Common Health Issues for Senior Citizens

Certain chronic diseases are common among senior citizens, and the risk of developing a disease increases as seniors get older.

It is therefore essential for older adults to get frequent check-ups and take care of their bodies. Some very common and dangerous health problems include cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, dementia and more.

Genetics will certainly make you more likely to have certain diseases than others. However, there are certain steps you may take to improve your health which may lower your chances of developing these diseases. By losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet that covers all your basic food groups, exercising regularly and keeping your mind sharp, you may improve your overall health. You may also be able to live independently for a longer period of time.

To help you better understand the common health issues you may face and how to prevent them, we have provided detailed information on cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and dementia.

Cardiovascular Disease in Seniors

Your heart undergoes many changes as you grow older. It may become enlarged, the walls of it may thicken, the arteries may become more narrow and the heart’s valves may work less efficiently. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to diminish your chances of developing heart disease.

For instance, it is very important to try and quit smoking, if you smoke at all. Even just a moderate reduction in the amount you smoke will lessen the damage to your heart and lungs and lower your risk for cardiovascular disease. Eating healthy foods and lowering the amount of cholesterol you consume may also keep your heart healthy.

You may also consider establishing an exercise routine, as this will lower the risk of heart disease by preventing weight gain and obesity. There is a wide variety of benefits to exercising for a certain amount of time each day, all of which will help prevent cardiovascular disease. For instance, your blood pressure may decrease over time and your lung function may improve.

Exercise may be as simple as taking a walk. Be sure to speak with your doctor to determine an exercise regimen that works well for you, as you may have other conditions that prevent you from more rigorous exercise. It is recommended that you make regular appointments to see a cardiologist and your general doctor so that they know what steps you are taking to reduce your risk.

You may have already developed cardiovascular disease. If so, you and your doctor may establish a treatment plan based on the extent of your disease and other important factors. If you have low or high blood pressure, a doctor will typically prescribe medication.

You may require more serious action if you have severe issues, such as narrow arteries or a partial blockage in your arteries due to plaque. In these instances, you may need to have a stent placed inside your artery, which will widen the path for blood flow.

Fortunately, this procedure is relatively common, and you will not need to have major incisions, full anesthesia or complete sedation. While you may prefer not to have any surgery, this regular procedure may prevent more dangerous health problems from occurring.

An artery that becomes completely blocked will require much more invasive surgery, called heart bypass surgery. Bypass surgery is open-heart surgery during which one of your other blood vessels is used to bypass the artery that is blocked. While surgery poses risks, the risks of leaving an artery fully blocked are much greater and could lead to heart attacks.

Some cardiovascular diseases may require you to have a pacemaker. A pacemaker is a small device that sends electrical impulses to your heart muscles whenever your heart beats irregularly or stops beating. A pacemaker may also be a second option if you were previously on medication that did nothing to alleviate your symptoms.

Type 2 Diabetes in Seniors

According to a recent study, more than 25 percent of senior citizens develop type 2 diabetes after reaching 65 years of age. Because this is such a high percentage, it is essential that you understand how to prevent type 2 diabetes.

It is also important to gain a general understanding of why the illness develops and how to detect signs of the disease. From there, you may learn how to manage it and what happens when you do not take care of it.

Normally, your body absorbs glucose from your food and then uses insulin to maintain a steady amount of sugar in your blood. In type 2 diabetes, your body fails to use insulin immediately. You may have a genetic predisposition for the disease, though you can lower your chances of developing it by watching your weight, eating low-glycemic foods and exercising consistently.

If you begin experiencing excessive fatigue, hunger, thirst, weight loss, urination or blurred vision, you may be experiencing type 2 diabetes.

If you suspect that you have this disease, contact your doctor right away. He or she can prescribe blood tests to determine whether you are diabetic. If you are diabetic, your doctor will set up a healthcare plan to manage the disease. If you do not manage it, you may face serious consequences, such as blindness, hearing loss and neuropathy.

Arthritis in Seniors

There are two forms of arthritis that are commonly diagnosed in senior citizens, the most common of which is osteoarthritis (OA). OA is more common in women than men, and symptoms include pain in the joints.

You may also experience soreness or aches with movement, pain after overusing your body, enlarged portions of your fingers and swelling in your joint areas. The pain comes from the breakdown of cartilage in your joints, which occurs in your knees, hips, spine, fingers, toes and neck as you get older.

OA is typically caused by obesity, joint abnormalities, overuse, repetitive activities, inactivity and scoliosis. To diagnose it, your doctor must perform a physical exam and order an X-ray. An X-ray may determine the type of arthritis you have and the extent of the damage to your joints.

To treat osteoarthritis, your doctor may prescribe medication, recommend hot and cold compresses, physical therapy or exercise and the reduction of repetitive activities, such as playing piano, typing, knitting or fishing. You may even require surgery if the damage is severe.

Dementia in Seniors

Dementia is one of many mental health issues that affect a large number of seniors, especially those who are 65 years of age and older. The symptoms include memory loss, trouble speaking or finding words, difficulty with problem-solving, confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, personality changes and more.

Keep in mind that dementia is an umbrella term for several different chronic diseases and medical conditions, rather than a disease itself. Unfortunately, many seniors who develop dementia have a genetic predisposition.

It is important that you visit doctors frequently in order for them to detect the signs of dementia as early as possible. A doctor may also be able to determine whether you have a genetic mutation which will affect you and potentially your family. In addition, sticking to an exercise routine, eating healthy foods and practicing problem-solving can all lower your risk.

Moreover, some forms of dementia are reversible with medication and proper treatment. Reversible forms are usually caused by immune disorders, nutritional deficiencies, medications, subdural hematoma and brain tumors.

Irreversible dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Frontotemporal dementia, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.