Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "All diseases run into one, old age".
But what are those diseases? What symptoms do they cause and how are they treated?
If those are the questions haunting you as you approach old age, here is a quick rundown of five common health issues to be on the lookout for.
Osteoporosis refers to a condition in which bones become brittle and prone to fractures. This can be caused by various factors, such as low calcium and vitamin D levels in the body, an inactive lifestyle, and inadequate nutrition.
Data suggests osteoporosis is four times more common in women than in men and tends to develop between 50-70 years of age. And doctors usually diagnose it based on a special type of X-ray called a DEXA scan.
People who develop osteoporosis may experience:
- Bone pain
- Slumped posture
- Decreased range of motion in joints
- Reduced height due to vertebral fractures
- Fractures caused by minor bumps and falls
Unfortunately, there is no "cure" for this condition. You can only slow it down by:
- Performing regular exercise
- Taking a type of drug called a bisphosphonate
- Improving bone health by taking calcium and vitamin D supplements
- Discussing fall-prevention strategies — you might want to consider homes for retirement if you live alone — with your healthcare provider
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition that affects up to one-half of Americans and commonly develops by 65-74 years of age.
It's caused by increased pressure of the blood against your artery walls. This can cause serious damage to your body, leading to stroke and heart attacks if left untreated.
Doctors usually diagnose the condition during an annual blood pressure measurement in people over 40.
Unfortunately, hypertension usually does not cause any symptoms until it has caused major organ damage in the body. But some people may experience:
- Ringing ears
- Blurry vision
- Sleep disturbances
If you have one of these symptoms, make sure to consult a doctor as soon as possible. The condition can be controlled by:
- Regular exercise
- Drugs to bring down the blood pressure
- A DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce or use insulin. It's more common in people over 40 and affects around 11 percent of America's adult population. If left untreated, diabetes can damage a wide range of organs, including the kidneys, eyes, heart, and brain.
People with type 2 diabetes may experience:
- Excess thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing of wounds
The main goal of treating this condition is to keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range. This can be achieved through:
- A healthier diet, including high-fiber and low-fat foods
- Regular exercise
- A weight-reduction program
- Stopping smoking
- Limiting alcohol consumption and treating alcohol use disorder if present
- Drugs to control insulin levels or reduce glucose absorption from your intestines
- Artificial insulin if drugs fail to control sugar levels
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disorder that usually affects elderly people. It's the most common joint disease in the US and usually develops after 50 years of age.
The condition is caused by the gradual wearing away of cartilage, the protective material that cushions your joints. This can lead to painful swelling and stiffness in the affected area, making it difficult to move around or perform daily activities.
Signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis may include:
- Joint pain that is relieved with rest
- Morning stiffness that usually lasts less than 30 minutes
- Swelling or warmth in the joint
- Reduced range of motion
- Bony growths around the joint (called spurs)
- Crackling sound when the joint moves
Treatment for osteoarthritis usually focuses on reducing pain and improving day-to-day functioning. It includes:
- Weight loss
- Heat/cold therapy
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids
- Surgical operations if other treatments fail
Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, is a condition caused by the narrowing of coronary arteries (which supply the heart itself) due to plaque buildup.
The plaque is composed of cholesterol deposits that clog the arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart and leading to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack.
Since this condition affects the most important organ of the body, it's the leading cause of death 1https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm in the US and worldwide.
Symptoms of ischemic heart disease may include:
- Chest pain or discomfort (angina) that develops on exertion
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the arms, neck, or jaw if someone develops a heart attack
The main goal of treatment for ischemic heart disease is to reduce the risk of death, improve heart symptoms, and maintain quality of life. Treatment includes things like:
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Managing stress
- Controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol
- Medications to reduce plaque buildup in the arteries, reduce heart rate, and prevent dangerous heart rhythms
- In some cases, surgery to open up blocked arteries or implant a stent
So those were five common health issues to look out for as you age. The purpose of this post is not to alarm you, but to educate and inform. Remember that early detection and treatment of these conditions can help prevent them from becoming more serious.
Also remember that just because you have one or two symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have one of these conditions — it’s always best to consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
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