Understanding Senior Health Issues
When it comes to senior health, taking care of yourself and your loved ones is especially important. Currently, the CDC states that 41 percent of adults aged 65 and older report being in excellent health. For obvious reasons, this is great news. After all, life expectancy has been on the rise in recent years and society has made great leaps in the world of senior healthcare lately.
That said, proper preventative care, proper nutrition, proper exercise, and seeking professional help when needed all contribute to these optimistic numbers. Planning for a healthy future is incredibly important as we age. Unfortunately, seniors are especially vulnerable to a variety of health issues that may have an effect on their overall quality of life.
By learning more about senior health issues, senior health warnings, common senior health problems, and what can be done about them, you will be better equipped to handle anything life throws your way during your golden years.
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What are some of the most common senior health problems?
For many older individuals, family history, age, and lifestyle can play a key role in the risk of certain medical conditions. Luckily, however, a large number of these potential problems can be avoided or slowed simply by making smart, healthy choices and visiting your doctor for regular preventive care and health screenings.
Courtesy of Nursing Home Reviews, here are some of the most common health issues that seniors regularly encounter, what you can do to prevent them, and what your loved ones can do to help you overcome them.
While it’s no secret that some degree of memory loss is to be expected as we age, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not to be trifled with. As recently as 2014, Alzheimer’s disease was reported by the CDC to have accounted for 92,604 deaths in people over the age of 65.
Furthermore, The Alzheimer’s Association says that one in nine people aged 65 or older (about 11 percent) are currently living with symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Naturally, this issue can have a significant impact on senior health across the spectrum, including concerns over safety and self-care.
In order to prevent the dangers associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia, it is important to recognize the early warning signs of the disease. While there is currently no cure for this condition, the earlier you begin intervention and treatment, the higher chance you will have of slowing its progression.
Mental Health Concerns and Substance Abuse
According to the American Psychological Association, 15 to 20 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have experienced some degree of depression. This recognized threat to senior healthcare can dramatically lower a person’s immunity to infection, lead to thoughts of suicide, and contribute to a lack of personal hygiene and self-care.
Furthermore, mental illnesses like depression and anxiety can lead to issues with substance abuse as a means of self-medication. An analysis of recent data from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions suggests that one in five people over the age of 65 have had an alcohol or other substance abuse problem at some point in their lives.
As one may expect, chronic abuse of these substances coupled with possible interactions with prescription medication has the power to impact overall senior health risks. Currently, physical exercise and increased positive social interaction coupled with medical treatment and therapy is the leading recommendation for combating mental illness and substance abuse.
Oral and Dental Issues
While not all seniors will lose their teeth, this demographic is at a proportionately higher risk for developing issues such as gingivitis, bacterial infection, chronic oral dryness, and cavities. According to the CDC, 25 percent of adults over the age of 65 have no natural teeth remaining as a result of one or more of these common oral health issues.
Proper oral care and regularly seeing your dentist for proper teeth cleanings, check-ups, and any necessary dental implant or denture fittings is the best possible way to prevent issues with oral health as you age.
Vision and Hearing Difficulties
Like with oral and dental issues, vision and hearing issues also commonly plague older individuals. Age-related eye issues such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma currently affect millions of older adults.
In addition, hearing loss is also a very common problem for seniors. It is estimated that, currently, around 43 percent of people who experience hearing loss are over the age of 65. The best way to prevent these issues is simply to maintain regular vision and hearing screenings and make any recommended lifestyle adjustments to help stave off the problem.
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Heart Disease and Diabetes
Chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes are incredibly common in the United States in general, but especially for those who are 65 and older. As you may have heard, heart disease is the leading cause of death for individuals in this age bracket. Furthermore, it is estimated that around 25 percent of people in this demographic are currently living with type 2 diabetes.
As with any chronic condition, the sooner you know that you are at risk, the sooner you can begin to take the necessary steps to prevent these conditions and better manage your vitals, like blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.
Decreased Bone Mass and Density
The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that approximately 54 million adults over the age of 50 have a lower-than-average bone mass, and that nearly all adults over the age of 80 regularly struggle with arthritis.
Unfortunately, most issues with bones and joints are simply an unavoidable part of natural aging, but you can be sure to make your bones and joints last as long as possible by regularly eating a healthy, balanced diet, and by exercising within your means in order to maintain strength and dexterity.
Many respiratory issues, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are the third most common cause of death for seniors. In addition, about 10 percent of men and 13 percent of women are currently living with asthma, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema.
These respiratory conditions could make you more susceptible to live-threatening illnesses such as pneumonia, influenza, COVID-19, and other dangerous lung infections. Thankfully, there is a wide variety of medication and treatment available to help combat these conditions.
Problems with Balance
Falls are extremely common for older people, and this directly relates to problems with balance and coordination. Currently, falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults. Each year, around 2.5 million people aged 65 and older are admitted into emergency departments because of falls (more than any other age group), according to the CDC.
Believe it or not, most falls occur in or around the home, where tripping hazards like bunched up area rugs, wires, slippery bathroom floors, and more are extremely prevalent. For many, a fear of falling has been directly linked to decreased involvement in daily activity.
Working on balance and coordination through regular exercise, increased mobility, and sometimes physical therapy can go a long way in preventing future falls and the injuries associated with them.
While cancer is all too common for people of all age groups, seniors are at a much higher risk for certain types of cancers than all other demographics. Generally, types of cancers that disproportionately affect seniors include cervical and endometrial cancers in women, prostate cancer in men, and skin and colon cancer for both sexes.
While preventing cancer entirely may not currently be possible, it is certainly possible to detect certain cancers early in their development process through screenings. For most types of cancer, catching the problem early can make a world of difference when it comes to treatment effectiveness.
How can I help myself or my loved one overcome senior health issues?
When it comes to caring for yourself or your loved one as they age, a little patience, simple understanding, and a willingness to share your company can go a long way. As we get older and our risk of developing health problems increases, however, it is especially important to have a plan in place for what to do if things progress beyond what we are capable of handling.
Luckily, there are thousands of great resources available for seniors that can help them live their healthiest, most sociable, and most productive lives. For many, these resources include high-quality assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and retirement communities.
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