The Top 5 Most Common Diseases in Seniors
As we age our bodies become increasingly vulnerable to a number of age-related diseases. Age-related specifically meaning issues that crop up due to general wear and tear in this case. For example, while it’s more than possible for a 40-year-old to develop Diabetes, seniors have a much higher chance of developing the disease. It’s important that health professionals offer proper education to older patients on these illnesses in order to help them lower their risk.
It is also incredibly important that seniors continue to, or begin to, lead healthy lives by making smart dietary and activity decisions. Even if you didn’t live well in your 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s; changing your lifestyle in your senior years can significantly lower the risk of developing a full range of diseases. The saying goes “The best day to start living healthy is yesterday, this second-best day is today.”
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a disease that occurs after the airways of the lungs have been damaged. COPD is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse as time goes on, steadily making it more difficult for patients to breathe. COPD is estimated to be responsible for 120,000 deaths a year in the U.S. As the disease develops it is important that you keep an eye out for major symptoms which include; chronic coughing and wheezing, issues with shortness of breath, pain in the chest and lung region, and excess phlegm when coughing. The easiest and most reliable way to avoid COPD is to quit smoking as soon as possible. The damages that lead to COPD are typically caused by tar and smoke buildup in the lungs. Seniors with COPD should be especially careful about staying up to date with flu shots, as influenza can be especially fatal when compounded with lung damage.
Arthritis is by far one of the most common diseases to affect senior Americans, with 52.5 million adults currently experiencing some form of it. As seniors age the chance of them having complications involving arthritis continue to increase, making it difficult to avoid indefinitely. The most common, and least debilitating form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, followed by rheumatoid arthritis and gout. It is important that you pursue medical attention if you experience chronic joint pain, swelling, or general stiffness so you can get out ahead of the issue early. There are exercises and dietary recommendations that can help adults lower their risk of joint pain and inflammation. Things to avoid include processed foods, sugars, alcohol, tobacco, and sodium-heavy foods. Literally, any stretching at all can help with pain, it is advised to spend 20 minutes a day doing a full body stretch routine.
The American Diabetes Association states that 1 in 4 adults over the age of 60 in the U.S. have diabetes. While it isn’t quite as severe an issue as heart disease, it still affects a huge number of seniors annually. Diabetes causes thousands of typically avoidable deaths annually. While type 1 diabetes is an unavoidable, life-long hereditary disease, most adults with diabetes have type 2 which can be controlled and prevented. Like most avoidable disease, especially in our senior years, staying active and maintaining a healthy diet is vital when it comes to prevention and treatment. Seniors should have regular blood sugar level checks to ensure that they aren’t operating in the pre-diabetic range. Frequent urination, numb limbs, and swelling in extremities should constitute an immediate trip to the doctor.
The American Heart Association notes that heart disease is the leading cause of death among adults aged 65 or older. In 2016 it accounted for one in every three deaths, totaling 800,000 Americans. They also noted that more than 90 million Americans are currently affected by some form of cardiovascular disease. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are the two biggest risk factors in regards to heart disease, and typically don’t show symptoms. It is crucial that seniors make regular visits to their doctors to undergo blood tests and have these health factors checked out. Staying active and eating a diet that primarily consists of fruits, veggies, and lean(non-red) meats will help seniors reduce the likelihood of developing heart issues.
Seniors should receive regular lung function tests to guard against diseases like COPD and pneumonia as they can help identify respiratory issues early on. Chronic coughing and fatigue are two of the most common signs to keep an eye out for in regards to pneumonia. While most younger patients can recover after a few days of treatment, senior patients carry a high risk of developing more severe cases of pneumonia. These cases can be fatal if not properly treated due to most seniors often weakened immune systems. Older patients should get the pneumonia vaccine to minimize the risk of contracting it. Similar to COPD pneumonia can often be avoided completely if you receive proper protection from the flu, since flu often leads to pneumonia.
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