“Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. Let’s do it, let’s fall in love…”

The very best investment you can make in your short- and long-term health is engaging in physical activity. The benefits are extraordinary and range from prevention of heart attack, stroke, and dementia to better sleep and bone health. Despite increased awareness of this, active seniors remain a minority.

Last month, I wrote about how not all memory loss is dementia and not all dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. This month, let’s explore what we can do to prevent and even treat conditions associated with memory loss and signs of dementia.

One area in health that is both anxiety-provoking and confusing is the topic of memory loss, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia often evokes more fear among seniors than heart disease and cancer. 

Living freely without limitation is a fundamental goal for us all and a basic aspect of maintaining independence is having control of our bladder function. Urinary incontinence or loss of bladder control is remarkably common, with one out of three older women and a significant number of men being affected.

Today, medication is often the cornerstone of health care treatment for many conditions, and in some instances, it seems miraculous that we can effectively treat or cure diseases once thought of as terminal.

Nutrition is one area of healthy living that creates wonderful possibilities. Our understanding of food has grown substantially, and dietary recommendations have evolved from the grain-based food pyramid to a healthy plate emphasizing fruits and vegetables.

One important step we can all take to maintain our health and well-being is preventing falls. This is highlighted by the fact that up to 30% of seniors who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries, including lacerations, hip fractures, and head trauma. These injuries can make it difficult to live independently and can also increase your risk of early death.

Vaccines have certainly been in the news, with hot topics being childhood measles vaccination and the relative ineffectiveness of the flu shot this year. While these headlines are being made, there is some important news that all seniors should be aware of and take action on.

If you’re like many seniors, you may have more than one condition such as arthritis, high blood pressure, or diabetes. To stay in good health, you may see a number of doctors, take several medications prescribed by each of those doctors, and sometimes require other services such as physical therapy or home health.

One of the greatest advances in medicine over the past thirty years has been in the care of progressive and terminal illness. These improvements have occurred largely because health care providers have come to learn the importance of listening and honoring patients’ needs and preferences.

In last month’s column, I wrote about the benefits of exercise specifically with regard to better brain health and the prevention of cognitive impairment. Since that time, some very encouraging news has come out about the incidence of not only dementia but also heart attack and stroke.