The Six Most Common Health Issues Senior Citizens Face

There are many health-related issues and challenges that senior citizens face. However, by being aware of these common chronic conditions, you can take steps to thwart these complications as you age.

Far too often people say, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Let’s face it folks: old age isn’t going anywhere. If you’re over the age of 60, it’s important to give great thought to the health challenges of aging. Planning for optimum health is vital, so you may need to make strategic life choices, like quitting smoking and losing weight to avoid future health risks. If you want to be in good health after the age of 65, make note of these six common health issues and you can learn to live a healthier life.

  1. Heart Disease: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease remains the leading killer of adults over the age of 65, accounting for 488,156 deaths in 2013. Heart disease affects 26% of women and 37% of men over the age of 65. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women and for most racial/ethnic groups including whites, blacks, and Hispanics. A number of factors including high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, diabetes, being overweight or obese, and physical inactivity all increase the risk of heart disease. The elderly are particularly vulnerable as heart disease-related morbidity and mortality both increase with age. More than one in three elderly adults in the U.S. was diagnosed with heart disease in 2010. Among elderly persons, non-Hispanic whites, men, and those aged 75 and older were more likely than others to report a diagnosis of heart disease (39.1%, 42.4%, and 44.3% respectively). Persons with heart disease were more than twice as likely to have an inpatient hospital stay (27.4% versus 11.3%) and had average annual health expenditures that were a little more than double the average for individuals without a diagnosis of heart disease ($14,504 versus $7,108).
  2. Cancer: Cancer is the second leading cause of death among people over age 65, with 407,558 deaths in 2013. According to the CDC, 28% of men and 21% of women over age 65 are living with cancer. If caught early through screenings such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and skin checks, many types of cancer are treatable. Although you’re not always able to prevent cancer, you can improve quality of life by working with your doctor and maintaining their healthy living recommendations.
  3. Alzheimer’s disease: Alzheimer’s disease accounted for 83,786 deaths of people over the age 65 in 2013, according to the CDC. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that one in nine people aged 65 and older, which is about 11%, live with Alzheimer’s disease. However, because diagnosis is challenging, it’s difficult to know exactly how many people are living with this chronic condition. Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death in the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. In 2015, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia cost the nation over $226 billion.
  4. Diabetes: In the U.S., there are nearly 26 million people living with diabetes, and more seniors have diabetes than any other age group. Currently, one in four Americans (10.9 million, or 26.9%) over the age of 60 is living with diabetes. According to CDC data, diabetes caused 53,751 deaths among adults over age 65 in 2013. Diabetes can be identified and addressed early with simple blood tests for blood sugar levels. The sooner you know that you have or are at risk for diabetes, the sooner you can start making changes to control the disease and improve your long-term senior health outlook.
  5. Arthritis: In 2010-2012, 49.7% of adults 65 years or older reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis. By 2030, an estimated 25 million adults (37% of adults with arthritis or 9.3% of all US adults) will report arthritis-attributable activity limitations. The most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, occurs in older people because it is usually the result of long years of wear and tear on your body­. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Surveys have shown that millions of adults are limited by arthritis in their ability to walk, climb stairs, bend, or kneel, or participate in regular social activities such as going to church or visiting with family and friends. For those still working, arthritis can make the daily routine more and more challenging.
  6. Respiratory Disease: Chronic lower respiratory diseases, such as COPD, are the third most common cause of death among people 65 and older, annually taking 127,194 lives. About 10% of men and 13% of women are living with asthma, and another 10% of men and 11% of women are living with chronic bronchitis, according to the CDC. COPD accounts for one fifth of all hospitalizations in individuals aged 75 years and older. COPD patients aged 65 years and older enrolled in a Medicare managed care plan have $20,500 in additional annual expenditure compared with age- and sex-matched comparison groups. By getting lung function tests, taking the correct medications, or using oxygen as instructed, you can increase the quality of your life.


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