What a Healthier America Today Means for the Future of Elder Care

Americans are getting healthier.

That’s the surprisingly optimistic take away from this year’s America’s Health Rankings report, an annual nationwide analysis conducted by the United Health Foundation.

Despite the flurry of attention on rising rates of obesity and the ongoing epidemic of the sedentary lifestyles of many adults, the report uncovered several promising trends:

Were not smoking as much: There was nearly a two percent drop in the national smoking rate—from 21.2 percent in 2012 to 19.6 percent in 2013. This improvement wasn’t driven by one or two areas. In total, seventeen states saw the frequency of smoking in their population decline substantially.

More of us are managing to keep obesity at bay: For a decade and a half, the percentage of Americans at least 30 pounds overweight has increased each year. But in 2013, the number stayed constant.

Were making efforts to exercise: The number of individuals leading sedentary lives—not engaging in non-work-related physical activity for more than 30 days—also declined this year. Over a quarter of American adults were inactive in 2012, but 2013 saw this percentage drop to 22.9.

These positive developments may help today’s younger adults fend off a few of the chronic conditions that plague so many seniors, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, yet there is still much to be done if the country is to improve upon its 26th-ranked position on the worldwide life expectancy list.

Improving the outcomes and reducing the cost of American healthcare is one piece of the puzzle, but it won’t fix everything says Harvey Fineberg, M.D., Ph.D., president of the Institute of Medicine. “Regardless of how efficient and effective we can make medical care, we will never be able to cure our way to a healthy society. The only way to succeed is by intensifying our focus on prevention of disease.”

Fineberg points out that most ailments are caused by a confluence of factors including lifestyle behaviors, environmental elements and genetics. While genetics and even environmental causes may be out of the control of the average American, lifestyle behaviors are modifiable.

And a few small changes can have a big impact.

Researchers from the United Kingdom followed the habits and health of a group of individuals over the span of 35 years and concluded that there were certain lifestyle choices that may significantly reduce a person’s risk for cognitive decline in old age:

  • Keeping alcohol consumption moderate
  • Maintaining a low bodyweight
  • Engaging in regular physical activity
  • Abstaining from smoking
  • Sticking to a healthy diet

Consistently sticking to at least four of these practices could slash dementia risk by 60 percent and cut a person’s chances of having a stroke, or developing diabetes or heart disease, by 70 percent, according to study authors.

The conclusion that leading a health-conscious lifestyle translates to better overall health may not be a groundbreaking revelation, but these figures indicate the true potency of personal choice on future health.

Making the right choices today may cut down on the amount (and cost) of care needed by aging adults in the future—thankfully, though we still have a long way to go, it looks as though America is headed in the right direction.

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How to Avoid Hidden Traps in Food Labels

By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor


William Asolis
William Asolis4 years ago

My Grandpa is an alcohol addict and nothing could help him quit the habit. Above all, he experienced memory loss. It was hard to convince him. We just took him to a assisted living facility called Prestige Care Inc, a senior care home in US. He has not overcome it completely, but he is getting better.

Michael A.
Michael A4 years ago


Rhonda Bird
Rhonda B4 years ago


Jess No Fwd Plz K.
Jessica K4 years ago

Sounds like a start, better than nothing. Hope it continues. Thanks.

Janis K.
Janis K4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Mac C.
mac C4 years ago

Good to hear. Our futures will be bright if these trends continue. Thanks for the good news post and the links at the end.

BMutiny TCorporationsEvil

Gina F 2:13 pm Dec 14
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Thank you for FLAGGING
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[If there's no "flag" place, post something or else leave & come back, it WILL appear!]

Aaron Bouchard
Aaron Bouchard4 years ago

thank you

Pat P.
Pat P4 years ago

There are still plenty of seniors who are very ill, poor and alone--at a time in life when it is most difficult to deal with these problems. Our society needs to do a much better job of taking care of them. Covering up that fact with some positive statistics does not change the reality.

Deborah W.
Deborah W4 years ago

Several PROMISING TRENDS ... that's a good thing but does not a healthier population make.

The smart ones are already invested, the others need education and PERSONAL INVESTMENT to make it work. Not often happening in this portion of the populous.

Positive developments MAY help, still, it's awareness and personal choice.