By Douglas H Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs
A common denominator amongst most males, besides knowing never to answer the phone when it’s fourth and goal, is that no matter whom you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going, you are going to get older.
As much as the ego loathes admitting that pertinent fact of life, getting older is one thing. But aging…that’s quite another.
It’s been said that ‘old age’ comes at a bad time. But will we be around to hear it, see it, or feel it? According to Lt. Laura Gaxiola, NHB Occupational Audiologist, every person over the age of 50 should receive a hearing test to detect any hearing loss that they may not realize they have. Those under 50, if they have any concerns about their hearing or ear health, they need to talk with their provider about getting evaluated by an audiologist.
“Hearing loss causes ringing in the ears, problems communicating – especially in background noise like a restaurant or family gathering- and can be associated with higher blood pressure, heart problems, and depression. New research has even linked hearing loss to early onset dementia. Hearing loss is permanent, progressive, painless, and in most cases, preventable,” said Gaxiola.
Gaxiola recommends wearing ear protection to keep ears healthy such as ear plugs or ear muffs in any hazardous noise setting such as mowing the lawn or riding a motorcycle.
“Music players can be another dangerous source of hazardous noise when played too loudly. Set the music player at 60 percent of its maximum volume to reduce the risk of hazardous noise exposure,” Gaxiola said.
“I know there are people who will not take these recommendations seriously, but the consequences of not protecting ears goes way beyond hearing loss,” continue Gaxiola.
Along with ensuring our hearing is okay, we also need to preserve our vision. Seeing is indeed believing. The biggest struggle those 40 and older have is coming to the realization that they need reading glasses. In most cases, this is due to a condition called presbyopia, which is a result of changes inside the eye that diminish our ability to focus clearly on things – usually smaller print – inside an arm’s length from our eyes,” explained said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Buyske, NHB Optometry Department head, noting that while increased font size on a computer monitor or iPhone, or extending the arms out to read the paper or a book are temporary fixes, that does not always lead to the happiest patients.
When Buyske examines such patients, one of his goals is to explain clearly what is going on and how having reading glasses, bifocal, or progressive lens can really benefit them and improve their quality of near vision. He also gets frequent questions on what can be done to help maintain good vision quality and eye health.
“For vision quality, in the age where it seems most everyone is constantly staring at a computer monitor or a smart phone, a short answer would be to ‘look up!’ I tell my patients that a good rule of thumb when reading a book, working on a computer or staring at their smartphone for periods longer than 60 minutes is the 20/20/20 rule. That basically means for every 20 minutes on said device, try and look up at something at least 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. Doing so allows the muscles in the eyes that constrict to allow clear focus to relax periodically and reduce the blur, eyestrain, and often headaches that can occur after prolonged periods of near work,” Buyske stated.
Buyske advocates that for maintaining good eye health, a comprehensive eye exam is needed at least once every 24 months.
“People often confuse an ‘eye exam’ with a ‘vision screening.’ A screening involves covering an eye and reading off a chart. An exam is done by a licensed optometrist/ophthalmologist trained in evaluating not only the quality of vision, but the health of all of the eye’s many structures. There are many conditions that can progress to very late stages in the eye before a patient even realizes something is wrong. It is imperative that gentlemen over 40 have an exam about every two years, and closer to every year once you turn 60. An exam can go a long way to ensuring patients have happy, healthy eyes for years to come,” said Buyske.
For those of us who feel that becoming older is starting to get under their skin, Cmdr. Josephine Nguyen, NHB Dermatologist, offers the following top ten list of ‘Do’s and Taboos’ with that special epidermis touch.
1. Why is my skin getting drier as I get older? Research shows that as people age, the oil in their skin decreases. Prevent itchy, dry skin by using a mild soap without fragrance and moisturizing cream right after showering.
2. Does someone have your back? Most men don’t bother looking at their back or even genitalia for concerning skin lesions. Have your primary care doctor check those areas for any bumps that are irregular or asymmetrical.
3. Facial skin: Wash and moisturize every day, but beware! Layering on too many products can actually irritate skin.
4. What type of facial soap should I use and why? Soap helps slough away dead skin cells that make your face look dull. Consider using soap with salicylic acid or glycolic acid once a day. For a deeper cleanse, use an exfoliating scrub once a week. Just don’t overdo it because skin can get irritated.
5. When should I moisturize? Moisturizing right after washing your face locks in the water and prevents your skin from drying. If you have oily skin, use a water-based lotion. Most facial lotions are oil-based, which is perfect for most men.
6. Stay hydrated from the inside! Healthy skin needs adequate hydration from the inside also. Make sure you drink 6-8 cups of water a day. If you drink alcohol or caffeine, you will need to increase water intake.
7. True or false? I don’t need sun protection because I’m in the office all day.
False! If you sit in the office all day, you don’t have a baseline tan so you are at higher risk for sunburns on the weekend when you hit the park or the beach. Intermittent sunburns over your lifetime have been shown to increase risk of melanoma.
8. Eat your fruits and veggies! Skin is a reflection of diet. Eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to help counteract the free radicals and ultraviolet light that lead to premature aging.
9. What type of sunscreen should I use? Look for a moisturizer with an SPF of 30 or higher that provides broad-spectrum protection, which blocks both UVA and UVB rays. If you are outside for longer than 30 minutes, make sure you reapply sunblock every hour as sweating removes the sunscreen.
10. Stop smoking or dipping tobacco. Using tobacco products greatly speeds up aging of skin. It releases toxins that results in a dull and dry skin complexion, loss of skin’s firmness, and leathery skin.
Overall, the U.S. Department of Health and Services states that Americans are hearing, seeing and feeling longer than previous generations. Yet there are caveats attached to that declaration.
We are also a nation collectively with higher levels of heart disease, hypertension and obesity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third – 34.9 percent or 78.6 million – of American adults are obese. Conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer are some of the leading causes of preventable death due to obesity.
The CDC notes that the average life expectancy for males is over 76 years old. Yet a woman’s life expectancy is over 81 years.
Why the five year difference? The World Health Organization cites that males are more likely to succumb to motor vehicle accidents, suicide, cirrhosis of the liver, emphysema, prostate cancer, coronary heart disease, or die from injuries that their female counterparts.
Is getting older all doom and gloom? Nope.
But it must be pointed out that aging isn’t for the faint of heart, literally and figuratively.
If a person wants to enjoy the decades to come and be active, the benefits of awareness far outweigh the disadvantages of not hearing what’s being shared, turning a blind eye, and failing to feel what’s felt.
Because a person doesn’t stop hearing, seeing and feeling due to growing old – they grow old because they stop listening, viewing and experiencing.