Broome County Health Department Recognizes Public Health Week 2005

     BINGHAMTON, NY - In recognition of Public Health Week, April 4-11, the Broome County Health Department is encouraging older adults in our community to "Live Stronger, Longer" by following the three P approach:

Prevent Problems from Happening
Protect Your Health through Early Detection
Plan to Stay Healthy

Chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Factors that contribute to chronic disease include the use of tobacco products, physical inactivity, poor nutrition, failure to utilize screening and early detection services, improper care of an existing health condition, as well as age gender and race.

Older adults can Prevent many common health problems by making simple lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthier diet, taking their prescribed medications, getting more physical activity, taking steps to reduce their chances of falling, and getting immunized against vaccine preventative diseases.

More than 40,000 Americans age 65 or older die each year of influenza and invasive pneumoccocal disease. Immunizations reduce a person's risk of hospitalization and death from these diseases. Yet, in 2002, one in three Americans over 65 had not had a recent flu shot and 37 percent had never received a pneumonia vaccine.

Nearly one in four older adults skip doses of medication or does not fill prescriptions because of costs, which leads to health problems down the road. In a recent study, older Americans who failed to take prescribed medications were 76 percent more likely to suffer a significant decline in their overall health than those who took all medications as prescribed.

Preventing accidents in the home or workplace can add on more healthy years. Falls are the most common cause of injuries to older adults. More than one-third of adults over 65 fall each year and of these nearly one-third suffer moderate to severe injuries that decrease mobility and independence. Simple measures like removing tripping hazards in the home and installing grab bars can dramatically reduce the risk of falls to older Americans.

Americans can also increase their number of healthy years by simply adopting a healthy lifestyle. Research shows that many of the deterioration symptoms that come with age are a matter of influence and mindset - not genetics. People who are physically active, eat a healthy diet, avoid tobacco products, and practice other healthy behaviors reduce their risk of chronic diseases and have half the rate of disability than those who do not.

Screenings can Protect the health of older adults. Many conditions are treatable if diagnosed early. Even though Medicare covers a wide range of preventive screenings for cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and diabetes, among other conditions, only one in three older adults is getting all recommended health screenings. If your doctor hasn't mentioned them to you, perhaps you should ask him or her if any of these services might be of benefit to you.

Cancer Tests:

  • Breast Cancer Screening (Mammograms) - Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the United States. Every woman is at risk, and this risk increases with age. Breast cancer can usually be successfully treated when found early. Medicare covers screening mammograms and digital technologies for screening mammograms to check for breast cancer before you or a doctor may be able to feel it.
  • Cervical and Vaginal Cancer Screening (Pap Test and Pelvic Exam) - Medicare covers Pap tests and pelvic exams to check for cervical and vaginal cancers. As part of the pelvic exam, Medicare covers a clinical breast exam to check for breast cancer.
  • Colon Cancer Screening (PSA) - Colorectal cancer is usually found in people age 50 or older, and the risk of getting it increases with age. Medicare covers colorectal screening tests to help find pre-cancerous polyps (growths in the colon) so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Treatment works best when colorectal cancer is found early.
  • Prostate Cancer Screening (PSA) - Prostate cancer can often be found early by testing the amount of PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) in your blood. Another way prostate cancer is found early is when your doctor performs a rectal exam. Medicare covers both of these tests so that prostate cancer can be detected and treated early.

Cardiovascular Screening:
Medicare covers cardiovascular screenings that check your cholesterol and other blood fat (lipid) levels. High levels of cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. These screening tests will tell if you have high cholesterol. You might be able to make lifestyle changes (like changing your diet) to lower your cholesterol and stay healthy. Medicare will cover these tests every five years.

Bone Mass Measurement:
Medicare covers bone mass measurements to determine whether you are at risk for a fracture (broken bone). People are at risk for fractures because of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease in which your bones become weak. In general, the lower your bone density, the higher your risk is for a fracture. Bone mass measurement test results will help you and your doctor choose the best way to keep your bones strong.

Diabetes:
Diabetes is a medical condition in which your body doesn't make enough insulin or has a reduced response to insulin. Diabetes causes your blood sugar to be too high because insulin is needed to use sugar properly. A high blood sugar level is not good for your health. For people with Medicare at risk for getting diabetes, Medicare covers a screening blood sugar test to check for diabetes. You are considered at risk if you have any of the following: high blood pressure, dyslipidemia (history of abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels), obesity, or a history of high blood sugar. Other risk factors may also qualify you for this test and based on the results, you may be eligible for up to two screenings each year. Medicare also covers certain supplies and self-management training to find and treat diabetes.

Older adults who already have chronic conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes can Plan to stay healthy by working with their doctor to create an action plan for managing their condition and carefully following the treatment regimen their doctor prescribes.

Family members and friends can help older adults protect their health by making sure they get the recommended health screenings. They can also help by providing transportation to the doctor's office and assistance with meal planning, taking medications or doing exercises.

For more information on screenings covered by Medicare call 1.800.663.4227 or visit the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov/Health/Overview.asp. For an easy to read article that gives guidance on the best kinds of foods older adults should eat and why, call the Broome County Office for Aging at 607.778.2411 for a free copy of "Nine Weeks to a Perfect Diet."