Contributed by- Dr. Snehal Singh
Are you worried about your increasing age? Well, you need not – as aging can be the most beautiful experience you have ever had if you do the right thing to maintain well being. Yes, it is true that aging brings some health issues along with it and some old age diseases are known to affect people around us. But only if you are aware of those, you would be able to prevent and manage them.
Aging is a natural process and brings many changes in your body as well as in the mind. As your roles and nature of work changes with increasing age, the ability to deal with every change also varies. Old age health problems are many, but you can surely overcome them and make your aging more enjoyable.
Common Health Problems in the Elderly
- Joint problems–Joint problems usually occur with aging due to degenerative changes in the joints. This leads to increased risk of cervical spondylosis, herniated disc in spine and arthritis, particularly of the knee joint. This causes neck and back pain, knee pain, which also causes difficulty in walking, lifting objects or other daily tasks. Osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones becomes brittle and break easily with a slight blow or due to a fall, is also common in elderly people. While this is considered to be related to low bone density due to lack of adequate calcium, other factors and nutrients like vitamin D, too play an important role.
- Alzheimer’s disease – An important impact of aging is cognitive impairment and difficulty in taking up mental tasks. The degree of such conditions may vary from mild forgetfulness or finding learning new things difficult to being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This is a concern from healthcare and safety perspective and appropriate steps must be taken to manage this.
- Obesity – As age advances, the body’s metabolism may tend to slow down for many. While there are other genetic and environmental factors which can also influence this. It is common for people to begin gaining weight as they age.
- Diabetes– It is a result of slow metabolism and an imbalance of hormones which can increase the risk of diabetes in the elderly. It is not just diabetes but also the complications of diabetes are on the rise in the elderly. These can significantly impact senior health and is also one of the major causes of disabilities.
- Heart disease – With the increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, the risk for heart diseases too rise with increasing age. In the case of women, it is believed that certain hormones that may be protecting them earlier are no longer in action after menopause; hence, the risk of heart disease in senior women is more.
- Flu and other infections–As age advances the immunity may begin to reduce. This exposes the elderly persons to a greater risk of infections. Some of the commonest infections like influenza, pneumonia, shingles, are seen in senior people, affecting both men and women equally.
- Oral health–Another concern that affects the elderly is dental problems. Many may have to use dentures and proper care of dentures is important.
- Cataract –This is more common with aging and a leading cause of blindness in the elderly. However, if a timely diagnosis is made, the vision can be preserved without any complications.
- Falls – Health issues affecting the eyesight, weak bone and muscles, and other factors of aging, often increase the risk of falls in the elderly.
- Cancer – Cancer is attributed to changes in the cells, which is more common with increasing age. This too has increasingly become common. Different types of cancer can affect men and women in varying degrees but can be detected early and treated.
We are all aware that there are physical problems with increasing age, but emotional problems too greatly affect the aging population. Both anxiety and depression are increasing problems in elderly people. Medical check-up and treatment, support from family and friends and stress management techniques can help overcome this problem.
Preventive steps to manage health problems in elderly
While the above-given health problems are common, these can be prevented or managed effectively with timely medical help. Some of the important steps to be taken to prevent such problems include the following:
- Regular health check-ups–Regular doctor visits help to keep a check on your health condition. It helps to monitor blood pressure, joint health, detect early signs of cancer, heart disease and other health problems. Eye check-up and dental check-up is equally important to detect any problems and plan appropriate treatment.
- Health screenings–Health screenings mainly include laboratory investigations and preventive health checks to evaluate your health status. Blood tests that help to detect cholesterol level, thyroid, renal and liver function are usually advised regularly. Also, investigations to detect levels of calcium, vitamin D can help to manage bone and joint problems.
- Immunization– For those who are at greater risk of certain infections, may be advised immunization, like flu shots or vaccines to prevent pneumonia, shingles and other infections. It is advisable to talk to your doctor about it.
- Healthy Lifestyle–A healthy diet, active routine, adequate sleep and some activities to release stress can keep you healthy.
Apart from all this, following medical advice and taking prescribed treatment as advised is important to manage an existing health problem. This not only helps to prevent complications but also improves quality of life.
Although there are health problems in seniors, there are more ways to stay happy and healthy. A sound mind can keep you healthy for long even in the presence of physical health problems. So, the best part is to enjoy your aging and stay positive.
Happy Aging! Healthy Aging!
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