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Q&A on healthy aging with Dr. Jatin Dave

Karen Miller | 1/16/2014, 6 a.m.
Jatin Dave, M.D., M.P.H. Geriatrician, Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Director, Geriatrics, Tufts Health Plan

Is memory loss inevitable as a person ages?

Memory loss is not inevitable with aging, but some loss of episodic memory, such as recollection of specific episodes, is common. Loss of semantic memory, which refers to understanding of concepts or general knowledge, is not a normal part of aging. Progressive and persistent loss of memory with impact on function is common with dementia. Learning new skills or languages can help preserve memory.

Is high blood pressure unavoidable since its incidence increases with age?

After age 40, on average systolic blood pressure (the upper number) increases by 7 mm Hg each decade, reaching an average of approximately 140 mm Hg by the eighth decade. Diastolic pressure (the bottom number) also increases with age but at a lower rate than systolic pressure. Diastolic pressure may even fall at late ages. By age 70, over three-fourths of U.S. adults have hypertension. Regular physical activity can help prevent hypertension.

Why does obesity increase at age 60?

With aging, one begins to lose muscle and add fat often leading to obesity. Weight gain occurs during middle age, frequently due to sedentary lifestyle and high caloric intake. Regrettably, many older adults associate weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle with aging. Since daily recommended calorie intakes generally decrease with age, it is important for older adults to choose foods wisely to meet their nutritional needs and stay physically active.