As we age, our bodies often have a tougher time fighting off illness and infection. Seniors who want to not only live longer but also live better need to be aware of health threats to their age group and what they and caregiver services can do to prevent these illnesses.
People around the world are living to greater ages than ever before, as economic growth and improved technology and agricultural practices are better at providing for human needs. On average, a baby born today in the U.S. can expect to live to be 78.75 years old.
While people are living longer, they’re not always enjoying good health and quality of life in their later years. Less than half of adults aged 65 and older reported enjoying excellent or very good health in a survey conducted by the CDC. Poverty and genetic factors can often contribute to poor health among seniors, but diet and lifestyle also play a major role in their wellbeing.
Seniors and elder caregivers can help protect senior health by learning more about diseases that affect older men and women most frequently.
Heart disease – Cardiovascular disease poses an elevated threat to seniors. As we age, our hearts go through a number of physical changes that impair their proper function. The heart weakens and does not pump as efficiently, and its walls harden. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can also weaken the heart and make it more susceptible to illness.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., killing 610,000 people each year. Coronary heart disease, which killed around 365,000 people in 2014, is the most common form of heart disease.
About 70 percent of men and women between the ages of 60 and 79 have some form of cardiovascular disease. The prevalence of cardiovascular disease only increases as we age, as 83 percent of men and 87.1 percent of women age 80 are affected by cardiovascular disease. More than half of all cardiovascular procedures are performed on men and women age 65 and over.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two of the biggest risk factors for heart disease and, fortunately, seniors can control these risk factors with regular medical screening and a healthy diet and exercise regimen. By staying physically active and eating a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables and which largely excludes some of the less-healthy meats, older adults can drastically reduce their likelihood of developing heart disease.
If you have heart disease, following your doctor’s advice and making positive lifestyle changes can mitigate the illness to some degree.
Diabetes – Diabetes is another illness that is widespread among the older population. About a quarter of all Americans over the age of 60 have diabetes. A great number of older adults have pre-diabetes, a condition where the blood glucose level is above normal but not quite in the diabetes range yet. Most people who have pre-diabetes will go on to have diabetes.
Diabetes can contribute to a number of bad health outcomes, including vision impairment, kidney failure, heart disease, and stroke, among others. Some diabetes patients must have arms or legs amputated, and the disease is also a risk factor for cognitive impairment.
Older Americans can reduce their risk of developing diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep each night, eating a healthy diet, and exercising. Seniors with diabetes should closely follow their doctor’s instructions to avoid some of the more severe consequences of the illness.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – COPD is, unfortunately, prevalent among older Americans, with nearly 17 percent of all men and women aged 60 to 79 suffering from the disease. COPD obstructs airflow from the lungs and results in breathing difficulties, coughing, wheezing, and excessive mucous production. The illness greatly increases seniors’ chance of developing other illnesses, such as heart disease and lung cancer.
Two key risk factors for COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Cigarette smoking is a major contributing factor to emphysema and chronic bronchitis, as well as COPD. Because many in the older generation never learned of the dangers posed by cigarettes until middle age, an unfortunate number of them smoked and are at elevated risk of these illnesses.
COPD and other pulmonary illnesses can drastically impact the quality of life for seniors, robbing them of energy and causing considerable pain and discomfort. Older smokers should give up tobacco as soon as possible, and all seniors should seek immediate treatment of respiratory ailments to stave off the illness. Elder caregivers working with seniors with COPD should encourage healthy habits, including taking medication prescribed by doctors and a healthy lifestyle devoid of smoking and exposure to airborne pollutants.
Arthritis – Arthritis can drastically impair seniors’ quality of life, making it difficult for them to exercise or enjoy commonplace activities. Arthritis is the No. 1 cause of disability in the U.S. and often appears alongside other health problems. For example, nearly half of all people with heart disease have arthritis, and 47 percent of adults with diabetes have arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, but rheumatoid arthritis and gout are also common. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage in joints to wear down. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation of the lining of joints and can also affect other parts of the body, including the skin, eyes, lungs, and heart. Gout is characterized by sudden attacks of pain and soreness in joints, usually at the joint of the big toe.
One of the key problems arthritis presents to older Americans is a limitation of mobility. The pain and reduced range of movement arthritis sufferers experience may deter them from physical activity. Lack of physical activity can contribute to a host of other health issues, so managing arthritis and encouraging physical activity is an important task for elder caregivers. Some exercises can even help with arthritis, such as strengthening and range-of-motion exercises.
Alzheimer’s disease – Alzheimer’s disease is an insidious illness that robs its victims of their cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and about a third of all seniors have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia when they die.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive illness which causes increasing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior over time. Early stage symptoms may be mild and are often misattributed to old age. As the disease advances, many seniors lose the ability to take care of themselves and live alone safely. Patients with advanced Alzheimer’s require near-constant care and supervision, creating a substantial burden for families.
Medical treatment and a healthy lifestyle can help seniors reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Seniors with Alzheimer’s can slow the progression of the disease and alleviate some of its symptoms with medical care, too. Caregivers for elderly men and women with Alzheimer’s should encourage activities intended to challenge cognitive abilities and also promote physical activity among their charges.
Although older Americans are at greater risk of developing illnesses, this doesn’t mean they have to give up their homes and independence. Home health care aides can help seniors with manageable health issues continue to live at home and enjoy wide autonomy over their lives.
Home Care Assistance San Antonio provides quality, affordable home health care solutions to families in the San Antonio area. The company offers well-trained staff for hourly and live-in non-medical care for seniors. Home Care Assistance San Antonio professionals provide companionship to clients, as well as assistance with tasks such as light housekeeping, dressing, bathing, food preparation and more.
Seniors better maintain their quality of life and happiness when they can stay in their homes. Home Care Assistance San Antonio makes that possible, providing individualized care aimed at giving seniors the respect and independence they deserve.