1 out of 2 Americans Over 65 are Considered Disabled

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Preventative care is a new focus that is beginning to overtake modern American medicine.

American health care has historically been focused on repairing your health after you have broken down. Doctors have been trained to recognize symptoms and to treat diseases that you have. There is a new focus that is beginning to overtake modern American medicine. The new focus is Preventative Care. Doctors, and even insurance companies, are beginning to attempt to recognize the markers for healthy lives and to teach and encourage people to live them. If you live a healthy life you are less likely to have your system break down and need fixing.

Eventually all of us will have to face the end of life realities and we will die. Our belief is that we can stay healthy and live independently up to the very end if we practice preventative medicine and follow healthy guidelines.

There are currently over 45 million Americans 65 and over. By the year 2050 demographers estimate we will have over 86.7 million people over the age of 65. That is an estimated 20% of the population. We are worried about health care and the costs of health care for that number of people. Current data indicate that 80% of the health care cost for your lifetime are spent on you in the last six months of your life. What can we do to reduce that cost and your suffering? How can we help you to be healthier and to live independently till the end of your life without spending that kind of money on you?

As we study the aging population we find that skeletal muscle dysfunction is a debilitating factor and a life threatening condition in older people. As you age you lose muscle strength and balance. These losses are highly correlated with both mortality and physical disability in the elderly. We have learned that the maintenance of muscle mass will help you as you age because muscle mass serves as a metabolic reservoir to effectively withstand the impact of diseases that will either kill you or open you to opportunistic injury and infection that will kill you.

If our goal is to help you live healthy lives (and it is) then we need to identify ways that we can interrupt this cascade of sickness and debility. We need to identify markers of decline where we can intervene to restore your health and which will serve as preventative interventions to lessen the impact of aging on your bodies and your health.

Researchers have identified three markers that can help us know who to help and how! The markers are 1) grip strength, 2) walking speed, and 3) obesity.

As you age your body begins to lose its hormone productions. When your body stops making the hormone testosterone, you begin to lose muscle mass. Testosterone is the key ingredient that allows your body to build muscles. If you don’t have it, you can’t build muscles. When your muscles atrophy you loose your balance and your ability to complete what we call the essential activities of daily life. Activities such as standing from a chair, or walking up a flight of stairs, or walking three blocks are measures of your ability to function and live independently. Usually long term life insurance policies kick in when you can no longer do at least three of what are recognized as the ADL, Activities of Daily Life, such as standing, walking, bathing, feeding yourself, etc., at that time your insurance policy will begin to pay for those things to be done for you. (if you have such a policy)

Replacing testosterone within ten years of its loss, and continuing to replace it, will allow you to build your muscles so that you can continue to move, stand, and live independently. The testosterone gives you the ability to do this. You actually have to do more on your own though. You have to exercise (resistance or weight training is essential for most of us) and aerobic exercise or cardio is also a necessary health care strategy.  One of the ways that we can tell that you are failing and in need of an intervention or a preventative strategy is to measure your grip strength. It is one of the least expensive tests that can operate as identifiers among the aging population of those who are most likely to lose their mobility and muscle strength.  Another measure is your gait. How fast you walk is a good measure of your capacity, the current research suggests that those who walk at a speed of less than .6M/sec are at risk of balance and mobility decline that will cause them to become sedentary and that will accelerate their decline and their exposure to disease and death.

Finally obesity must be considered as an adverse factor in your health and longevity. If you can lose weight and keep it off, if you can practice resistance training and keep your strength up, if you can walk faster than a dawdle, and if you replace your lost testosterone in the appropriate amounts, you are less likely to need walkers, wheelchairs, canes, etc. and you are more likely to be able to live independently and healthily until you die.

This Health cast was written and presented by Dr. Kathy Maupin, M.D., Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Expert and Author, with Brett Newcomb, MA., LPC., Family Counselor, Presenter and Author. www.BioBalanceHealth.com

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