Setting yourself up to prevent health conditions and diseases is better than any cure.

There’s not a lot we can do about growing older, but it’s surprising how much we can do to prevent or slow the development of a range of conditions and diseases so that we can continue to play golf for as long as possible. As Benjamin Franklin stated almost 300 years ago, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Plus doing so will save you money, too.

As you age, there is a range of preventable diseases and conditions that golfers should be aware of. While individual risk varies based on factors like genetics, lifestyle and overall health, here are some common conditions that can be prevented or mitigated through healthy habits.

Cardiovascular diseases: Conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke can often be prevented or managed through a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, managing stress and controlling conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol.

Type 2 diabetes: Adopting a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding sugar consumption can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels and proper management of the condition, if diagnosed, are also crucial.

Osteoporosis: Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake, regular weight-bearing exercises, plus avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can help prevent or reduce the risk of osteoporosis and related fractures. It is also important to assess and address any risk factors and consider bone-density screening as recommended by your healthcare provider.

Respiratory diseases: Avoiding smoking – active and passive – is crucial in preventing various respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. Additionally, maintaining good indoor air quality and protecting yourself from occupational exposures are important preventive measures.

Cancer: While not all cancers are preventable, certain lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. For example, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, protecting yourself from excessive sun exposure and getting vaccinated against cancer-causing viruses, such as human papillomavirus (HPV), can help reduce the risk of developing certain cancers.

Neurological disorders: Although the development of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia may not be entirely preventable, certain lifestyle factors can help maintain brain health and potentially reduce the risk. These include engaging in mentally stimulating activities, staying socially active, managing chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, and following a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids.

Obesity: Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for overall health and can help prevent numerous conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, joint problems and certain types of cancer. By following a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity and practising portion control or regularly fasting, you can reduce the risk of obesity.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Avoiding exposure to environmental pollutants (such as cigarette smoke and air pollution), practising good respiratory hygiene and getting vaccinated against respiratory infections like influenza and pneumonia can help prevent COPD and slow its progression.

Falls and fractures: Taking steps to prevent falls can significantly reduce the risk of fractures, particularly for older adults. Maintain good balance and strength through regular exercise, keep your home environment safe by removing hazards, improve lighting and address any vision or mobility issues promptly.

Skin conditions: Protecting your skin from harmful UV radiation is crucial in preventing skin conditions, including skin cancer. Spending hours at a time outdoors exposes golfers to the risk of sunburn and skin damage. To prevent sun-related conditions, apply 50+ SPF sunscreen to all exposed areas of your skin before heading out to play. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and protective clothing and seek shade wherever possible, especially during the middle of the day. Also be vigilant about any changes in your skin’s appearance and see your doctor if you have any concerns.

Mental health issues: While not all mental health conditions can be prevented, maintaining good mental health and wellbeing is essential. Engage in stress-management techniques such as meditation, seek social support, engage in activities that bring you joy and seek professional help if needed.

Vision and hearing loss: Regular eye exams and hearing tests can help detect and manage age-related vision and hearing problems. Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and wear protective eyewear when necessary. Limit exposure to loud noises and use hearing protection in noisy environments.

Dental health: Maintaining good dental health is important at any age. Practise regular oral hygiene habits, including brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily and visiting your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings. Limit sugary foods and drinks, and consider using fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by weakened bones, making them more prone to fractures. To help prevent osteoporosis, ensure an adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D through diet or supplements, engage in weight-bearing exercises such as walking or weightlifting, and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Regular bone-density testing and appropriate treatment, if necessary, can also be helpful.

Sleep apnoea: Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder characterised by pauses in breathing during sleep. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding alcohol and sedatives before bedtime, sleeping on your side and using devices like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines can help manage sleep apnoea. Consult a healthcare professional if you suspect you have
sleep apnoea for proper diagnosis
and treatment.

Arthritis: Arthritis refers to inflammation and stiffness in the joints. While some forms of arthritis are not preventable, you can take steps to manage the condition and reduce symptoms. Maintain a healthy weight to reduce stress on the joints, engage in regular low-impact exercises to strengthen muscles and improve joint flexibility, and use joint-protection techniques such as assistive devices
or modifying activities to reduce
joint strain.

Shingles: Shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. To reduce the risk of developing shingles, you can get vaccinated with the shingles vaccine (Shingrix) recommended for adults from the age of 50. This vaccine has been shown to be highly effective in preventing shingles and reducing the severity and complications associated with it. If you do develop shingles, see your health professional immediately as early treatment with antiviral medications can help shorten the duration of the illness and reduce the risk of complications like post-herpetic neuralgia.

Incontinence: Incontinence refers to the involuntary loss of urine or faeces. There are different types of incontinence, and prevention or management strategies depend on the underlying cause. Maintaining a healthy weight, practising pelvic-floor exercises (Kegels), avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption, and treating underlying conditions such as urinary tract infections can help prevent or manage incontinence. If you experience incontinence, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and treatment options.

Stroke: Stroke occurs when there is a disruption of blood flow to the brain, leading to brain damage. While some risk factors for stroke, such as age and family history, cannot be changed, there are modifiable risk factors that can be addressed to reduce the risk. These include maintaining healthy blood pressure, controlling diabetes, quitting smoking, managing cholesterol levels, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity and consuming a balanced diet low in saturated and trans fats. Regular medical check-ups, early recognition of stroke symptoms and prompt emergency care are crucial for optimal outcomes in the event of a stroke.

Remember, prevention is key, but it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider for personalised guidance and recommendations based on your individual health status, medical history and risk factors. They can provide tailored advice to help you maintain your health and prevent specific conditions as you age. 

Typical golfer issues

Overuse injuries: The repetitive swinging and walking on uneven terrain that golfers do can lead to overuse injuries in various parts of the body. To prevent overuse injuries, incorporate strength and flexibility exercises into your fitness routine, listen to your body and take breaks if you start experiencing pain or discomfort. It’s also important to vary your activities and include cross-training exercises to reduce stress on specific muscles and joints.

Golfer’s elbow: Golfer’s elbow is an overuse injury that causes pain and inflammation on the inner side of the elbow. To prevent the condition, strengthen your forearm muscles with exercises like wrist curls and wrist extensions, use proper swing mechanics and avoid excessive grip pressure. Also warm up before your round and stretch your forearms.

Neck pain: Neck pain is common condition that golfers can experience due to the repetitive and sometimes awkward motions involved in the golf swing. To help prevent or manage neck pain, do some gentle neck stretches prior to your round to warm up the muscles and reduce muscle tension, then maintain good posture in your stance, keeping your head and neck aligned with your spine during your swing, and avoid excessive tilting or twisting. Also consult with a fitness professional or physical therapist for specific exercises that target the neck and shoulder area.

Back pain: Golf involves repetitive twisting and bending motions, which can contribute to back pain. To prevent back pain, maintain good posture throughout your swing and avoid excessive twisting, strengthen your core muscles via exercises like planks and back extensions and work on your flexibility via gentle stretching and yoga to improve your mobility. 

Knee pain: The rotational forces involved in the golf swing can put strain on the knees. To prevent knee pain, use proper footwork and weight transfer during your swing. Also wear supportive and comfortable golf shoes that provide cushioning and stability, and strengthen the muscles around your knees – particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings – via exercises such as lunges and squats.