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Senior Health Issues to Look For

There are many different health concerns for senior citizens.  As we grow older our bodies grow more susceptible to a variety of ailments and diseases that we may not have had to worry about as much in our younger years.  Some of the most common health concerns for seniors include:

  1. Bone Ailments: Ailments such as arthritis and osteoporosis tend to cause more issues in older people than they do in younger people.  There are over 100 different types of arthritis, which is defined as the inflammation of one or more joints.  Arthritis causes pain and stiffness in the inflamed joints. Treatments for making arthritis more manageable include medications, physical therapy, hydrotherapy, massage, and acupuncture.  Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become brittle and weak.  Osteoporosis can make bone breakage more likely and more difficult to recover from.  Treatment for management and slowing progression of osteoporosis include a healthy diet, medications, and weight-bearing exercise to prevent bone loss and strengthen bones that have already weakened.
  2. Dental Problems: Seniors have issues with things like root decay, gum disease, tooth loss, denture-induced stomatitis, and thrush.  The best way to ensure the best dental health possible is to practice excellent dental hygiene: brush regularly after meals, floss, use mouthwash, and get regular cleaning and dental check ups.
  3. Cancer: Age is one of the biggest risk factors for cancers of all types.  Approximately 60% of cancer patients are 65 or older.  Treatments exist and vary.  One of the most important things to know is that while the number of cancer cases continues to increase, thanks to the research being done, mortality rates are continuously declining.  There are effective treatments for many types of cancer.
  4. Obesity: Obesity in seniors can cause unnecessary and/or excessive pain.  The extra weight can exacerbate bone conditions, joint pain, etc. Obesity can also raise the likelihood of getting or worsening diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.  The best ways to avoid and treat obesity are diet and exercise.  In some cases, diet and exercise alone may not be enough and medications may be recommended by doctors.
  5. Vision Loss: Many seniors lose at least a portion of their eyesight during their senior years.  Some of the most common causes of vision loss include cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.  It is important that vision be checked regularly since there are treatments for most of these ailments that are most beneficial when the condition is caught early.
  6. Hearing Loss: Hearing loss affects more than one-third of adults over 60.  Health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure can contribute to hearing loss as well as heart conditions, brain injury, stroke, tumors, viruses, and bacteria.  Hearing loss is common and non-life-threatening, however it can make life difficult.  Many seniors with sensorineural hearing loss, or hearing loss due to damaged hairs, find that using assistive listening devices and hearing aids is very useful. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to several physical and psychological issues, ranging from cognitive decline and depression to an increased risk of trips and falls because balance is off. If you notice a decline in your or your loved one’s hearing, consult a physician.
  7. Heart Disease: People over 65 are more likely to have heart health issues such as heart attacks, coronary disease, and heart failure.  The most common heart health issue is arteriosclerosis which is a hardening of the arteries caused by plaque build up. Symptoms of heart disease are pain/numbness/tingling in shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back; shortness of breath during activity, rest, or while lying flat; chest pain during physical activity that gets better when you rest; lightheadedness; dizziness; confusion; headaches; cold sweats; nausea/vomiting; tiredness/fatigue; swelling of ankles, feet, legs, stomach and/or neck; reduced ability to exercise or be physically active; and problems doing your normal everyday activities .  Prevention, delay, or reversal of heart health issues is possible.  Ways to prevent and help heart health issues include: being more physically active (150 minutes per week); avoid spending hours a day sitting; quit smoking; follow a heart healthy diet–foods low in trans and saturated fat, salt, and added sugars; keep a healthy weight; keep other conditions under control; don’t drink a lot of alcohol; and find a healthy way to manage stress.
  8. Memory Loss/Dementia/Cognitive Decline: Brain and memory health are of utmost importance to people over the age of 65.  In order to maintain as much healthy brain function as possible it is important to eat healthy “brain” foods, get enough sleep at night, and maintain a healthy social life.
  9. Mental Health Disorders: In America 6 million adults over the age of 65 suffer from depression.  Other mental health issues include anxiety, bipolar disorder, and Schizophrenia. Depression and anxiety in the elderly are very common.  One of the main ways to help with these disorders is to maintain an active social life. A lot of the time depression and anxiety is brought on by loneliness, too much extra/down time, and a fear of the unknown.  Three common signs of mental health disorders include a variance in self care and hygiene, social withdrawal, and changes in mood.  If you notice any of these or feel a decline in your desire to do things you typically enjoy or feel more anxious than normal, consult a doctor.
  10. Balance Issues:  Balance issues need to be addressed because they can lead to falls and injury.  Hearing issues can lead to balance issues.  If you feel off balance or dizzy frequently, get it checked out by a doctor.
  11. Pneumonia/ Influenza/ COVID-19: Covid 19 is significantly more dangerous to people over the age of 65.  Make sure to get your vaccination, stay away from people who may be sick, wear a mask where necessary, maintain social distancing, and wash your hands regularly. Pneumonia and Influenza can be equally dangerous for the elderly.  There are vaccines for all of these ailments.  Every senior should be vaccinated for their own health and protection.
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