Celebration 2006: The A.R.T. of Healthy Living

Learn More About Healthy Aging


What is a geriatrician? Why should I see one?
When you were a child, your parents took you to see a pediatrician, a physician who specializes in caring for children. Older people also have unique medical needs that change as they age. Meeting these needs is the charge of geriatricians, physicians who are specially trained to care for seniors.

At least 80 percent of seniors in the United States have one chronic disease such as diabetes, stroke, cancer, or Alzheimer’s, and 50 percent have at least two of these conditions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re a senior, dealing with a serious disease or chronic medical condition can significantly affect your quality of life and place demands on family and caregivers. Having medical professionals who are familiar with the physical and mental effects of aging can significantly improve your health and quality of life.

What is healthy aging?
As advances in medical care have enabled us to live longer than past generations, it becomes more and more important to "age well" - to maintain your physical and mental well being for as long as you can. Seeking out medical professionals who specialize in caring for older adults can help you do that.

Who are the East Texas experts in healthy aging?
In East Texas, geriatricians and other health care professionals with advanced training in caring for older adults can be found at UT Health Northeast’s Center for Healthy Aging. The Center’s focus is on helping people age well. Seniors can receive a comprehensive assessment that includes an evaluation of their physical and psychological needs. Led by medical director Kent Davis, MD, the team of health care professionals develops a treatment plan for each patient. The team consists of physicians and nurse practitioners who specialize in geriatrics, the branch of medicine concerned with conditions and diseases of older people.

UT Health Northeast experts in aging are specially trained to treat older patients, manage multiple disease symptoms, and develop care plans tailored to meet the needs of older adults. The team also includes nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists, social workers, and dietitians.

Where can the growing number of seniors find the health care resources that they need?
"We face several challenges in providing care for older East Texans. A huge population shift is under way, with people over 65 becoming the fastest growing segment of the population. Access to health care workers who are skilled in caring for older patients is very limited. Our role is to work with organizations to improve the quality of care for East Texas seniors," said Dr. Kent Davis, medical director of UT Health Northeast’s Center for Healthy Aging. Dr. Davis is board certified in internal medicine with an added qualification in geriatric medicine.

"About 25 percent of the households in East Texas have at least one person who is over age 65. At UT Health Northeast, 55 percent of all inpatients are over age 65. And UT Health Northeast medical professionals participate in more than 70,000 patient encounters with seniors each year. Our medical professionals have extensive experience in listening to seniors, in caring for them, and in providing support to their families," he said.

What is The Ornelas Center for Healthy Aging at UT Health Northeast at Tyler?
"Our goal as a team is to work with people to assist them in staying healthy and active as long as possible,” said Dr. Kent Davis, medical director of the Center for Healthy Aging. “When problems occur, we want to help our patients deal with them in order to stay as independent and as active as they can be," said Dr. Davis, who is board certified in internal medicine with an added qualification in geriatric medicine.

"Our goal as a team is to work with people to assist them in staying healthy and active as long as possible," said Dr. Kent Davis, medical director of the Center for Healthy Aging. "When problems occur, we want to help our patients deal with them in order to stay as independent and as active as they can be."

At UT Health Northeast, The Ornelas Center for Healthy Aging is proactively involved in sponsoring senior educational conferences, health fairs, and a support group for caregivers of elderly family members. In addition, Dr. Davis and other UT Health Northeast professionals have helped form the Healthy Aging Coalition of East Texas. The group of nursing home administrators, medical professionals who treat older people, and government and private agencies that serve seniors meets monthly to discuss issues that affect older East Texans.

Planned initiatives of the Center for Healthy Aging include:

How I can avoid the poor health and loss of independence that are often associated with aging?
Understanding why this decline occurs and taking action to reduce or minimize it are two of the keys to aging well, said Dr. Kent Davis, medical director of UT Health Northeast’s Center for Healthy Aging. Individuals who are physically active, eat healthy foods, and don’t smoke and who undergo periodic screenings to detect disease and are immunized against influenza and pneumonia significantly reduce their risk for developing chronic diseases or deadly infections, said Dr. Davis, who is board certified in internal medicine with an added qualification in geriatric medicine.

Another physician with the Center for Healthy Aging is Nirmala Bangalore, MD, who is board certified in family medicine and is in the process of obtaining an added certification in geriatrics. She is trained to address senior health issues such as memory loss, osteoporosis, falls, incontinence, depression and other medical problems. Dr. Bangalore sees her role as improving a patient’s quality of life and level of function rather than seeking definitive cures.

"Patients in this age group have distinctly different health care needs than younger adults. Many seniors who need care equal to what they would receive in a nursing home can stay at home with the right social, economic, and psychological support," Dr. Bangalore said.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), offers information and free online and printed publications to help you take steps to age well. Other federal resources that deal with issues surrounding aging also are available through the NIA. In addition, the NIA, NIH, and the National Library of Medicine have created NIH SeniorHealth, a comprehensive and user-friendly Website with information on topics such as diseases, exercise, medications, and nutrition.

NOTICE: Protected health information is subject to electronic disclosure.