People around the world are living longer than ever before. In the US, once you reach the age of 65, you can live for another 19.3 years on average.
In the era where everyone wants to live longer, these numbers look promising. Unfortunately, getting old is not always a very pleasant experience.
The graying of hair, the appearance of wrinkles on the skin, and the memory issues that come along with age can be daunting.
Apart from the physical and mental changes, the aging process is associated with several health problems.
These health condition scan have a profound impact on the quality of life of the elderly. Reduced mobility, sensory impairment, and other health conditions can make even the simplest daily activities challenging.
Fortunately, with improvements in science and technology, we can prevent and manage some of the most common health conditions associated with aging.
The fact has been endorsed by the Center for Disease Control.
They claim that various health conditions associated with aging can be prevented and treated through timely medical intervention. Here are the 8 most common health problems in the elderly, which are easily preventable and treatable.
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Chronic Health Conditions
Medical conditions which last for more than 1 year and require on-going medical support are classified as chronic health conditions.
According to statistics, more than 90% of older people above the age of 65 have at least one chronic condition, and around 77% have at least two.
Some of the most common chronic health conditions include diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and risk of stroke. These common chronic health conditions lead to almost 2/3rd deaths of the elderly each year.
On a positive note, these chronic health conditions can be easily prevented. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, which includes a balanced diet and regular exercise, you can prevent or delay the onset of chronic health conditions.
People who smoke nicotine are at a higher risk of developing chronic health conditions, so you can minimize the risk of developing chronic health conditions by quitting smoking.
An annual checkup with the physician will also contribute in preventing and managing chronic health conditions.
Along with changes in the physical state, it is very common for the elderly to experience mental health problems.
It is estimated that 15% of the people over the age of 60 suffer from mental health problems, with depression being the most common one. According to research, depression affects 7% of the elderly population in the US.
Depression and other mental health problems are often a result of chronic health conditions. Reduced mobility, loss of freedom, retirement, and physical dependence on others are also some of the factors which can lead to depression.
While depression in the elderly can be treated, it can also be prevented.
An active lifestyle and social support from family and friends can help prevent the onset of depression. As the person is aging, it is also imperative to realize that they need to find things which they enjoy doing on their own.
So identify things which are of interest, find a hobby, and incorporate it in your daily life. This will help reduce your dependence on others and, in turn, will help prevent depression.
In the US and many other parts of the world, obesity is an epidemic. The prevalence of obesity in the elderly has increased drastically in the last few years.
As of now, more than 30% of people above the age of 60 are obese. It is one of the most critical risk factors and leads to many chronic health conditions including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
The risk of obesity increases with age. Reduced mobility and age related changes in body composition are the primary causes of obesity in the elderly.
Fortunately, this health condition can be prevented. An active lifestyle and a healthy diet are the two major factors which can help reduce the risk of obesity.
Regular exercise can play a crucial role in preventing obesity. Exercise improves the metabolic activity which, in turn, helps in reducing the risk of obesity.
It is recommended that a person should spend at least 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week in some sort of moderate physical activity.
This includes walking, swimming, and jogging. In case of the elderly, if it is difficult to stick to a regular exercise regime, just remember that any level of physical activity is better than none.
Healthy teeth and gums are not only essential for easy eating, but they are also important for your overall health.
It was found that around 25% of the elderly over the age of 65 do not have natural teeth. While loss of teeth is a natural part of aging, it is possible to prevent tooth loss.
Ensuring adequate oral hygiene and regular dental checkups can help identify and treat many oral conditions which can lead to the loss of teeth.
Influenza and Pneumonia
While influenza and pneumonia are not chronic health conditions, these conditions are one of the top ten causes of death in elderly people over the age of 65.
The immune system weakens with age, which makes the elderly more prone to infections – especially respiratory tract infections. While these infections can be serious, they are easily preventable.
Getting an annual flu and pneumonia vaccine can help prevent these infections which can result in life threatening complications.
Physical Injury from a Fall
As we age, there is an increased risk of physical injury requiring emergency treatment.
It is estimated that an elderly person is admitted to an emergency room every 15 seconds for a fall.
Every year, around 2.5 million people of ages 65 and older are treated in the emergency room because of falls. In some cases, elderly patients do not survive the physical injury.
According to estimates, an elderly person above the age of 65 dies from falling every 29 minutes. This makes physical injuries from falls one of the leading causes of injury in the elderly.
Since aging affects the strength of the bones, and muscles tend to lose flexibility, the elderly are more prone to losing their balance.
Two common health conditions which increase the risk of injury due to falls include osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
It is practically impossible to completely avoid falling accidents. However physical injuries from a fall can be prevented through education and slight modifications at home.
Additionally, ensuring that the elderly get a diet rich in calcium will help increase bone strength and density. This, in turn, will reduce the risks of fracture in case of a fall.
Another health problem associated with aging is malnutrition. The condition is often undiagnosed in the elderly. Other health conditions such as chronic health problems, dementia, oral issues, and depression are some of the potential causes of malnutrition.
The condition can lead to a weakened immune system and muscle weakness, which can cause many other health problems.
Luckily, this health condition is easily preventable. Ensuring regular meals which include sufficient quantities of fruit and vegetables can help prevent malnutrition.
In cases where the elderly are physically dependent, the family members or the primary caregiver should make sure that they receive a balanced diet. For older adults who cannot afford food, there are many food services available which can cater to their needs.
As we grow older, the sensory organs tend to become weaker.
This is partially related to the deteriorating condition of the nerves, which is a natural part of aging. Some chronic health conditions also contribute towards developing sensory impairment.
In the US, sensory impairment in the elderly is very common.
It is estimated that one in every six older adults suffers some kind of visual impairment. Also one in every four elderly have hearing impairment. Sensory impairment can severely affect the quality of life of the elderly.
Though these conditions cannot be prevented, they can be easily treated. With advances in technology, there is an improvement in the assessment of sensory loss.
Also, better quality visual and hearing aids with improved wearability are always being developed. This makes it easier for the elderly to use these aids. All this contributes towards improving the quality of life of the elderly.
All too often, it is assumed that many health conditions are a natural part of the aging process. In reality, these are some of the conditions which can be easily prevented and managed.
A healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, and regular exercise can delay the onset of many health conditions affecting the elderly.
If you, your parents, or loved ones are diagnosed with any of these conditions, it is important to educate yourself so that you can help yourself or them in the best possible way.