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Seniors

How Seniors Can Beat the Heat: Tips for Staying Active and Safe as Temperatures Rise

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Today’s seniors are more active than ever before. Popular pastimes such as golf, cycling and gardening provide daily opportunities to exercise and socialize, and there’s no better time to enjoy these outdoor pursuits than the summer months.  

However, as temperatures rise, so do the risks of heat stress. Extreme heat can be dangerous for anyone, but older adults are especially vulnerable to conditions such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke due to the body’s natural aging process, underlying chronic conditions and side effects from prescription drugs. Excessive exposure to heat can quickly lead to serious illness or even death in older adults, and today’s seniors could be at greater risk than previous generations as research shows summers are getting hotter over time.

The best defense against heat stress and related illnesses is staying informed, prepared and alert. The following tips can help older adults stay active, healthy and safe when temperatures are high.

1. Know the signs. Be alert for common signs of heat exhaustion, which include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting and fainting. Seek medical attention right away if you notice any of these symptoms.

2. Stay hydrated. Your body needs more water than you may think – and you need to drink before you are thirsty. Ask your doctor how much you should be drinking if you are directed to limit your fluid intake due to certain medications.

3. Time it right and take plenty of breaks. Make the most of early morning and evening hours (before 11 a.m. and after 4 p.m.) when temperatures are cooler to do outdoor activities such as gardening or walking. Take regular breaks from the heat in air-conditioned areas or designated cooling centers, if necessary.

4. Take it inside. Don’t let the heat keep you sedentary. When it’s too hot for your usual outdoor jog or bike ride, explore indoor-based activities at the gym or your community center. Many Medicare Advantage plans cover gym memberships, so be sure to brush up on your benefits to get the most out of your plan.

5. Use the buddy system. If you choose to do an outdoor activity when it’s hot, bring a friend. Besides enjoying each other’s company, you can help each other stay alert to any signs of heat stress or get help if necessary.

6. Skip the stove. Cooking can heat up your living space quickly, so avoid turning on the stove or oven when it’s very hot. Cold foods like salad, fresh fruit and yogurt can be healthy, convenient and refreshing options when the mercury rises.

UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement is the largest business dedicated to the health and well-being needs of seniors and other beneficiaries. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 12.3 million beneficiaries nationwide, including more than 1 million here in Texas.

For more information about staying safe in the summer heat, check out this AARP article, or search for “heat safety” on AARP.org. You can find additional health and wellness information and tips for healthy living at newsroom.uhc.com.

UnitedHealthcare helps East Texas Food Bank feed hungry seniors, achieve fundraising goal

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In today’s Texas, where the economy is booming and opportunities abound, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could go hungry. But hunger and lack of nutrition plague far too many families in the Lone Star State, contributing to the state’s rank of 31st out of the 50 states in overall health, according to UnitedHealthcare’s America’s Health Rankings® 2014 report.

These issues are particularly worrisome for the older population, which is even more vulnerable to negative health outcomes related to food insecurity than other adults. A recent study by Feeding America and the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, Spotlight on Senior Health: Adverse Health Outcomes of Food Insecure Older Americans found that food insecure seniors have a much higher risk for chronic health conditions.

When compared to seniors who have reliable food sources, food insecure seniors are:

  • 60 percent more likely to experience depression
  • 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack
  • 52 percent more likely to develop asthma
  • 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure

In response to the needs of local senior citizens, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Texas recently awarded $5,000 to the East Texas Food Bank to support its Senior Box Program to help improve the nutrition and health of senior citizens in and around Smith County, where some 43,000 individuals are food insecure (source: Feeding America Map the Meal Gap 2015). UnitedHealthcare’s contribution also enabled East Texas Food Bank to reach its $25,000 fundraising goal that enabled it to qualify for another $25,000 matching grant.

 

 

Texas ranks 41st for seniors in America’s Health Rankings

Senior Health Rankings

“With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone,” quipped Oscar Wilde more than a century ago.

This old adage may hold true for seniors around the state and nation, when it comes to their health and well being, according to the third edition of United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings® Senior Report: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities, released last week.

Texas ranked 41st among the 50 states for senior health this year, based on several concerning factors. Among them:

  • Physical inactivity among adults 65+ increased 35% this year, from 28.3% to 38.1%
  • Chronic drinking among adults 65+ increased 59% this year, from 3.2% to 5.1%

In addition to the behavioral factors, Texas seniors also experienced an 8% increase in food insecurity this year, rising from 18.4% last year to 19.8%, and a lack of quality nursing home beds.

However, the news was not all bad. In fact, Texas seniors scored well in several areas:

  • They experienced a 24% decrease in poor mental health days – from 2.5 poor days per month last year to 1.9 days this year.
  • Texas seniors saw a 17% decrease in hip fractures this year, from 8.4 last year to 7 hospitalizations per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries.
  • Texas seniors have a lower prevalence of full mouth tooth extraction than those in other states.
  • Texas seniors are better than the national average when it comes to obesity, ranking the state 31st in the study.

Moreover, Texas seniors benefit from a ready availability of home health providers.

Though some of the trends are positive, the reality is sobering when we consider that seniors are largest consumers of healthcare – spending about twice as much as adults 45-64 – and that by 2050, the nation’s 65+ population will be nearly double what it was just three years ago.

A whopping 80% of seniors have been diagnosed with at least one chronic condition and half of all seniors have at least two chronic conditions. Though some health conditions are just part of getting older, others are a direct result of choices in behavior.

As Texans face the prospect of aging, we would be wise to increase our physical activity, eat a better diet and cut back on the booze. These choices would make for a healthier, better quality life and demonstrate true wisdom that would earn us better scores in America’s Health Rankings and that might even make Oscar Wilde proud.

Visit americashealthrankings.org for full report details, including downloadable copies and interactive graphs.