In his distinguished career, actor Ted Danson has played many iconic roles, including a cantankerous but caring doctor. In real life, the 70-year-old says good relationships with health care providers are critical for healthy aging.
“I like the personal relationship with a fellow human being who has compassion, and offers a solid plan to fix whatever is going on with both body and mind,” says Danson. “If something is going on with me, or I’m afraid something is, usually just knowing the facts not only relaxes me, but empowers me, because the doctor will tell me what to do to make it better.”
Danson is currently promoting whole person health with Cigna, which serves older adults in 16 states through its Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. He’s encouraging people to talk to their health care providers about emotional and physical health, including preventive care, as well as common issues like stress, anxiety, loneliness and sleeplessness, which can impact overall health, according to experts.
“Preventive care plays an important role in long-term wellness. Issues like stress can lead to serious health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. That’s why it’s so important to have annual wellness exams, and make that time meaningful by being open about everything you’re feeling,” says Dr. Dirk Wales, chief medical director with Cigna Medicare.
For healthy aging, Dr. Wales recommends the following preventive measures:
• Annual health risk assessment. Your physician or insurer will likely ask you to take an annual HRA — a quick series of questions designed to help flag issues early, so you can access the right benefits and resources for you.
• Colorectal cancer screenings. Too few older adults get screened for colorectal cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country. When caught early, the disease is curable. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends starting screening at age 50. MA plans, like those offered by Cigna, cover screening costs at various intervals depending on risk.
• Breast cancer screenings. Breast cancer, the most common cancer in American women outside of skin cancer, affects one in eight women in their lifetimes. USPSTF recommends women ages 50 to 74 years old with average risk get a mammogram every two years. Screenings can help detect breast cancer early, when it’s easier to treat.
• Eye exams, if you have diabetes. People with diabetes have a higher risk of blindness, but early detection and treatment can help protect against vision loss. Getting an annual eye exam — which Medicare covers if you have diabetes — is critical. Certain MA plans may offer additional coverage.
• Annual flu shots. Between 70 and 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in people 65 years old and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The best defense, an annual flu shot, is covered fully by Medicare and MA plans when you visit a participating provider.
• Discuss mind and body. Depression isn’t a normal part of aging and it’s treatable. Be open with your health care provider about everything you’re feeling — body and mind.
For more information about the connection between physical and emotional health, and the Body & Mind initiative featuring Danson, Queen Latifah and Nick Jonas, visit, Cigna.com/takecontrol.
Every individual has unique health needs. Ask your personal health advocate for additional preventive measures tailored for you.