Americans are living longer than ever before, and many are maintaining a high quality of life well into their 80s. However, there are conditions that seniors are more susceptible to. Knowing what these conditions are and understanding their causes and symptoms can help you head them off and maintain a happy and healthy life long after 65.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become more porous and lose density over time, making them more fragile. Osteoporosis puts you at risk for more serious injury if you were to fall or experience physical trauma such as a car accident.
There are options for treatment of bone mass loss though, which can help keep these more critical injuries from happening.
Some symptoms of osteoporosis include loss of height over time, back pain, or a recent fracture that seemed like it happened too easily. Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men, but all older individuals should be aware of potential signs of osteoporosis.
Prevention includes: getting enough calcium and vitamin D, being intentional about keeping yourself strong, and avoiding smoking and alcohol.
Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the lungs. Anyone can get pneumonia, but seniors are more at risk for the infection. It is often paired with other illnesses, such as the flu.
Pneumonia symptoms are often mistaken for other things at first, as many symptoms are the same for the common cold or flu. If you are suffering from fever, chills, cough, pain in the chest, or shortness of breath and it has persisted more than a few days to a week, contact your doctor.
Prevention includes: keeping your lungs strong and healthy, getting the flu shot every year, and avoiding smoking and second-hand smoke.
3. Kidney disease
Kidney disease is a condition related to loss of function in your kidneys, which are vital to helping your body remove waste. While kidney disease can impact people of all ages, it is estimated that more than 50% of seniors over age 75 suffer from kidney disease.
Symptoms of kidney disease include difficulty or painful urination, blood in the urine, or unusual swelling of the hands and feet. If untreated, kidney disease can progress to end stage renal disease (ESRD) and become life threatening.
Prevention includes: avoiding processed meats like ham, bacon, sausage, and lunch meat; avoiding canned soups and frozen dinners; staying hydrated, limiting medications (including over-the-counter medications); avoiding alcohol; and eating fruits and vegetables.
Did you have chicken pox as a child? It could come back as a painful and itchy rash now that you’re older. Shingles can affect people of all ages, but it’s most common in adults over age 50.
If you had chicken pox as a child and are over 65, talk to your doctor about getting the shingles vaccine to avoid this uncomfortable condition.
Prevention includes: boosting your immune system through a healthy lifestyle, a nutritious diet rich in fruits and vegetables, restful sleep, and frequent hand-washing.
Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to your optic nerve and it’s the cause of about 10% of blinding in the US. The most affected group are those over the age of 65.
You may have glaucoma if you’ve noticed a loss in peripheral vision, you see halos around light, your eye looks hazy or red, or you have pain in the eye but in many cases the symptoms are not noticeable. If you are over 65 and haven’t had an eye exam recently, schedule one and ask your optometrist about glaucoma.
Prevent includes: maintaining a healthy weight, keeping your blood pressure at healthy levels, limiting caffeine, and avoiding smoking and alcohol.
Cataracts are another eye condition that are most common in seniors. Cataracts are cloudy areas in the lens of the eye that cause vision loss. It usually develops slowly over the course of a few years.
Cataracts is a treatable condition. If you’re experiencing blurry vision or increased difficulty seeing at night, schedule an appointment with your optometrist to diagnose and start a treatment plan.
Prevention includes: eating foods high in antioxidants like Vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, and melons) and Vitamin E (found in sunflower oil, nuts, and green vegetables); avoiding smoking; limiting alcohol; and keeping your blood sugar at healthy levels.
Depression is a common problem in older adults, with 15-20% of seniors over 65 experiencing it. Depression is often associated with lower immunity, less physical activity, and less social interaction which can all have a detrimental impact on the quality of life for seniors.
If you are suffering from a persistent feeling of sadness, loss of interest in things you used to love, or uncharacteristic loss of energy, consider speaking to a doctor or therapist.
Prevention includes: preparing yourself mentally, financially, and emotionally for major life changes such as retirement or relocation; staying active by exercising regularly; engaging in hobbies; maintaining a social life; and staying physically healthy.
8. Cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart conditions such as chronic heart disease, congestive heart failure, and arrhythmia, is the most common cause of death in older adults.
Symptoms of cardiovascular disease include racing heartbeat, chest “fluttering”, shortness of breath, and chest pain or discomfort. If you are experiencing any of these, talk to your doctor about tests that could help diagnose or rule out heart problems.
Prevention includes: maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, avoiding alcohol and smoking, managing stress, and eating a nutritious diet.
9. Gum Disease
According to the CDC, about 68% of those over 65 have gum disease. Although, gum disease can affect people of all ages, seniors are especially susceptible. That’s because aging, along with certain medications, can cause your mouth to become drier.
Combined with the wear and tear of aging, dry mouth can lead to gum disease and eventual tooth loss and decay. Which is why it’s even more important to maintain those regular dental checkups well into your golden years.
Prevention includes: brushing for 2 minutes at least twice a day, flossing daily, using mouth wash, and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
Aging gracefully and in good health is more achievable than ever these days. Knowing what conditions to be aware of, how to prevent them, and how to spot the symptoms is the first step to living and enjoying a long, healthy life.
Jenny Hart is a health and wellness writer with a passion for travel, cycling and books. Her focus is topics related to the affects of aging on health and she is interested in research that can help people age better. When she isn't writing or travelling, she's traversing NYC with her two dogs Poochie and Ramone.