People are living longer. Modern medicine has pushed the average lifespan up to 71 worldwide, with females living longer than males. Thirty-two countries have an average lifespan of 80 years or longer, with Hong Kong’s overall life expectancy at 84.7 years.
As seniors continue to live longer, they experience chronic conditions and common health concerns that can often be managed.
The most common health concerns for seniors are:
The CDC estimates that nearly 50% of seniors suffer from arthritis. The condition causes joint inflammation and also impacts the tissue surrounding the joint. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis.
There are over 200 conditions that fall under this condition, and rheumatoid arthritis is the most persistent form.
Treatment for arthritis may include:
- Physical therapy
2. Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading killer in the United States. There are nearly a half-a-million deaths per year caused by heart disease in the US, and this figure is significantly higher worldwide. Obesity contributes to heart disease, but lack of exercise and poor eating habits are also tied to the condition.
Chronic heart disease impacts 37% of men and 26% of women.
Diet and lifestyle choices are the main contributors to heart disease. A poor diet or smoking are the most common causes of heart disease.
Depending on the underlying factor, doctors may recommend a person with heart disease:
- Exercise more often
- Diet to lose weight
- Change bad eating habits
- Sleep more
Medications may be prescribed depending on the symptoms associated with a person’s heart disease.
The second leading cause of death worldwide for people over the age 65 is cancer. Nearly one-third of the people diagnosed with cancer in 2018 will die from the disease. Advancements are helping many seniors live longer with the disease, but the type of cancer will determine the person’s mortality rate.
The key to treating cancer is to detect it early on.
Skin checks, colonoscopies and mammograms are recommended as a person ages. Treatment for cancer may include chemotherapy, medication or surgery. The key to living with cancer is to work with medical professionals that can help a senior manage their cancer.
Treatment options will depend on the type of cancer and the overall health of the senior.
A senior who is already in poor health may not be the prime candidate to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
4. Respiratory and Lung Disease
Respiratory diseases may not be as prevalent as arthritis or heart disease, but they are still some of the top diseases in terms of senior death. Around 10% of men and 13% of women will have some form of asthma by the time they’re 65.
Serious conditions, such as emphysema, impact roughly 10% of the population, but the main cause of the disease is smoking. Second-hand smoke can also lead to lung or respiratory disease.
The good news is that lung disease can be managed.
A doctor will be able to conduct lung function tests and prescribe medication that will allow most seniors to manage and live with their lung disease.
Serious issues with respiratory disease often occur when a person has pneumonia or other serious infection. If not treated quickly, these two conditions along with lung disease, can lead to hospitalization and even death.
Common respiratory conditions include:
- Chronic lower respiratory disease
- Chronic bronchitis
5. Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease can cause death, but the main concern is loss of mental capacity. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests that 11% of people over the age of 65 will have some form of the disease.
Diagnosis is difficult, and there’s a chance that the percentage of seniors suffering from this condition is higher than forecasted.
Cognitive impairment is the main symptom.
Seniors that suffer from Alzheimer’s will slowly start to lose their:
- Cognitive abilities
The disease will progressively worsen until the point where the individual can no longer carry out basic tasks. Symptoms often appear when a person is in their mid-60s, and the condition accounts for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases.
Treatment may be able to slow the progression of the disease, but the condition cannot currently be cured.
Low bone mass occurs in people as young as age 50. When a person ages, bone mass starts to deteriorate and can leave a person disabled, at higher risk of bone breaks or fractures, and can result in a person being less mobile.
Falls become far more serious when a person has osteoporosis.
The condition is common and can last for years, or be lifelong. Seniors often doesn’t realize that they have the condition until they have a fracture or break. When a person has osteoporosis, the bones become weaker and brittle.
Medication can help treat the condition. Weight-bearing exercises will also help you enhance your bone health.
Diabetes impacts about 25% of seniors over the age of 65. The condition can be managed with medication and proper diet change, but diabetes still remains a significant risk to seniors. Blood tests and blood sugar level tests can diagnose diabetes.
Treatment and improving your condition means acting swiftly.
Diabetes will require diet changes, and a person can help minimize and even eliminate diabetes with weight loss and a strict diet.
You’re at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes if you:
- Live a sedentary lifestyle
- Are obese or overweight
- Consume high levels of alcohol
- Have high blood pressure
- Maintain a high carb and high fat diet
Diet and weight loss may be able to help a person with type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels to a point where they no longer need medication. Doctors claim that while there is no cure for the disease, you may be able to live a life without medication if you make these two key changes.
Seniors will have to be more cautious of pneumonia and influenza as they age. Since the immune system may not be as strong as it once was, a senior can become violently ill or even die due to these conditions.
Falls are another major health risk. A slip and fall can lead to:
- Broken bones
- Loss of mobility
- Head injury
Falls become more serious as a person ages. If a hip or leg is broken, the risk of death is also much higher within the first year of the accident.
Staying active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to living a healthy life into your senior years. Abstaining from alcohol and substance abuse can also help.
Exercise and a healthy diet are recommended to keep muscle strength, bone density and help a senior maintain a healthy weight.
Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.