Barbara Resnick, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, FAANP


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

In This Article


Endless debate surrounds the pros and cons of primary and secondary health prevention practices in older adults. Exercise consistently has been noted to improve quality -- if not quantity-- of life, and healthcare providers should strongly encourage their older patients to exercise regularly. It may also be beneficial to encourage regular alcohol use for the older adult for cardiac benefit, while counseling him or her on the risks of alcohol and being alert to alcohol abuse. Maintenance of appropriate weight in the old-old is clearly more relevant to quality of life than aggressively working to monitor cholesterol and fat intake. Likewise, reducing nicotine use as much as possible can have a direct, immediate advantage for the older individual with regard to cardiovascular disease and therefore should be encouraged.

Cancer screening should be discussed on an individual basis. In some cases, prevention of a life-threatening malignancy may result in the older adult succumbing to a cerebral vascular accident, which would have a greater impact on function and quality of life.[64,65] Conversely, early identification and treatment of disease may add years of life at optimal quality for that individual. The older adult should be helped to understand the implications of having a particular cancer, the likelihood of progression of that cancer, and how it will influence his or her quality of life.

Discussions and education about the pros and cons of primary and secondary prevention should be initiated by the healthcare provider, and the older adult should be helped to make informed decisions about his or her own healthcare.


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