Everybody wants a long and healthy life. With advances in medicine and health care as well as the increased knowledge in personal care, many are enjoying long and fruitful lives. While the good news for seniors is that life expectancies around the world are on the rise, unfortunately this also means that advanced age increasingly becomes risk factors for a variety of diseases and medical conditions.
Senior citizens are more susceptible to different illnesses, although some of these conditions also appear even for those who are younger. While some of these conditions are avoidable, older people should be prepared for these conditions to creep up slowly, which is why good health care and monitoring should be done all the time, even while you are still young.
Here are the most common health problems faced by the elderly, in no particular order.
Heart conditions remain as the number one cause of death, regardless of age group. As the heart is the hardest working muscle in the body, it stands to reason that it will be the first to inevitably degrade and break down. Those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and underlying conditions like diabetes can worsen heart related illnesses which will translate to clogs in the heart due to plaque. This will result in chronic heart disease and strokes, the latter of which is also one of the top killers among the elderly.
While this condition strikes people of all ages, cancer is a disease that the elderly will have a higher chance of getting as they age. Women are more prone to cervical cancers, while prostate cancers are more common to older men. With the risk getting higher once people reach the age of 40 or so, those who are 60 or above are at even higher dangers of contracting the condition. Fortunately, early detection and treatment through regular screening makes cancer no longer a death sentence as it used to be. However, it is disconcerting to know that around 1 in 4 seniors are currently living with cancer, although some of these are not detected.
Alzheimer’s disease remains one of the more common types of death for senior citizens. What’s even scarier is that there is no way to really prevent the disease, and there is also no cure for the condition. What can be done, however, is treatment and care to slow the progress of the disease as well as to ensure proper care of the patient. Alzheimer’s disease causes memory decline and eventual impairment or complete loss of motor control, and those suffering from this condition will eventually die from complications such as organ failure, or from accidents such as choking on food or falls.
Arthritis and Osteoporosis
Arthritis and osteoporosis are two different diseases but are both characterized by pain in specific parts of the body. While these diseases do not directly cause death, but they can definitely decrease an elderly person’s quality of life. Accidents due to pain and loss of mobility, however, can also lead to injuries and even death. These conditions have no cure and will worsen over time. However, treatment and a healthy lifestyle can help in slowing down the progress of the disease.
As people grow older, their metabolism would change. Without subsequent changes to a person’s diet, they would be at higher risk of contracting diabetes. Research shows that over a quarter of seniors have Type 2 Diabetes, which is caused by a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, or eating unhealthy foods. Regular tests can help the elderly avoid this disease, and watching what you eat as well as exercising regularly can also help in diabetes prevention. Type 1 diabetes, similarly, can be treated and controlled using drugs as well as living a healthy lifestyle.
Respiratory diseases such as flu and pneumonia can strike people at any age, but the elderly are much more susceptible due to weaker immune systems. This is the reason why senior citizens are advised to stay at home during flu season. Those who are smokers or even those who have quit smoking years ago may be susceptible to asthma, emphysema, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Breathing troubles should be taken very seriously, especially if this is a complication of another condition such as an infection, as these can trigger cardiac arrest or organ failure.
Dependence on drugs or alcohol is considered as a disease. Due to a sedentary lifestyle experienced by some after retirement, the elderly may look towards recreational drugs to pass the time. This can pose as a real problem as drug overdose can be more dangerous for older people. Alcohol abuse, likewise can lead to damage of the liver and diabetes, among other complications. As such, the elderly must be able to use their time through healthy and productive means such as taking up a hobby in order to steer them away from drugs or alcohol that can be abused.
The elderly may think that they are no longer useful and can no longer contribute to their family or community. This can lead to depression that can increase their stress levels that would in turn affect their long term health. Some even resort to suicide as a means of escape. This is common especially for those who live alone. Creating a support group that will ensure a positive environment for elder people will help improve positive mental health. Meditative exercises as well, having a hobby, or keeping a pet can also help prevent depression among the elderly.
While being elderly puts a person at a higher risk of getting afflicted by a number of medical conditions, that is no reason for them not to enjoy life. Senior citizens have many fruitful and productive years ahead of them, and taking care of their health will definitely give them just that. However, those who are still relatively young should not be relaxed, as their lifestyle today will certainly affect their health once they are old and gray as well.