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Eight common health mistakes: Which are you making?

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November 24th, 2009

Most health mistakes made by seniors are communication-related, says Vrinda Suneja, M.D. Whether it s communicating with their doctors, specialists, pharmacists, or loved ones, seniors need to be consistent about their health information. ' According to the Institute for Health Advancement (IHA), seniors need to be aware of health mistakes in order to effectively deal with health problems. The following health mistakes were compiled from Erickson health and wellness experts as well as the IHA s list available at http://www..... ' Not being literate about your health. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, health literacy is the degree to which people have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Adhering to prescription instructions, filling out a patient information form, or giving informed consent are specific tasks that require an adequate level of health literacy. Augment your health literacy by asking for written, educational information about your health conditions and prescriptions. Keep your own medical records and update them frequently. ' Failure to have a system in place for managing medications. Many people take several medications for multiple health conditions, and it can be confusing to keep track. First, make sure your doctor and pharmacist know about all medications, both prescription and over-the-counter you are taking, including herbal teas or other supplements. Use schedules, calendars, pillboxes, check-off records, or other reminders to keep track of what you need to take. ' Keep a complete and accurate list of your medications with you at all times for any doctor s appointments or emergencies, Suneja says. Take your list to all of your doctors appointments. Make sure your primary doctor knows if something s been changed. This will help you avoid adverse medication reactions. ' Not having advance directives. Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to communicate decisions about your medical care if you lose your decision-making abilities because of an accident or serious illness. Common advance directive documents are living wills and durable powers of attorney for health care. You can obtain forms for advance directives from your health care provider, health department, lawyer, or online from your state s website. ' ' Not having a single primary care physician who looks at your overall medical plan for treatment. Health problems may be overlooked if you go to several different doctors or other health care providers and are undergoing treatments for multiple conditions. Care coordination is essential. Designate one primary doctor as your care coordinator and make sure he or she has all of your health information, including updates when any changes occur. ' Not being physically active. Physical activity is the one lifestyle change that can bring you many positive results. Even if you are a lifetime non-exerciser, starting now can make you more resilient to illness, injury, or surgery in the future. Just walking, which many of us take for granted, has remarkable healthful benefits. Always talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise or activity program. Disregarding the serious potential of a fall. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the U.S. Falls are a leading cause of injury-related deaths and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma. Take steps to reduce your risk exercise regularly, check your medications side effects with your doctor, reduce hazards in your home, and have your eyes checked. ' Failure to participate in prevention programs. ' Flu and pneumonia vaccines and routine breast and prostate exams are examples of readily available preventive health measure that you can use to stay healthy. ' Thinking you re too old to start a new hobby. It s never too late. Research shows that trying something new can keep your memory sharp. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who participated in interactive activities like board games, square dancing, and playing musical instruments tended to maintain their mental abilities. The study also found that fewer people who engaged in these types of activities developed dementia than those who didn t. Keep in mind, however, that any activity can be beneficial as long as it s something new to you.

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