Focus on Healthy Aging in September

Annual Wellness Visit provides a springboard to good health, fitness

By Mary Norman Regional Medical Director, Highland Springs DALLAS, TX--As the regional medical director at Highland Springs, an Erickson Living retirement community in North Dallas, I see firsthand how our residents can experience the best years of their life in retirement. While some benefit from their great genetics, most others have taken a proactive approach to their physical, emotional and social well-being.  It takes commitment, but now more than ever, health care providers have the tools for their patients to achieve successful aging. September is Healthy Aging Month®, the perfect time to establish personal goals for wellness and fitness. Do you know what you should be doing daily to stay at your best?  It's an issue being studied in our nation. In its March, 2011 report, New Preventive Medicare Benefits Begin, the United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) reveals that Americans use preventive services "at about half the recommended rate."  Further, the report references a study estimating that "almost 80 percent of all health care spending in the U.S. can be attributed to potentially preventable chronic illnesses such as cancer and diabetes." Consider making an appointment with your physician for your Annual Wellness Visit. Unlike other physician visits that require co-payments and deductibles, this appointment is covered 100% by Medicare.  The purpose of the Annual Wellness Visit is to develop your personalized health & wellness plan by setting goals for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, cancer screening and bone health. With the expertise of a health care provider, this visit also provides an excellent opportunity to create exercise and diet goals tailored to your lifestyle. Medicare covers the initial Annual Wellness Visit and then subsequent Annual Wellness Visits every twelve months so that your personal health plan may continue to be updated and refined. It is important to note that the Annual Wellness Visit is not the same as the "routine physical check-up" that some seniors may receive every year or two from their physician. For more information, please refer to these helpful websites: • http://www.cms.gov/MLNProducts/downloads/Annual_Wellness_Visit.pdf: Provides details regarding the Annual Wellness Visit by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. • www.choosemyplate.gov: Offers the latest dietary recommendations from the United States Department of Agriculture.  Interestingly, the traditional food pyramid taught to us in elementary school years ago is out, but a healthy plate is in! • www.nia.nih.gov : Presents the most recent medical booklets and on-line tools for healthy aging and fitness from the National Institute of Aging. The good news is that the message of wellness planning is spreading.  HHS announced that over 150,000 eligible Americans took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit in the first two months of 2011. Healthy Aging Month® in September gives us that reminder to take control of our well-being.  By setting goals now, we can work toward a healthier, happier 2012 and beyond. Dr. Norman is a 1989 graduate of Southern Methodist University with degrees in economics and finance.  Following a brief career in corporate lending with NCNB (now Bank of America), she began her vocation in medicine.   She graduated from University of California, San Francisco with an MD in 1997 and completed her internship and residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in geriatric medicine there as well.  In 2002, Dr. Norman returned to Dallas to practice geriatric medicine.   She is currently the Regional Medical Director at Highland Springs, an Erickson Living retirement community in North Dallas, with oversight of campuses in three states.