By Amanda Vince, M.D.
Hallmark Health Medical Associates
As we age, so does our immune system. We’re also more likely to have chronic diseases when we’re older.
For these reasons, adults older than 65 are more susceptible to health problems. Thankfully, we can protect ourselves from some diseases by getting vaccinated.
In some cases, you may need the vaccine again, even if you were vaccinated as a child. Some vaccines, like the flu shot, are needed on an annual basis, while others offer protection for several years.
Here are the three most common vaccines we recommend for patients 65 and older.
It is critically important that every adult over 65 gets the flu shot. Older adults are much more likely to have chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or a lung disease like asthma or COPD. When you have these chronic conditions, your risk of getting the flu and needing to be hospitalized because of it goes up considerably.
Even if you are in good health at an older age, the flu shot is recommended. A respiratory flu bug can give you a fever for up to a week, and you might not fully recover for two weeks. It can really knock you down!
We preach for patients to get the flu shot as soon as it’s available in the fall. This is because it takes the body up to a month to build up immunity from the shot.
Pneumonia is a dangerous condition that can cause death in severe cases, especially when it affects older adults. Every year, about 1 million Americans are hospitalized for pneumonia, but if you take the right steps, you likely can avoid becoming part of that statistic. Everyone older than 65 should be vaccinated to protect against pneumonia.
Pneumonia is an infection that leads to inflammation in one or both of your lungs. The air sacs in your lungs, called alveoli, can fill with fluid or pus. This can make breathing difficult.
There are two separate vaccines that cover the different strains of bacteria that cause pneumonia – PCV13 and PPSV23. Each shot is administered a year apart. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that even if you have had prior shots for pneumonia, PPSV23 is recommended for seniors.
Anyone who has a chronic disease, regardless of age – such as diabetes or heart or lung disease (including asthma) – should talk to their doctor about getting a pneumonia shot.
If you had chickenpox in the past, you are at risk for shingles– both diseases are caused by the same virus. Anyone 60 or older should consider getting the vaccine.
Shingles can cause a rash that can sometimes lead to pain that lasts for months or even years. In some cases, the pain can be debilitating. No treatment or cure exists for shingles.
You can develop shingles at any point in your life, but the condition is most common in older adults. In fact, one out of every three people over 60 will develop shingles.
The shingles vaccine is one shot and offers protection for five years. It won’t completely eliminate your risk of developing shingles, but it does lower it by 51 percent.
When we’re younger, our immune system usually does a good job of suppressing viruses. But that starts to change when we enter our 50s and 60s. As our immune systems become weaker with age, we are more vulnerable to disease. Thankfully, we have vaccinations available to keep us feeling healthy and well as we age.
Are you due for any of these vaccinations? Call us at (855) HHMA-DOC (855-446-2362) or schedule an appointment online.