Is it possible to accurately predict your future health needs?

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The American public holds the attitude, "it can't happen to me," no matter the issue or suffering. While it's honorable to be optimistic, the Seniorcare.com Aging Council agree that being too positive is like burying one's head in the sand, which can gravely affect fiscal stability. Even Genworth's recent study shows that the average consumer doesn't have a handle on the cost of long-term care. Consequently, it's time for a reality check. When you know the facts and take control of impending needs, individuals like you and me can remain in charge of our care.

  • Only a third of Americans think they will need long-term care

  • While two-thirds of Americans actually will need long-term care
  • The best time to prepare is now
  • We all want good medical care, and we all want good health. Having the two increases our physical and mental conditions in the future. There is no lack of information on how to do that. We have access to personal wireless devices that help us track our activities, our sleep patterns, and even our diet. So, it shouldn't be too difficult to remain on top of our fitness.

    But what about saving for the essentials, like long-term care? Is it possible?

    Economic groups tell us to prepare, and the best way to do that is to know what our health will be down the road. One expert, Harsh Wanigaratne with Spedsta, says,

    Kaiser Permanente's 'Care Anywhere' initiative brings a bold vision of turning the home into an incredible place where future care is given. Wearable devices are going to be an essential part of that vision allowing people to monitor and act on health data on their own time.

    But I question whether we can accurately predict what the physical needs will be 5, 10, or 15 years down the road. What pieces of information do we need to monitor them? Will technology track the data and anticipate our future healthcare costs? Here's what other aging experts say:

    Health Baseline

    Acquire a health baseline: know your medical history (and family history) and have the critical blood work drawn and screening tests. Patients can also self-monitor some indicators using at-home technology, such as blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, etc. Track what your fitness, weight, etc. Invest if trackable devices. Shannon Martin, Aging Wisely.

    Have a starting point (a baseline) to tell you where you are on the extensive, multifaceted range of your physical, mental and emotional health. It's the point of reference to help you get where you want to go. A baseline offers two components: existing illness and potential future disease. Your medical, social and family history shapes the baseline, which is the influence of common factors. Although some are adaptable, an individual must have an accurate picture of current information and status.

    Know the Genetics

    23 and me bring genetics to the masses. For less than $200 you can test your saliva and receive any number of reports that can pinpoint your history and risks to help you alter your behavior. Can anyone accurately predict one's ability to pay for healthcare and retirement? No technology exists today to do that. You need to save for the unexpected. Anthony Cirillo, The Aging Experience.

    Genetics is your personal and individualized roadmap. Most diseases and chronic conditions are multifactorial and stem from genetic vulnerability combined with environmental stressors and infectious agents. Understanding your genetic inheritance give you the ability to take charge of your health.

    Nutrition and Lifestyle

    Aging well awareness should start early and never stop. According to psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor George Vaillant, seven factors predict healthy aging:

    1) not smoking or stopping when young;
    2) absence of alcohol abuse;
    3) adaptive coping style:
    4) years of education;
    5) some exercise;
    6) stable marriage;
    7) healthy weight.

    Some technology, such as Fitbit, can be used to track these pieces of information.
    Betsie Sassen, MatherLifeWays.

    Good and bad habits can be monitored very effectively by technology from watches to tell us how many steps we've taken to online health records that help us lose weight and stop smoking. Caryn Isaacs, GetHealthHelp.com.

    Science and research tell us that healthy eating and positive lifestyle habits are the most beneficial ways to living a life with less illness. Nutrition advice is everywhere and makes it difficult to know what to believe and what is reliable. Here's a quick research reality-check by Harvard.edu.

    Body Awareness

    I'm a fitness trainer specialized in senior wellness. One of the simplest and most overlooked indicators of health is proper posture. A person who can walk and move in an upright, comfortable manner can resist accidents and injuries, breathe more easily and likely stay fit much longer than someone who is curved forward. Margo Rose, BodyAwareGrieving.com.

    The benefits of a good posture include: helps an individual inhale and exhale properly, increases concentration and thinking ability, improves the image, helps a person feel more confident, and avoid health complications.

    Predictive Data

    Predictive analytics have the potential to revolutionize healthcare. Alcohol consumption, nutrition, and activity levels have long been known to have a significant impact on future health. Using data from wearable devices that monitor heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature can help to predict future healthcare needs as well. Ben Mandelbaum, Senior Planning Services

    Predictive analytics may improve patient care while avoiding financial disruption.

    Predictive Analytics [PA] can change healthcare exponentially in individual care and outcomes. Applications of PA can be utilized in numerous areas such as controlling chronic conditions, preventing adverse drug reactions, shorten hospital stays and help avoid readmission. David Mordehi, Advise and Protect

    My summation, "Having all the data at our fingertips mean nothing if patients and consumers don't learn how to change faulty eating and self-care behaviors. Human knowledge and action trump machine chunking every time."

    What do you think? Is if possible to predict future human needs based on current behaviors and lifestyle?
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