Thanks to advances in medicine and nutrition, the average life expectancy is higher than ever before. The problem is, the longer you live, the harder it gets to take care of your body. Many health conditions, both physical and mental, commonly arise in old age, particularly past the 65-year mark. If you take care of an elderly person, or if you’re getting on in the years yourself, it is important to watch out for certain medical issues. Here are some of the health problems that are particularly common in the elderly.
Dysphagia is the medical term for swallowing difficulties. The muscles you use for swallowing get weaker with age, so dysphagia is common for elderly people. Dysphagia is characterised by problems with swallowing. Some people may have difficulties getting food down, while others may not be able to swallow at all. Watch out for frequent coughing or choking when consuming food or liquids, as this is a good indicator of dysphagia.
Age-related dysphagia often requires a change in the diet. Foods need to be softer and fluids need to be thicker, allowing for easier swallowing. There are certain foods and drinks designed for those with dysphagia, such as the products from Thickit.com. It’s important to make these dietary changes to avoid choking or any further swallowing issues.
After 65 years of age, elderly people can often experience dementia. Dementia is a term covering various types of brain conditions which involve confusion and memory loss. Alzheimer’s is the most common form. While things such as head injury and depression have been linked with the onset of Alzheimer’s, 70% of cases are believed to be generic. Almost 50 million people worldwide are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Since those with Alzheimer’s may not realise they’re ill, it’s important you know how to identify the early signs and symptoms. Alzheimer’s is incurable, so elderly people in the later stages of the disease will need loved ones or a carer to look after them. Treatment is available to make some symptoms more manageable.
As you age, your bones start to become thinner and weaker. While this is natural, some people lose bone density much faster than others, leading to a condition called Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis develops over a long time. The increasingly weakened bones can lead to them becoming easily fractured from minor falls.
Statistics state that one in every four men over 50 years of age will experience osteoporosis. It is even more common in females- by 50 years old, 2% of women will have osteoporosis, and this rises to 25% by the age of 80. Most people will not be able to tell they have osteoporosis until they experience a fracture. Because of this, it is worth getting a DEXA scan carried out to check your bone density.
Arthritis is the most common health condition faced by elderly people. Statistics suggest that almost 50% of people over 65 are diagnosed with arthritis. Arthritis involves inflammation of the joints. It can occur all over the body, most commonly in the knees, hips and back. Arthritis can cause severe pain and reduce the quality of life. It is usually indicated by painful, tender or swollen joints. Because there are many different kinds of arthritis, if you notice any of these signs it’s important to see a doctor to get the right treatment.
Painkillers, steroids and even surgery may be required in more severe cases. For some, less painful forms of exercise and physiotherapy will often be recommended.
Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological condition which builds up over time. It involves nerve cells in the brain dying, leading to reduced dopamine production. This results in various problems with motor skills. The main symptom of Parkinson’s is involuntary tremors or shakes around the body. Slowness of movement and stiff muscles are other key symptoms. It can also cause fatigue and depression. Parkinson’s makes it harder to do many day-to-day tasks, impacting quality of life for those affected.
Parkinson’s symptoms usually start out mild, but can become more severe over time. Although it is incurable, as the condition worsens it is recommended to get treatment. Treatment can involve physiotherapy, medication and surgery in extreme cases.
There are two different types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, and for a number of reasons. Type 2 diabetes is particularly common in the elderly. It is also known as adult-onset diabetes, and can occur in adults over 40.Type 2 diabetes involves your body using insulin incorrectly. It may resist insulin or fail to produce enough to keep your glucose levels high enough. It is often caused by poor diet and insufficient exercise. It has also been linked to genetics.
Symptoms include frequent urination, increased hunger and thirst and blurred vision. If you start to exhibit symptoms of diabetes, you should visit your doctor. Treatment often consists of eating healthier and exercising more. Blood sugar monitoring and insulin therapy may also be required.
Cancer can come at all ages in many different forms, but elderly people are particularly at risk. Between 2011 and 2013, half of all cancer cases in the UK were diagnosed in patients aged 70 and above. Because cancer is a slow progressing illness, it can be hard to identify. It is important to look out for any possible signs and symptoms. If you see any begin to develop, you should visit a doctor as soon as possible, as early treatment can be a lifesaver.
Alongside cancer, heart disease is the leading cause of death for the elderly. Coronary heart disease is when fat in the arteries prevents them from supplying blood to the heart. Coronary heart disease can also lead to heart attack or heart failure.
You should look out for symptoms such as regular fatigue and exhaustion. Regular breathlessness and dizziness are also common signs. Doctors will usually recommend lifestyle changes to prevent serious heart issues. However, in some cases, surgery such as a bypass operation or heart transplant is required.