In Depth: Healthy Aging

Staying Healthy As You Age

Taking good care of your health is important at every stage of life, and especially as you get older. There are many medical tests, treatments and procedures out there for older adults and seniors. But which ones are right for you, and which ones might actually do more harm than good?

The materials here, created by Consumer Reports as part of the Choosing Wisely program, explain which tests and treatments might be right for you – and what you can do instead if you decide to skip them.

Contents of This Section

How to Talk With Doctors About Specific Medical Issues
Pre-Op Tests to Discuss With Your Doctor
Surviving Your Hospital Stay
When It's Time for Palliative or Hospice Care

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How to Talk With Doctors About Specific Medical Issues

Consumer Reports has written short guides to help you talk with doctors about specific tests and treatments that your doctor may recommend – or that you may request.

They’re based on the Choosing Wisely campaign, a nationwide effort by medical specialists to name screenings, tests, procedures and drugs that may not be necessary, are used too often, or may even do more harm than good.

 

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Advice for Caregivers: Treatments and Tests for Seniors Some tests and treatments won’t help older adults. They may even be harmful, especially near the end of life.

Alzheimer’s Disease Testing If someone is having memory problems, their doctor should look for other causes before ordering a brain scan.

Antibiotics for Urinary Tract Infections in Older People  Many older people get antibiotic treatment for urinary tract infections when they don't need it.

Care at the End of Life for Advanced Cancer Patients Although it is hard to accept, the best thing for someone may be to stop treatment for the cancer.

Cholesterol Drugs for People Over 75  If a person is 75 or older and has not had symptoms of heart disease, statins may be a bad idea.

Chronic Kidney Disease  There are four important tests and treatments a patient with kidney disease should carefully discuss with their family and doctor.

Drugs for Rheumatoid Arthritis  The older, "non-biologic" drugs are a good first choice for treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Feeding Tubes for People with Alzheimer’s  Feeding tubes sometimes do more harm than good for people with Alzheimer's disease.

Getting the Right Care to Stay Healthy as You Age Five tests and treatments older adults should get -- and five they should think twice about.

Healthy Aging (rack card) Here are five health tests and vaccines most people should get as they age, plus five tests and drugs to question as you age.

Home Oxygen After a Hospital Stay  Many people who use long-term home oxygen therapy don’t need it.

Implanted Heart Devices at the End of Life  An ICD helps the heart beat normally. But if a person is near death, those shocks can make things worse.

Sleeping Pills for Insomnia and Anxiety in Older People  Older adults usually should try other non-drug treatments first for insomnia and anxiety.

Treating Disruptive Behavior in People with Dementia  Powerful antipsychotic drugs should not be the first choice for people with dementia.

Pre-Op Tests To Discuss With Your Doctor

Medical specialists have identified many pre-operative tests that are overused. You should discuss these with your doctor to make sure they are useful in your care. Here are guides we created to help you have those conversations.

 

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Chest X-rays Before Surgery  If you don’t have signs or symptoms of heart or lung disease, think twice about having a pre-operative X-ray.

Echocardiogram Before Surgery  If you’re having surgery, you may wonder if you need an echocardiogram first.

Heart Imaging Before Surgery  If you’re having surgery, you may wonder if you need a heart imaging test first to make sure it is safe.

Heart Stress Tests Before Chest Surgery  Stress tests usually aren’t helpful if you don’t have heart problems.

Heart Tests Before Surgery  If you don't have heart problems, you probably don't need a heart test before an operation.

Lab Tests Before Surgery  Most healthy people don't need blood or urine tests done before surgery, especially low-risk surgery.

Medical Tests Before Eye Surgery  Most people don't need to have their blood tested or their heart checked before they have eye surgery.

Stress Tests Before Surgery  If you’re having surgery, you will probably not need a heart stress test beforehand if you are healthy, active, and feeling well, or if you’re having minor surgery.

Tests Before Heart Surgery  Before heart surgery, you probably don't need a breathing test or carotid ultrasound test, unless you have breathing problems or symptoms.

Medical Tests Before Surgery  This brochure, from the Choosing Wisely series, is a guide to half a dozen pre-op tests that often are unnecessary.

5 Questions to Ask About Medical Tests Before You Have Surgery No matter what pre-op test your doctor suggests, use these questions to open a conversation with your doctor about the need for these tests, and whether the results will affect your care.

Surviving Your Hospital Stay

As you get older, you may need to go to the hospital for surgery, a procedure, or as part of a healing or recovery process. You can’t always anticipate when you’ll go to the hospital, but when you can plan ahead for better care and a faster recovery.

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Hospital Survival Guide: Before Admission Planning ahead can lead to better care and faster care. Take these 10 important steps.

Hospital Survival Guide: Check-in Besides taking care of financial and insurance questions, make sure you take these five steps at your hospital check-in.

Hospital Survival Guide: During Your Stay Mistakes do happen, especially when things are busy or chaotic. So be polite but alert. These eight steps to carry out during your stay can help improve hospital-patient safety.

Hospital Survival Guide: Check-out More than a third of hospital patients fail to get needed follow-up care once they get home. And many people have to be readmitted within 30 days of their discharge. To prevent that from happening to you, take these six steps.

Check-out Checklist It's especially important to understand your medication instructions when you leave the hospital. Reduce your chance of a drug error and the possibility of being re-admitted to the hospital by following these steps when you check out.

When It’s Time for Palliative or Hospice Care

Sometimes, medical treatment can be physically and emotionally difficult. Palliative care can help you manage the pain and symptoms of your disease and treatment.

Even with the best treatment though, you, your family and your doctor might decide at some point that aggressive treatment is not likely to help you live longer. Hospice care can help keep you emotionally and physically comfortable toward the end of your life.

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Palliative Care  With palliative care, a person can get physical, emotional, and spiritual support at any stage of a serious illness. This guide describes its features.

Palliative and Hospice Care  This guide explains the differences between palliative and hospice care.

Moments of Life The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization has created this website to highlight the value of Hospice.

Randi's Story Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions when your loved one is in the hospital.