December 14, 1999
CDC Says Older Americans Could Do More to
Improve Health and Quality of Life
Atlanta, GA (SafetyAlerts)
- A report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
indicates that older Americans could do more to improve their health and quality of life
as they age.
The CDC looked at several indicators of the health
of older Americans, including illness and death, health risk behaviors, use of preventive
services, medical expenditures, and injuries and violence,
The data are from several national surveys,
including the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the National Health
Interview Survey (NHIS), the National Hospital Discharge Survey, and the Medicare Current
Beneficiary Survey. Also included are data from the Vital Statistics Cooperative
Program, which compiles and submits to CDC all death certificates filed in the United
"Disease and disability need not be
inevitable consequences of aging," said CDC Director Jeffrey P. Koplan, MD, MPH.
"Simple changes in lifestylemore physical activity, a balanced diet rich in
fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and using preventive services like mammograms,
colorectal cancer screening, and vaccinationscan contribute to more years of health
and better quality of life."
But the findings showed that many seniors are not
physically active and are not using services that would prevent or detect early the
chronic diseases that people are likely to develop as they grow older.
- About a third of the 55- to 74-year-olds were
physically inactive; 46.0% of those older than 74 reported no physical activity.
- Use of preventive health services such as
vaccinations by persons older than 65 varied widely among states and were higher for
influenza vaccine (range: 54%-74%) than for pneumococcal vaccine (range: 32%-59%). The
national objective for the year 2000 is to increase both levels to 60% in the 65 or older
- Use of breast cancer screening among women
decreased with age (77% among those aged 55-64 years, 75% among those aged 65-74 years,
61% among those 75 years and older), although women's risk of breast cancer increases as
- Less than a third of people 55 and older had
received a simple screening test for colorectal cancer. As a result their lives may be
shortened or they may be living their last years with poor quality of life.
- While the percentages of older people in all 50
states and the District of Columbia who reported eating five or more fruits and vegetables
a day increased during 1994 and 1996 more than 60% of seniors still aren't meeting that
- In addition, the increase in the number of older
Americans who have stopped smoking as they age is attributed to the deaths of older people
who smoke as well as to some who have kicked the habit.
"The release of this report, on the eve of
the new millennium, focuses attention on where we are, as well as where we as a society
need to go," said James S. Marks, MD, MPH, director of CDC's National Center for
Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "A nationwide effort is needed to
both promote healthy behaviors among the elderly and to make them aware of the value and
availability of preventive health services."
The findings are being released at a time when
Americans are living longer and the proportion of older adults in the population is
increasing rapidly as the Baby Boomers age. CDC and its partners hope that state and other
health planners will use these data to plan interventions for seniors to help them remain
independent and maintain quality of life as they age.
One CDC partner, the Administration on Aging, is
working with CDC to ensure that older Americans know where to go in the community to get
benefits and services to help them maintain independence.
"The Administration on Aging endorses the
CDC's efforts to monitor the health and quality of life of older Americans,"said
Jeanette C. Takamura, PhD, Assistant Secretary for Aging, Administration on Aging.
"We are dedicated to seeing that America is ready to meet the challenges and use the
opportunities presented by the longevity of its people."
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and timely product warning notification visit: www.safetyalerts.com.
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