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Staying fit as you age

What is longevity without health? Adults today are looking not only to extend their lives, but to enjoy their extra years. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for

Adults today are looking not only to extend their lives, but to enjoy their extra years.

Healthy Aging simplified the barrage of health messages aimed at older adults to create the 10 Keys to Healthy Aging. The Center is promoting these sensible strategies for a long, healthy life among residents of Pittsburgh, and they hope to share them across the country. Allegheny County in western Pennsylvania has one of the highest concentrations of adults aged 65 years and older, second only to Dade County, Florida.
Years of research yielded these keys:

• Prevent bone loss and muscle weakness
• Control blood pressure and
• Increase physical activity
• Regulate blood sugar
• Stop smoking
• Maintain social contact
• Participate in screening for cancer
• Get regular immunizations
• Lower cholesterol
• Combat depression.

Dr. Constance Bayles, director of the center, says these strategies can help people take charge of their health and delay or prevent disease and injury as well as speed recovery time.

“Empowering older adults is one of our many missions,” Dr. Bayles said. While some keys seem basic, such as maintaining social contact, activity can become difficult as adults age and become less mobile, she said. Part of the center’s work is to help seniors access resources for social contact, physical activity, transportation and other needs.

The Center for Healthy Aging is a Prevention Research Center (PRC) in a network of 33 academic centers the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funds. Each PRC works closely with a local community to design effective interventions. Nine PRCs belong to a Healthy Aging Network that collaborates on the best ways to promote health for older adults and transform research results into sustainable community programs. In North Carolina, Active Options is a project of the NC Healthy Aging Network. In South Carolina, outreach is handled through the Lieutenant Governor’s office. More information on services can be found at the national website at www.depts.washington.edu/harn/.

The University of Washington’s Health Promotion Research Center (HPRC), for example, developed EnhanceFitness, a physical activity curriculum for older adults that improves flexibility and strength and is shown to reduce hospital visits by participants. The program is now offered at 92 sites in nine states. The HPRC also developed a counseling program that reduces minor depression in seniors.

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