With time comes age, and getting older can seem a bit daunting at times. It’s fortunate to live in times where the general population can expect to live longer healthier lives than previous generations; still, aging brings unwanted things such as wrinkles, gray hair, and chronic illnesses.
There are unique health challenges that come in the form of but are not limited to chronic diseases, tendencies, and assisted care as one ages. For this reason, it is important to stay cognizant and vigilant in keeping healthy lifestyles to support a better quality of living at an older age. Knowing common health issues older adults face can assist in future preparation.
Familiarizing yourself with common health issues older adults face can help you stave off the onset of undesired medical diseases and conditions by setting up measures to prevent and manage healthy aging. Being aware of these challenges can also help you find the right professional caretaker when the time is right and maintain the best quality of life possible.
In the aging process, a decreased connection in brain cells is observed which impacts all cognitive functions including the ability to think, learn, and memory. Common cognitive health conditions in older adults are dementia and Alzheimers.
Dementia dissolves into the complete loss of all cognitive functioning. The number of people with dementia is expected to triple by the year 2050 from the current approximation of 47.5 million globally.
Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia and is very challenging to diagnose. About 5 million seniors over the age of 65 suffer from the disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about one in nine adults age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s.
There is no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s, but doctors can put in place a treatment plan and medications to manage the diseases.
In addition to decreased cognitive function, many older adults experience a decline in mental health. It is common for elders to get lonely and feel depressed and this can get exacerbated by other health conditions.
The World Health Organization reports that more than 15 percent of adults over the age of 60 suffer from a mental disorder. In the elderly population, mental disorders tend to go underdiagnosed, undertreated, or overlooked, particularly depression which is actually common.
Promoting healthy lifestyles and mindful living can help foster and support better mental health. It is beneficial for older adults to have social support from friends, family, or support groups, to have positive living conditions, and a sense of community.
Poor nutrition or malnutrition can compound other health issues in older adults. In weak areas such as the immune system, health problems can get inflamed. In older adults over the age of 65, malnutrition goes often undiagnosed.
Malnutrition can be the result of many things such as poverty, financial crisis, dementia, dietary restrictions (due to other chronic health issues), depression, drug abuse, and alcoholism. It is important for older adults to make positive small changes in their diet like including more plant-based foods and reducing foods containing saturated fats and high salt content.
In the cases where older adults suffer from decreased cognitive function or mental health conditions, it is important for their social circles (family, friends, support groups) to regularly check-in. For serious or persisting cases, having the assistance of a caregiver can be invaluable not only to support proper nutrition but a healthier lifestyle and improved quality of life.
The CDC reports that nearly half a million deaths in seniors were because of cancer. Cancer is the second leading cause of death for adults over the age of 65. While cancer is not preventable, you can manage or improve the quality of living. In best cases, when caught early, cancer can be treatable. It is vital to rely on medical professionals for the best course of action.
Older adults are more susceptible to developing chronic diseases. The National Council on Aging reports that about 92 percent of older adults suffer from at least one chronic disease and 77 percent have at least two. Chronic diseases are likely to compound issues and cause other medical problems.
The most common chronic health conditions include heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Obesity is also of growing concern. Treatments for chronic diseases are expensive. It is important for older adults to schedule annual physicals regularly for early detection.
Due to the prevalence of chronic health conditions in older adults, the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends seniors meet annually with their physician, maintain a healthy diet and put an exercise routine in place. In doing so, they can better prevent or manage chronic health conditions.
Older adults are more likely to experience serious injuries with longer recovery periods. Bones shrink and muscles lose strength and flexibility as a result of the aging process. Falls are particularly frequent and the leading cause of injury. In fact, an older adult is admitted to the emergency every 15 seconds for a fall and an elderly person dies from falling every 29 minutes.
Falls are of particular concern because not only can they indicate other health problems and lead to others, but many older adults suffer from osteoporosis which can cause decreased mobility and disability. One fall can drastically change the quality of life for an older adult.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
A surprisingly high percentage of sexually transmitted diseases are found in the elderly, particularly in nursing homes (where the number can be higher than the general percentage). Sexual desire does not disappear with age and, due to this, it is still pertinent that seniors follow safe sex precautions.
Older adults have a weakened immune system and are unlikely to use condoms. As a result, they are more especially more likely to contract sexually transmittable diseases such as HIV. 21 percent of AIDS cases were found with older adults over the age of 50 with 37 percent of those deaths being older adults over the age of 55. In the last decade, this has increased.
With symptoms of HIV being similar to those common experiences of the aging process, HIV gets diagnosed late in older adults. The late diagnosis makes HIV all the more difficult to treat and inhibits damage to the immune system of older adults.
Sexually transmitted diseases are preventable. By following safe sex precautions, sexually transmitted diseases can be avoided. It is important to use condoms and educate or inform sexual partners of medical conditions that can also affect them.
Maintaining Health as an Older Adult
Health issues that occur later in life can affect all aspects of living. Be sure to pursue methods of prevention and treatment, stay active in an engaging social circle, and maintain a healthy diet.