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Washington Hospital Seminar Offers Tips for Making Your Golden Years Healthier

July 13, 2010

Do you feel old? While your risk for disability and disease increases as you age, you don’t have to accept poor health as a condition of being old. There are steps you can take to improve your chances of staying healthy and feeling better as you age.

"It’s all about prevention," said Dr. Sarbjit Hundal, an ophthalmologist at Washington Hospital. "Preventing some of the diseases that are more common as you age is much easier than treatment."

"If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or some other chronic disease, it’s important to stay on top of it," added Dr. Tran Luu, a family practice physician at Washington Hospital. "You can prevent complications and live a better quality of life."

Hundal will discuss how diabetes affects vision and other eye diseases that are more common among older adults and Luu will provide tips for staying healthy at an upcoming health and wellness seminar at Washington Hospital.

"Tips to Making Your Golden Years Healthier" is scheduled for Tuesday, July 20, from 1 to 3 p.m. The seminar will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditoriums at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register online, please visit www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070.

Exercise and Eat Right

Luu will stress the need to exercise and eat right to improve overall health and prevent disease. He recommends engaging in some type of physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day five days a week. Exercise can improve physical stamina and help to keep your weight down, he said.

"Exercise is also important for your overall mental health," Luu added. "Depression is common in older adults, and exercise can help to reduce depression."

Eating a healthy diet can also help to keep your weight down as well as your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels. Luu recommends eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and lean meats, and low in saturated fat, salt and sugar.

Regular checkups and health screenings are also important for preventing disease, including cancer screenings like colonoscopies, mammograms and prostate exams as well as blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose testing, according to Luu. He will provide an overview of the different tests and screenings.

"If you catch cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases at an early stage, it’s much easier to treat and manage them," he said. "A colonoscopy, for example, can actually prevent the development of cancer. When diabetes is treated early, many of the complications associated with the disease can be prevented."

Protect Your Vision

Hundal will provide an overview of eye problems that affect people as they age, including cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetes-related eye conditions.

Cataracts are clouding that occurs on the lens of the eye that can cause blindness if left untreated. With glaucoma, the optic nerve is damaged. Once vision is lost, it can’t be restored. Macular degeneration also causes vision loss. It occurs when the retina is damaged. According to Hundal, when these diseases are treated early, vision can often be preserved.

"It’s extremely important to get your eyes checked regularly starting at age 50," Hundal said. "These diseases can sneak up on you, particularly glaucoma. It’s called the silent thief of the night because it steals your eyesight before your realize it. The vision loss is so gradual, you aren’t aware it’s happening. It’s symptomless."

He said it’s even more critical for people with diabetes to schedule regular visits with the eye doctor because diabetes is a leading cause of blindness. Diabetes can cause cataracts, glaucoma and retinopathy.

Retinopathy is one of the blood-vessel-related complications of diabetes, he explained. While it can lead to irreversible blindness, retinopathy can be treated if diagnosed early.

"Getting regular checkups and protecting your eyesight is important as you age," Hundal said. "Quality of life declines when you can’t see. You lose your independence because you can’t drive. Then you get depressed. You can live a much better quality of life if you focus on prevention."