Do You Know About These 10 Common Health Issues for Seniors?
You know it’s important to take care of your health no matter what your age, but seniors have health risks unique to their age group. Below are the top health concerns for older adults. The good news is that many of these issues aren’t an inescapable part of growing older; they can be alleviated or prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, regularly visiting a doctor and getting preventative screenings. Since many of these concerns overlap, addressing one may make a positive impact on the others too — enabling you to enjoy good health for many years to come.
Nearly 50 percent of adults 65 years of age and older are affected by arthritis. The pain and stiffness that commonly accompany it can lead to lowered activity levels, which in turn paves the way to a lower quality of life. If you have arthritis, a doctor can help you create a customized activity plan along with your treatment. Additionally, wearing the right shoes is often a big help, and a cane that’s fitted by a professional can assist with walking if arthritis is affecting your knees, feet and hips. Many arthritis sufferers find that gadgets that help with opening bottles and jars or to grip doorknobs make everyday life easier.
2. Heart Disease
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death among adults over the age of 65; however, heart disease is not a natural part of aging. For instance, an older person’s heart can pump blood as strong as a younger person’s heart; a weaker capability to pump blood is a result of disease. That said, the risk factors for heart disease increase with age. The good news is that you can make lifestyle choices to reduce your likelihood of getting heart disease that includes maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, staying active and managing stress. Heart disease may have no symptoms in its early stages, which is why it’s important to have regular checkups with a doctor.
Cancer is second behind heart disease as the leading killer of people over age 65, and 28 percent of men and 21 percent of women in that age group are living with cancer according to the Center for Disease Control. Early detection can be life saving; be sure to schedule regular screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies and familiarize yourself with the symptoms.
Not all cancers can be prevented, but some types have been linked to choices that are within our control. Avoiding tobacco, sunburns and excessive alcohol consumption is standard advice for preventing certain kinds of cancer.
According to the CDC, one out of every 11 people in the United States has diabetes, and people aged 65 and older are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than adults aged 20 to 44 years. Diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to dangerous health problems like heart attack and stroke.
Fortunately, there’s a lot that you can do to lower your risk of getting diabetes or to manage its symptoms if you’ve already been diagnosed. Keeping track of your glucose levels, learning about healthy meal planning and keeping active all can help.
Osteoporosis is called the silent disease because there are often no symptoms until a bone breaks. Ten million Americans have osteoporosis, and while most of them are women, men can also develop osteoporosis. Typically, women start to quickly lose bone in the years following menopause, but then bone loss slows down. Bone loss happens more slowly in men, but between the ages of 65 and 70, they’ll be losing bone mass at the same pace as women.
A big concern with osteoporosis is that if you fracture a bone from a fall or suffer a collapsed vertebra, you can become significantly less mobile and possibly disabled.
Getting enough calcium and vitamin D through foods and supplements play a significant role in keeping bones strong.
The brief moment in time that it takes to experience a fall can have a significant impact on your health and quality of life, and the risk of falls goes up with age. Thousands of older men and women break a bone each year, and a broken bone can lead to more serious health problems. Staying active to maintain muscle mass for improved balance is important, as is getting enough sleep and being careful when drinking alcohol. Arranging things at home to decrease the odds of tripping or slipping is also beneficial. You may consider getting a home medical alert system to ensure you can get emergency help if you fall.
7. Alcohol Consumption
Most people can agree that a drinking problem is detrimental to health at any age. However, some research has suggested that people become more sensitive to alcohol’s health effects as they get older, largely due to the lowered water levels in older bodies. Drinking alcohol can impair balance and lead to falls, and it can worsen some health problems like diabetes, memory problems and heart failure. It can also worsen depression.
Additionally, alcohol consumption in people 65 and older is problematic because it can have harmful interactions with medications — even common ones like aspirin and antihistamines for allergies. If you take medications for high blood pressure or ulcers, drinking alcohol can worsen those conditions.
Staying active is highly beneficial in every stage of life, and it becomes even more critical for those 65 and over. Research shows that being physically active can prevent or delay the onset of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers. Activity also serves as a mood booster and natural treatment for mild to moderate depression.
For many people, as they get older, they move around less. Make staying active a priority. Many churches, synagogues and senior centers offer exercise groups. Shopping malls often have walking programs and are excellent places to stretch your legs when the weather outside is less than inviting.
9. Gum Disease
Twenty-five percent of adults age 60 and over no longer have any of their natural teeth. And for those who do have their teeth, they often don’t have dental insurance. However, healthy teeth and gums are important for your general health. Oral health impacts overall health because people with missing or painful teeth will tend to choose softer foods that are easier to chew — which means they avoid fresh fruits and vegetables. The same goes for denture wearers since it’s not as easy to chew when wearing them as it is with natural teeth. You can prevent gum disease, the common source of tooth loss, by brushing twice a day, flossing, getting dental checkups, eating a balanced diet and not smoking.
The flu and pneumonia are among the top seven causes of death among seniors. The flu can become deadly when it travels to the lungs, and people over age 65 tend to have weaker immune systems, making them more vulnerable than the rest of the population. That’s why it’s recommended that everyone over age 65 gets the flu shot immunization.
The National Institute on Aging also recommends that you receive immunizations for Pneumococcal Disease and shingles. Additionally, while most people are immunized against diphtheria and tetanus as children, it’s recommended to get a booster shot every 10 years to stay protected.