Top 7 Health Concerns for the Elderly
As we age, we all go through certain physiological changes. Skin becomes thinner and more fragile, eyes get drier, muscles lose tone, the immune system gets weaker, and we experience hormonal shifts. This is not to say that it’s impossible to remain healthy in old age; indeed, with proper exercise, proactive medical care, and a good diet it’s possible to stay in good shape for a long time. Part of staying proactive, though, is being aware of the major health concerns facing the elderly.
- Problems with hips and joints: Osteoarthritis describes the wear and tear on the cartilage between the joints and it affects about half of everyone over 60, and basically everyone over 80. Excess weight and smoking are two factors that speed up the progression of osteoarthritis, and products such as fish oil and glucosamine, along with pain relievers, can help.
- Heart trouble: Cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death for those over 65. You can reduce the risk, though, with a diet full of vegetables and low in salt, limited alcohol, sugar, and fat intake, and regular exercise. Also, no smoking!
- Weak bones: Believe it or not, osteoporosis is not a natural part of aging; it just seems that way because it’s so common. It’s preventable, with a healthy lifestyle that eschews cigarettes and sodas and limits alcohol and foods with high acidic content. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D and an active lifestyle that incorporates weight-bearing exercise can help prevent osteoporosis.
- Cognitive decline: About 47.5 million people across the world have dementia, and experts predict that number will nearly triple by 2050. Chronic health conditions and diseases like diabetes, hypertension, depression, and HIV can increase the risk of developing dementia, as can substance abuse and smoking.
- Trouble breathing: As you age, you may find yourself short of breath. There are a number of conditions that can cause this, like COPD, heart failure, asthma, and lung cancer. It’s important to report any changes in breathing to a doctor, who can prescribe medicine to open the airways.
- Dental Issues: 25 percent of people over age 65 no longer have their natural teeth, but here’s an interesting fact: People actually don’t lose their teeth to old age, they lose them to neglect. By brushing and flossing twice daily, and having tartar removed by a hygienist regularly, you can eradicate gingivitis, which leads to periodontitis, the bacterial infection that attacks your gum and the bones that support your teeth.
- Lowered immunity to common ailments: A simple cold or flu virus can turn into a major health crisis for someone who is elderly. Staying current on vaccinations for illnesses such as the flu and pneumonia is vital and so is promoting good health practices during the winter. Wash hands frequently and stay away from people who have a cold or flu virus.
If you’re responsible for the care of an elderly loved one, it’s important to pay attention to any small health concerns so that you can manage them before they become a larger problem. It can be very overwhelming being responsible for another person’s health and well-being, so if you need help, Elder Care Connections has the resources to assist you. We’re a boutique-style agency committed to helping people find the right care for their loved ones. We pride ourselves on helping you find a caregiver who is not only capable but also compatible with your loved one’s personality. Contact us for an in-home evaluation or to learn about all we have to offer.