According to the Surgeon General’s report on healthy aging, only two out of every five adults ages 65 and older are up to date with their preventive care, which includes everything from immunizations and screening tests to chronic disease management and counseling.
So why do so many older adults fall behind in their preventive care? Because it isn’t always intuitive. You know to visit the doctor if you’re not feeling well. But when life is humming along, and you feel fine, a well visit to your health care provider may not seem like a priority, but it is. Preventive care not only helps stave off illnesses, it can also slow the progression of a disease and help you maintain a good quality of life. If you’re not making preventive care a health priority, you may be missing an opportunity. Consider these five facts about preventive care:
1. Preventive care can prolong lifePreventive care, such as screenings, can save lives. For example, heart disease is the leading cause of death for adults in America. A simple preventive measure like blood pressure screening and control is one of the best ways to stop heart disease from developing (or getting worse). For people with diabetes, controlling blood pressure can lower the risk of heart disease by 33 - 50%, according to HealthyPeople.gov (part of the office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion).
2. Preventive care can help save moneyPreventing chronic diseases or slowing the progression of chronic disease through preventive care makes sense financially. Consider this: Expenses related to caring for a chronic condition account for 95 percent of healthcare costs for older Americans, according to the National Council on Aging.
Preventive care also includes counseling and programs such as fall prevention. With the average hospital cost for a fall at $30,000, taking time to learn about how to minimize your chance of suffering a fall may make good economic sense.
3. Preventive care can keep you mobile and independent longerMany conditions can become debilitating, causing you to lose independence. If you can’t stop a disease altogether, you’ll still want to minimize its impact. For conditions like arthritis and diabetes, preventive care can play a huge role. Also, consider that very basic preventive care, such as getting a flu shot, can have a big impact on your health and mobility. Studies have shown that older adults recovering from the flu have a greater risk of having a heart attack or a stroke — conditions that can greatly reduce mobility.
4. Many clinical preventive services are covered under Medicare
Though you may not realize it, Medicare covers many preventive screenings and services. Learn more about what screenings Medicare Part B covers.
5. You may have to ask your doctor for preventive care
If you go to the doctor when you’re sick, he or she is focused on treating that condition. Doctors are often under pressure to treat as many patients as quickly as possible, and preventive care may not even come up during your visit. While there are initiatives in place to help doctors focus more on preventive care, consider asking your doctor what preventive care you need, and make sure to schedule it before leaving the appointment.
Remember, even if preventive care hasn’t been your top priority, it’s not too late to focus on getting your recommended tests and screenings.