People in America today can expect to live longer than ever before. Once you make it to 65, the data suggest that you can live another 19.3 years, on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For many, then, senior living includes carefully managing chronic conditions in order to stay healthy.
Making healthy lifestyle choices, like quitting smoking and losing weight, can help you avoid senior health risks, though you also need to be physically active and eat a healthy diet. Including a geriatrician, a doctor who specializes in the health concerns of aging, on your senior healthcare team can help you learn how to live better with any chronic diseases.
The CDC estimates that it affects 49.7 percent of all adults over 65 and can lead to pain and lower quality of life for some seniors. Although arthritis can discourage you from being active, it’s important to work with your doctor to develop a personalized activity plan that, along with other treatment, can help maintain senior health.
- Heart Disease
As people age, they're increasingly living with risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, that increase the chances of having a stroke or developing heart disease. Dr. Bernard’s advice for addressing this senior health risk not only helps with heart disease but can improve senior health across the board: “Exercise, eat well, get a good night’s rest. Eating well means eating in a fashion that will allow you to keep a healthy weight with a well-balanced and healthy diet."
If caught early through screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and skin checks, many types of cancer are treatable. And though you're not always able to prevent cancer, you can improve your quality of life as a senior living with cancer, including during treatment, by working with your medical team and maintaining their healthy senior living recommendations.
- Respiratory Diseases
Although having a chronic respiratory disease increases senior health risks, making you more vulnerable to pneumonia and other infections, getting lung function tests and taking the correct medication, or using oxygen as instructed, will go a long way toward preserving senior health and your quality of life.
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Because diagnosis is challenging, it’s difficult to know exactly how many people are living with this chronic condition. Still, experts acknowledge that cognitive impairment has a significant impact on senior health across the spectrum, from issues of safety and self-care to the cost burden of care, either in the home or a residential facility.
“Osteoporosis can contribute to becoming less mobile and potentially disabled should you fall and have a fracture or as the vertebral bodies collapse,” Bernard said. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 54 million Americans over age 50 are affected by low bone mass or osteoporosis, putting them at risk for a fracture or break that could lead to poor senior health and reduced quality of life.
Diabetes can be identified and addressed early with simple blood tests for blood sugar levels. The sooner you know that you have or are at risk for diabetes, the sooner you can start making changes to control the disease and improve your long-term senior health outlook.
- Influenza and Pneumonia
Seniors are more vulnerable to these diseases and less able to fight them off. Senior healthcare recommendations include getting an annual flu shot, and getting the pneumonia vaccine if recommended by your doctor, to prevent these infections and their life-threatening complications.
The risk for falls requiring emergency room care increases with age. That’s more than any other age group. Also be aware that most falls occur in the home, where tripping hazards include area rugs and slippery bathroom floors, according to a study.
- Substance Abuse
Alcohol and tobacco topped the list of nonmedical substances abused by survey participants. Substance and alcohol abuse are a concern for senior health because of possible interactions with prescription medication, their impact on overall health, and the increased senior health risks, such as falls, associated with intoxication.
Obesity is an important senior health risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer — all chronic conditions that impact quality of life. As the numbers on the scale increase, so does the risk for disease. It can also be a signal that an older adult isn’t as active or mobile as he or she once was.
A threat to senior health, depression can lower immunity and can compromise a person’s ability to fight infections. In addition to treatment with medication and therapy, other ways to improve senior living might be to increase physical activity or to interact socially more.
- Oral Health
Healthy teeth and gums are important not just for a pretty smile and easy eating, but also for overall senior health. As you age, your mouth tends to become dryer and cavities are more difficult to prevent, so proper oral health care, including regular dental checkups, should be a senior healthcare priority.
Older women are slightly more likely than men to be living in poverty, and that gap widens in those over 80. Single older adults are also significantly more likely to live alone with fewer resources. Poverty affects senior health if you're unable to afford doctor visits, medication for chronic conditions, and other essential senior healthcare needs.
It usually affects only one side of your body, starting out with severe pain or tingling and then developing into an itchy rash and possibly blisters. There is a vaccine available, so talk to your doctor about it.