Barbara Resnick, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, FAANP

Disclosures

Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2001;1(1) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

The purpose of health promotion and disease prevention is to reduce the years of life lost to premature mortality and ensure better quality of remaining life. As Americans live longer, it is suggested that health promotion activities are all the more important because these individuals will have more years to benefit from preventive services. Those in the oldest age group (age 90 years and older) are generally less likely to monitor their cholesterol intake, exercise, have their stools checked for occult blood, or have a mammogram or Pap test as recommended. The most common reasons given for not engaging in these activities are advanced age, not being told to by their primary healthcare provider, and having no interest in pursuing abnormal findings. Healthcare providers should consider an individualized approach to health promotion and disease prevention and help older adults make their own decisions about participation in these activities.

Introduction

In developed countries, the average life expectancy is approximately 80 years,[1,2] and the most rapidly growing segment of the population is the group of people 90 years of age or older.[3] Current US government figures estimate that the group of individuals 90 years of age and older (the "old-old") will increase from the current level of 1.2 million to 9.6 million by the year 2050. Moreover, US men who are now 90 years of age are expected to live for another 3.85 years, and 90-year-old US women are expected to live for another 4.67 years.[4] Increased age, unfortunately, correlates with increased risks of cancer,[5] heart disease,[1] and functional impairment.[6]

Health promotion and disease prevention aim to reduce premature mortality and ensure better quality of remaining life. Because people in the United States live longer than people in other parts of the world, it is suggested that health promotion activities are all the more important because these individuals will have more years to benefit from preventive services.

Health promotion and disease prevention activities include primary prevention -- the prevention of disease before it occurs -- and secondary prevention -- the detection of disease at an early stage. Medicare coverage for secondary prevention supports using these services ( Table 1 ).

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