HealthLinks Charleston May/June 2022

www. Char l es tonPhys i c i ans . com | www.Hea l thL i nksChar l es ton . com | 21 When we think of aging gracefully, we imagine entering into a season of life when meaning and purpose coalesce with comfort and quietude. Though it is the final chapter, it can be filled with ample opportunities to suck the marrow out of life. Pursuing physical and mental stimulation and taking a more proactive approach to health care are imperative to prolonging and fully enjoying this season. Establishing an ongoing patient-provider conversation is fundamental to living well at any age. According to Dr. Jerome Aya-Ay, primary care physician at Palmetto Proactive Healthcare, “Many Americans live in the reactive phase when it comes to their approach to health care.” While this practice is not beneficial for any patient, he stresses that it is even more critical for seniors to adopt a proactive mind-set and schedule regular visits with their primary care physician. As the body matures, the risk for disease increases, as does the impact of physical and psychological stressors. The following are five aspects of aging of which every senior should be aware and that can be addressed with a primary care provider: 1. Simply put, age is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes. Regular appointments allow primary care physicians to conduct screenings and counsel patients on preventive measures. Dr. Aya-Ay recalled a 68-year-old patient who suffered a ministroke. Prior to the stroke, he “thought he was invincible” because he was seemingly in good health. Dr. Aya-Ay was able to guide the patient to a full recovery, and the man has no residual effects. But, he stresses, prevention is preferable to any reactive treatment. “You might look and feel great, but, with age, your risk for heart attack and stroke increases.” 2. Polypharmacy is a growing problem among the elderly population. According to Dr. Aya-Ay, most people start engaging in their health care in their 30s and 40s. From that point on, medications may be prescribed by other physician specialists. Polypharmacy can easily become counterproductive and even detrimental to a person’s health. Having a primary care physician who keeps track of and adjusts medications can help seniors avoid common side effects such as cognitive impairment and imbalance. Additionally, the AGS Beers Criteria for Potentially Inappropriate Medication Use in Older Adults, or the AGS Beers Criteria, contains nearly 100 medications or medication classes that elderly patients should avoid. “As a primary doctor, I quarterback everything,” Dr. Aya-Ay explained. “I look specifically at medications that do not benefit seniors, and I can alter or even eliminate them.” AGING GRACEFULLY MEANS LIVING PROACTIVELY By Jill Harper