorter. Exercise is the best defense we have against those problems, but talk to your doctor to make sure you are getting all the proper diagnostic tests to confirm you do not have a serious problem. Ideally, you should combine a variety of types of exercise in your health plan, including weight bearing, aerobic, balance and strength training. Many Medicare supplement plans include gym memberships. You can also find classes through your city recreation department or the Emeritus program of your local community college. Reach out to find a variety of types of exercise programs.
Sex in Your 70s
According to the AARP article, one in six women and one in three men are still enjoying sex in their 70s. Unfortunately, it is not possible for everyone. Approximately 44 percent of men experience erectile dysfunction. In these cases, it can be helpful to see your physician and find out if your problem can be solved. Another issue is that about 30 percent of women ages 64 to 84 live alone. However, the good news is that this number has fallen in recent years because husbands are living longer. Since loneliness has been found to shorten our lives, maintaining connections in our life is one key to longevity.
The bottom line is there is no reason to fear your 70s. You may still have a number of good years left to live and a better quality of life than you expected.
If you are interested in learning more about common medical issues as you age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.
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Photo credit: Google Images from Vuing.com - Carl and Ellie Fredericksen