Health issues increase as we age. Chronic conditions can prevent older adults from socializing, being active, and practicing good self-care. You may wonder, what are the top health issues for seniors? It’s likely you have experienced one or more of the senior health problems below.
Even if you are experiencing health issues, there’s good news — learning to properly manage and prevent common health problems can help you live a better life as you age.
Don’t assume senior health issues are just a part of getting old. There are steps you can take to alleviate many of the problems one encounters as they age. Increase your independence and live a long and healthy life by learning more about how to reduce these top health issues seniors face.
TOP HEALTH ISSUES SENIORS FACE
- Falls. Falls are a major factor in the health decline of seniors. In addition, the fear of falling is a big factor in inhibiting an older person’s activity and lifestyle. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) estimates that every 11 seconds, an older adult receives treatment in an emergency room for a fall. What’s more, every 19 minutes a senior dies from a fall. Injuries from falls are also common due to frailty, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis. The first step is to make modifications to your home to make it safe to move around. Also, with a medical alert system in place, you won’t have to worry about being left in a vulnerable position if you fall. You’ll be able to get help right away from emergency personnel and doctors.
- Memory Problems, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s. It’s important to note that all memory issues aren’t necessarily Alzheimer’s, and some can be managed by treating thyroid issues or managing medication side effects, hearing and vision loss, and other factors. There are also brain exercises you can do to sharpen your mind. Currently, around 4.7 million people around the world live with dementia. The number of people with dementia is expected to triple by 2050. Although researchers don’t know the cause of Alzheimer’s, factors that could increase the risk are drinking too much, smoking, diabetes, hypertension, and depression.
- Mental health issues. One in four seniors struggle with depression or anxiety, and many aren’t diagnosed. Feeling isolated or lonely can make matters worse. It’s important to keep track of your mental health and take note if you or a loved one no longer enjoys activities they used to love. Untreated depression can exacerbate other health problems. Doctors and researchers are focusing more on the mind-body connection and how essential it is to make sure the whole body is healthy. Exercise, treatment, and social activity are all good options for helping with depression. It’s important to reach out and get help if you think you might need it.
- Pain. Pain can come in all sorts of forms, from neuropathy from diabetes or chemo to the basic aches and pains of aging. Pain management can be difficult as you age, but it can get better with stretching, exercise, and medication if needed. Many times the pain is due to arthritis, which affects 49.7 percent of adults over 65. Work with your doctor to come up with a plan for treatment and physical activity.
- Bladder control/constipation. Urinary incontinence and constipation are both very common as you age. Don’t be ashamed to talk with your doctor about options for treatment. In many cases, exercise and eating a well-balanced diet can alleviate some of these symptoms. In some cases, changing medications might be needed.
- Oral health. Around 25 percent of seniors no longer have their natural teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Oral Health. Other oral health concerns such as cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, and mouth cancer can cause problems as you age. Be sure to visit a dentist regularly, though this is often easier said than done as Medicare doesn’t cover dental care. If left undetected, oral health problems can lead to other health problems as well as low self-esteem.
- Hearing and Vision Problems. Hearing and vision problems can increase as you age — and the problem is made worse by lack of Medicare coverage for vision and hearing care. Vision and hearing problems can make other aging problems worse as well, such as being off-balance and feeling lonely or isolated. New technology in hearing care is on the way to make hearing aids better as you age.
- Substance Abuse/Polypharmacy. The number of older adults with substance abuse problems was predicted to double to five million by 2020. Substance abuse is an often overlooked health issue in seniors who may need medication to treat painful chronic conditions. Those with problems should get treatment. This problem is made worse by the issue of polypharmacy, which is when a person is taking many different prescriptions at once, not always with forethought to the side effects and interactions between them. Meet with your doctor regularly to go over your medications and make sure that all of them are necessary.
- Chronic health conditions. Chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, COPD, high cholesterol, and cancer cause many issues in aging. The NCOA estimates that 92 percent of seniors have at least one chronic disease, while 77 percent have at least two chronic diseases. With multiple chronic conditions also come multiple medications, which can lead to other complications, lack of balance, and falls.
- Sexually transmitted disease. You might be surprised to learn that STDs and HIV are quite common among older adults. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 21 percent of AIDS cases in the U.S. were in seniors over the age of 50. It’s important to use protection when engaging in sexual activity and see a doctor regularly to make sure there are no complications. The symptoms of HIV can be very similar to those of aging, so it’s important to stay safe and get tested.
TOP TIPS FOR STAYING HEALTHY
Here are some top tips to stay healthy as you age:
- Visit your doctor regularly.
- Eat a healthy diet and exercise at least 3 days a week.
- Invest in a medical alert system.
- Make modifications to your home to make sure it’s well-lit and safe to move around.
- Use a cane or a walker to get around if needed.
- Have fire and carbon monoxide detectors in place.
- Get your needed vaccinations.
- Get screened for colon cancer, breast cancer, and/or prostate cancer annually.
- Get screened for diabetes.
- Quit smoking; Medicare covers smoking cessation counseling if needed.
- Drink in moderation.
- Monitor your medications and review them annually with your doctor.
- Get a blood pressure screening at least once a year.
- See a dermatologist regularly.
- Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day.
- Don’t neglect your mental health.
- Follow through with any other tests and health plans as recommended by your doctor.
Most of all, don’t think that any of these health issues are inevitable. There are ways to make sure that you don’t suffer from multiple conditions as you age. Talk with your doctor about steps you can take to remain healthy today.
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