5 common health concerns to look for
It’s easy to put off thinking about the future when you’re fit and well. However, all of that can change in an instant if you ever face a major health scare. From aches and pains to gloomy waiting rooms at the doctor's, it's never a fun experience to get sick. But as they say, prevention is the best treatment, so it always pays to look for your wellbeing, especially as we get older.
Here are five common health concerns to be aware of as you get older, and some tips on how to stay as healthy as you can going forward.
Cancer is New Zealand’s single biggest cause of death, with lung cancer the country’s biggest killer. It’s estimated that 23,000 Kiwis are diagnosed with some form of cancer each year, and experts believe cancer rates are high in New Zealand because of our aging population. The good news is many cancers can be cured if they’re found and treated in time — around 1 in 3 patients are cured.
Did you know that one New Zealander dies from heart disease every 90 minutes? And that many of these diseases are premature and preventable? It’s estimated that more than one in every 23 adults in New Zealand is living with heart disease, and women who smoke are three times as likely to have a heart attack compared to those who don’t smoke.
Every 45 minutes, one adult New Zealander has a stroke — and it’s incredible to think that 75% of strokes are actually preventable. One major risk factor is high blood pressure; it affects one in five New Zealanders, so getting yours checked and making healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way towards avoiding a stroke.
Around 6% of Kiwis are diabetic, and 15–20% of those aged 65 and over have the condition. There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition where your body has stopped producing insulin and you need to inject insulin to live. Type 2 diabetes is often (but not always) caused by obesity or an unhealthy diet. Because diabetes can lead to a lot of other health conditions, early diagnosis and management can make a big difference to your lifestyle moving forward.
Obviously, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, which has caused widespread concern for many New Zealanders. However, COVID-19’s not the only virus out there that can have implications for your health — even a bad bout of seasonal flu can be serious. Washing your hands and staying home when you’re sick is essential to preventing the spread of flu or other contagious disease.
3 simple things you can do to stay healthy
There are lots of simple lifestyle choices you can make to stay healthy. Here are some tips to keep you at your best.
For older adults, the Ministry of Health recommends 30 minutes of aerobic physical activity 5 days a week. That could mean anything from a heart-pumping session of ballroom dancing, to doing laps, or even playing with the grandchildren.
Eat a healthy diet
Getting the right nutrients is hugely important in helping ward off or reverse many health issues associated with aging. It’s important for older adults in particular to get a good mix of protein, calcium, Vitamin D, folate and Vitamin B12 in your diet, according to the NZ Nutrition Foundation. It's also a good idea to chat to a dietitian or GP to ensure your diet is balanced.
Have regular check-ups
Prevention is always better than cure and if you’re ill, notice any strange symptoms, or just aren’t feeling 100%, it’s always a good idea to head to your GP for a once-over. If you do have a health condition, get on top of it early if you can.
If you’ve already suffered a health scare
Looking down the barrel of your mortality can be a great motivator in wanting to get your affairs in order. Here are a few things you could consider for peace of mind:
- Funeral insurance If you pass away, funeral Insurance pays out a lump-sum to your beneficiaries to cover funeral costs (which can be anywhere from $8000-10,000 in New Zealand).
- Estate planning This ensures your assets and valuables are protected and distributed according to your wishes, and it includes putting a legal will in place. If you don’t, and you die ‘intestate’, your assets will be distributed according to New Zealand law.
- Power of attorney This is an important role and a person you nominate to make decisions on your behalf if you’re impaired by illness or incapacitated.
Dealing with a health crisis can be life-changing, so ensuring your affairs are in order can give you and your family that much-needed peace of mind.
You might wish to involve your family in some of the process, especially if you’re nominating a power of attorney. It’s also essential that your loved ones know how to find your medical and legal documents such as your will, insurance policies and end-of-life wishes – just in case.
26 Mar 2021