Thanks to medical advances, people are living longer than ever. However, longevity and a high quality of life don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Many factors, including genetics, the environment and lifestyle choices, affect how we age.
The most widespread health conditions affecting those 65 and older include arthritis, heart disease, stroke, cancer, pneumonia and the flu. Accidents, especially falls that result in hip fractures, are also unfortunately common in the elderly.
Many elders are coping with at least one health condition and some face the challenge of living with multiple health problems. Family caregivers often help to manage and prevent these and other age-related diseases. Gathering information about what medical issues can present as a loved one ages as well as risk factors that lead to these conditions can be very useful in guiding a senior toward living better.
Common Medical Conditions in Seniors
- Cardiovascular conditions (hypertension, heart disease, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease)
- Dementia (There are many types, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.)
- Incontinence (urinary and bowel)
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Lung disease (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, pneumonia and influenza)
- Frequent falls, which can lead to bone fractures
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sleep disorders (insomnia, sleep apnea restless leg syndrome)
- Eye diseases (cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, dry eye and low vision)
- Weight loss
As a senior’s body changes with age, there are a few subtler symptoms to be aware of that can affect overall health and quality of life, including:
- A slowed reaction time, which is especially important when judging whether a person can safely drive.
- Thinner skin, which can lead to tears and wounds that heal very slowly.
- A weakened immune system, which can make fighting off viruses, bacterial infections and other diseases more difficult.
- A diminished sense of taste and smell, especially for smokers, which can lead to a loss of appetite and dehydration.
This list can seem daunting, but with proper medical care, good lifestyle choices, and support from family caregivers and health care professionals, elders can enjoy a long, high-quality life.