Getting older can seem daunting—greying hair, wrinkles, forgetting where you parked the car. All jokes aside, aging can bring about unique health issues. With seniors accounting for 12 percent of the world’s population it’s important to understand the challenges faced by people as they age, and recognize that there are preventive measures that can place yourself on a path to healthy aging.
- Chronic health conditions
Cognitive health is focused on a person’s ability to think, learn and remember. The most common cognitive health issue facing the elderly is dementia, the loss of those cognitive functions. Approximately 47.5 million people worldwide have dementia. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease with as many as five million people over the age of 65 suffering from the disease in the United States. Other chronic health conditions and diseases increase the risk of developing dementia, such as substance abuse, diabetes, hypertension, depression, HIV and smoking. While there are no cures for dementia, physicians can prescribe a treatment plan and medications to manage the disease.
Over 15 percent of adults over the age of 60 suffer from a mental disorder. A common mental disorder among seniors is depression, occurring in seven percent of the elderly population. Unfortunately, this mental disorder is often under-diagnosed and under-treated. Older adults account for over 18 percent of suicides deaths in the United States. Because depression can be a side effect of chronic health conditions, managing those conditions help. Additionally, promoting a lifestyle of healthy living such as betterment of living conditions and social support from family, friends or support groups can help treat depression.
5.HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases
Malnutrition in adults over the age of 65 is often under-diagnosed and can lead to other elderly health issues, such as a weakened immune system and muscle weakness. The causes of malnutrition can stem from other health problems such as depression, alcoholism, dietary restrictions, reduced social contact and limited income. Committing to small changes in diet, such as increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables and decreasing consumption of saturated fat and salt, can help nutrition issues in the elderly. There are food services available to older adults who cannot afford food or have difficulty preparing meals.
Often overlooked, oral health is one of the most important issues for the elderly. About 25% of adults over the age of 65 no longer have their natural teeth. Problems such as cavities and tooth decay can lead to difficulty maintaining a healthy diet, low self-esteem, and other health conditions. Oral health issues associated with older adults are dry mouth, gum disease and mouth cancer. These conditions could be managed or prevented by making regular dental check-ups. Dental care, however, can be difficult for seniors to access due to loss of dental insurance after retirement or economical disadvantages.
Substance abuse, typically alcohol or drug-related, is more prevalent among seniors than realized. Because many don’t associate substance abuse with the elderly, it’s often overlooked and missed in medical check-ups. Additionally, older adults are often prescribed multiple prescriptions to be used long-term. Substance abuse typically results from someone suffering mental deficits or taking another patient’s medication due to their inability to pay for their own.
10.Bladder control and constipation
Incontinence and constipation are both common with aging, and can impact older adults’ quality of life. In addition to age-related changes, these may be a side effect of previous issues mentioned above, such as not eating a well-balanced diet and suffering from chronic health conditions. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly help older adults avoid these health issues. There are often effective medical treatments, and older adults should not be embarrassed to discuss with their physicians.