Older people are tend to face many health issues in their mature age. While some diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and certain cancers, continue to confound researchers, a great number can be prevented, forestalled, or minimized with a healthy lifestyle and regular health screenings.
Here are the top 6 health problems that elder population generally face.
Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome
About three-fourths of adults aged 60 and older are overweight or obese. Obesity is related to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, breast and coloncancer, gall bladder disease, and high blood pressure. More than 40% of adults 60 and older have a combination of risk factors known as metabolic syndrome, which puts people at increased risk for developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.
Arthritis affects nearly half the elderly population and is a leading cause of disability. Old injuries from playing weekend warrior or high school football, and years of wearing high-heeled shoes catch up with us and arthritis in the knees is the price we pay for walking upright on two legs. The keys to prevention: avoid overuse, do steady, regular exercise rather than in weekend spurts, and stop if you feel pain.
Osteoporosis and Falls
Osteoporosis and low bone mass affect almost 44 million adults age 50 and older, most of them women. According to the National Osteoporosis Association, osteoporosis is not part of normal aging. Healthy behaviors and treatment, when appropriate, can prevent or minimize the condition.
Risk for developing most types of cancer increases with age. As women age, the rate of cervical cancer decreases, and endometrial cancer increases. Sometimes women slack off gynecological exams after their childbearing years. The risk of prostate cancer increases with age, and black men have a higher rate than white men. Screening should start in your 40s, and at the very least should involve a digital rectal examination. The lung cancer accounts for more deaths than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer combined.
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
Younger baby boomers take heed: cardiovascular disease (CVD) affects more than one-third of men and women in the 45- to 54-year age group, and the incidence increases with age. Cardiovascular diseases, which are diseases of the heart or blood vessels, are the leading cause of death in the U.S. They include arteriosclerosis, coronary heart disease, arrhythmia, heart failure, hypertension, orthostatic hypotension, stroke, and congenital heart disease. A healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 80%, according to data from the Nurses’ Health Study, an extensive research effort that followed more than 120,000 women aged 30 to 55 starting in 1976. Looking at data over 14 years, the researchers showed that women who were not overweight, did not smoke, consumed about one alcoholic drink per day, exercised vigorously for 30 minutes or more per day, and ate a low-fat, high-fiber diet had the lowest risk for heart disease.
Vision and Hearing Loss
Age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma, affect 119 million people aged 40 and older, according to the 2000 census. And that number is expected to double within the next three decades. Eating foods with high antioxidant content may be helpful in reducing vision loss due to macular degeneration and taking vitamin supplements for eye health may help. A lot of my geriatric patients are taking them now, which may not be as helpful as taking them when you are younger. It also appears that smokers are at higher risk for macular degeneration, so that is another reason to stop smoking. Regular eye exams should include screening for glaucoma, which is called the sneak thief of sight for the fact that the first symptom is vision loss. The disease can be arrested, but vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored. The incidence of hearing loss increases with age. Twenty-nine percent of those with hearing loss are 45-65; 43% of those with hearing loss are 65 or older. Hearing loss takes a toll on the quality of life and can lead to depression and withdrawal from social activities. Although hearing aids can help, only one out of four people use them.