Older adults are particularly vulnerable to the seasonal flu, but according to the U.S. Department of Health, only 64 percent of those over age 65 get the annual seasonal flu vaccine.
While the flu vaccination is now recommended for everyone, adults age 65 and older are among the hardest hit by influenza and are at much greater risk for complications from the flu.
An annual flu vaccination remains the best protection, and this year's seasonal flu vaccine will protect against three different viruses, including the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season.
Top five tips for staying healthy this flu season
1. Get a flu vaccine. The best time to get the flu vaccine is in late October or November, but flu shots can still be effective if you get one in December or later.
2. While you're getting vaccinated, ask your doctor if you should get a pneumonia shot, too. The pneumonia vaccine can be given anytime during the year and usually one shot will give you lifelong protection.
3. Wash your hands often. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
4. Stay healthy. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious foods.
5. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you are sick, keep your distance from others. If possible, stay at home when you're sick.
The best place to get a flu or pneumonia shot is at your doctor's office. If you cannot get to your doctor's office, you may want to consider a local flu shot clinic that accepts your insurance.
About the Expert - Since 1998, Dr. Judith S. Black has been medical director for senior markets at Highmark Inc. A practicing geriatrician with 35 years of medical experience, she provides the medical expertise that helps Highmark enhance and coordinate the care of older adults. A longtime advocate of appropriate end-of-life care, Dr. Black has forged several community and physician collaborative programs to raise awareness of these issues and started Highmark's education program for members.
About Highmark Inc. - As one of the leading health insurers in Pennsylvania, Highmark Inc.'s mission is to provide access to affordable, quality health care enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. Based in Pittsburgh, Highmark serves 4.7 million people through the company's health care benefits business. Highmark contributes millions of dollars to help keep quality health care programs affordable and to support community-based programs that work to improve people's health. Highmark exerts an enormous economic impact throughout Pennsylvania. A recent study states that Highmark's positive impact exceeded $2.5 billion. The company provides the resources to give its members a greater hand in their health. Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. For more information, visit www.highmark.com