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More sharing of health data

More sharing of health data
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Although you still probably have to fill out those paper forms every time you go to the doctor, the way medical records are gathered, stored, and shared are changing. Electronic health records let patient info be stored in the cloud for easier access. According to a survey, 77 per cent of respondents are interested in sharing their health data, especially if it helps them get better care. Electronic health records also benefit doctors – one study found that ER medical professionals said accessing health info like medication list, allergies and medical histories through an electronic exchange was helpful in treating patients. “When health providers break out of the silo mentality of care, good things happen,” Cirillo says.

 

3D printing

3D printing
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Another technological innovation that could help older people is 3D printing of body parts that may have gotten a little worse for wear. Researchers at Wake Forest University have made advances in “bioprinting” and grown ears, bone, and muscle that were successfully implanted in animals. “With further development, this technology could potentially be used to print living tissue and organ structures for surgical implantation,” Wake Forest researcher Dr Anthony Atala, said. One medical research company aims to have 3D-printed human liver tissue to the FDA within a few years.

Tissue engineering

Tissue engineering
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Other advances in new ways to grow tissue itself could help older people who are in need of replacement parts. “Tissue engineering will revolutionise our ability to repair and replace organs damaged by disease – dramatically changing the prospects for successful transplantation without rejection,” says John Barnard, MD, Chief of Paediatrics, President of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Chair of the Department of Paediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. According to the NIH, research in this area involves changing stem cells into other cell types and using lattices or scaffolds to grow new tissue.

Falling smoking rates

Falling smoking rates
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Perhaps the most important health shift in the past 20 years has been the reduction in smoking rates. “Smoking is the leading cause of almost every severe disease that most people fear from heart disease and stroke to cancer,” says Dr Jyotir Jani. Smoking does damage to your body on a cellular level, he says, and can even make your skin age faster. But the good news is that according to the CDC, smoking rates among adults are down and continuing to fall. As we stop smoking, our health span will increase.

We’ve rounded up 15 amazing ways your body heals after you quit smoking.

Greater awareness of environmental factors

Greater awareness of environmental factors
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Although we’ve still got a way to go, we’re learning more about how the environment around us influences our health. “The next big thing is understanding that the environment, such as air pollution and related environmental toxins, are critical factors that influence how we age and what diseases we are going to get,” Dr Cohen says. Research shows that the older brain may be particularly susceptible to environmental influences, so helping prevent them could reduce cognitive decline.

 

Fitness trackers

Fitness trackers
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Fitbits and other fitness trackers aren’t just for the young – older people can benefit from the motivation monitoring their activity provides. There’s now “a focus on an increase in overall movement, thanks to the rise in popularity of fitness trackers,” Palinski-Wade says. A small study from the University of Wisconsin found that women in their 50s and 60s who were given Fitbits increased their level of moderate to vigorous activity 62 minutes a week and an extra 789 steps per day; women who were given pedometers didn’t have any increase. “The Fitbit provides quite a bit more depth, because it also gives feedback on intensities of physical activity,” study author Dr Lisa Cadmus-Bertram, said. “It’s a richer and more engaging experience overall.”

You’ll want to know these 7 golden rules about fitness!

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Digital pathology

Digital pathology
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Advances in the way cancer is detected will help doctors catch it sooner. With the traditional method, the doctor puts the tissue sample from the biopsy on a glass slide to be looked at under a microscope. But this approach is limiting, says Dr Anil Parwani, a pathologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Digital pathology allows scientists to take those same glass slides and digitise them, creating a large image with millions of pixels,” he says. Instead of packing them up and mailing them, they can just be sent via computer. “Digital pathology allows me to get opinions from sub specialists on difficult, unusual cancers in a matter of hours – not weeks.” This approach, he says, allows doctors to more precisely diagnose and treat patients then even five years ago. “This is truly revolutionising cancer diagnoses,” Dr Parwani says.

Greater focus on keeping minds sharper

Greater focus on keeping minds sharper
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Part of a better attitude toward getting older is not accepting mental decline, and we now know that brain exercises can help our minds stay sharp. “There has always been the notion that as we age we lose brain matter and therefore some of our abilities to make decisions – yet there are an increasing number of studies that show we can reverse brain aging,” Cirillo says. One study showed that people who did fewer brain-stimulating activities toward the end of their lives had 50 per cent more cognitive decline, but people who did the most had 33 per cent less cognitive decline. Harvard Medical School advises flexing your mental muscles with reading, puzzles, chess, bridge or art. “Learning new skills, like how to speak a foreign language or play a musical instrument, can help keep our memory and ability to focus sharp,” Dr Cohen says.

Keep your brain active and youthful by practicing these brain exercises.

More interest in healthy food

More interest in healthy food
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Understanding more about nutrition won’t have much effect unless we actually change our eating habits – and research is showing we’re heading in that direction. A Nielsen survey found that over a third of today’s adults ages 21 to 64 valued health attributes when making purchase decisions about food. Plus, sales of foods in the “healthy” category were up seven per cent from the previous two years. These trends point to a healthier adult population as we age. “Consumers now more than ever care about consuming healthy food,” Palinski-Wade says. “They care about the nutrients they are taking in, the additives a food contains, and the impact of their food choices on health and the environment.”

These are the supposedly “bad” foods you can stop demonising.

Better food production and labelling

Better food production and labelling
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All this demand for healthy food means food manufacturers and fast-food spots are responding with healthier, more natural products. For example, McDonald’s removed artificial preservatives from its chicken nuggets and breakfast foods. In addition, food producers are being more open about what the food contains. “This push has led to chain restaurants becoming more transparent about their ingredients and providing nutritional information to the consumer, such as calorie and sodium counts, allow the consumer to make a more informed choice,” Palinski-Wade says.

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