Think You’re Too Old for Plastic Surgery?

Safety and cosmetic procedures after age 65

There’s nothing wrong with aging gracefully. But if you’re curious about plastic surgery to slow down the hands of time, here’s what you should consider.

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Is it safe? “This is the most important question to answer, and a lot depends a lot on your current state of health,” says James Zins, MD, Chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Plastic Surgery.

He cites two recent studies evaluating surgical risk after facelift and abdominoplasty procedures. The findings? When properly screened for health issues, the risk for older ages patients (age 65 and older ) was no greater than a similar younger age group. (The studies were published by Cleveland Clinic plastic surgeons.)

It’s important to talk to your doctor about the risks associated with the procedure you’re considering. Then you can weigh whether the risks are worth the potential benefits.

Why people consider plastic surgery

As they get older, Americans are becoming more fit and living longer.

“Very often what I hear from patients is, ‘I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize that person. I would like to look the way I feel,’” Dr. Zins says.

As an older adult, you may also have concerns about how your looks impact your career. Can you compete with younger colleagues? Or, you may want to look your best as you re-enter the dating scene after a divorce or the death of a spouse.

Whatever your reasons, you’re among an increasing number of older adults who are considering cosmetic surgery.

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How health affects safety

Convinced that you’re too old to have some work done? Not necessarily, Dr. Zins says.

“In a paper several years ago we asked ‘How old is too old to have a facelift?’” he says. “We looked at my last 208 facelift patients and compared the patients 65 years and older to the patients younger than 65.”

“What we found was that the older patients had no higher incident of major or minor complications than the younger patients.”

Dr. Zins found similar results in a study of abdominoplasty patients.

The key is that surgery is risky not so much because of age, but because of health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, that may develop as we age. “Physiologic age is more important than chronologic age,” says Dr. Zins.

In other words, it’s your health that matters most. Plastic surgeons thoroughly screen their patients. They routinely choose not to perform elective surgeries on people who are in poor health, he says.

So older patients who do undergo procedures are likely healthy — which means they’re at no higher risk for complications than younger patients.

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It’s important to be realistic

So, plastic surgery is a viable option for many older patients. But it’s important not to overestimate what surgery can accomplish.

It may make you feel a little more confident or happy with how you look. But it’s not going to make you look like you’re 30 years old again.

“By and large, this is not going to change your life,” Dr. Zins says.

And, he notes, no surgery is without risk, even if you are in good health.

Cosmetic surgery is an option that more adults are pursuing as they age. If you’re interested, talk it over with your doctor to weigh the risks and benefits.