I don’t know about you, but as I age and experience more aches and pains etc., and how my body responds to demands simply defies my logic. I mean, I don’t feel one bit older on the ‘inside’! The truth is that all of us will experience reduced physical vitality as we age. While it is always wise to take good care of ourselves, as we age it’s even more important to be proactive about our health. The Cole’s notes:
- Know your body; what is normal for you/what is not.
- Make good lifestyle choices - eat healthy food/limit alcohol.
- Keep active and don’t smoke! Choose activities kind to your body.
- See you doctor regularly.
There are some generalities about health concerns as we age and specifics unique to each of us. Here are the researched, most common concerns effecting elders; necessarily abbreviated.
Painful Joints/Mobility Issues
Half of people over 60 and practically everyone over 80 has some form of osteoarthritis. Our joints wear out with age. Injury, excessive weight, bad genes, and smoking accelerate this process. Pain relieving medication, an appropriate diet and gentle exercise can help.
Our heart beats around 33 million times a year, it can tire with age and is the leading cause of death for adults over 65. Conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes place stress on the heart. A good healthy diet with plenty of vegetables and limited alcohol, sugars, and saturated fats helps. Don’t smoke and get some exercise daily.
As we age, our risk of developing cancer increases. Cancer caught early is usually the most treatable. Don’t put off recommended screening tests for your age and gender; all are minor inconveniences, especially if test results help extend your longevity.
Some conditions can take your breath away! Asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), heart failure, and lung cancer are more likely as you get older and if you smoke. Many different medicines are available to help you breathe easier.
Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias
Memory loss associated with AD persists and worsens with time but remember, many important skills - such as reading, dancing, singing, and talking about the past - are not lost until very late in the disease. Research suggests keeping your mind and body active as you age may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Osteoporosis means porous bones. When we break a bone, our bodies lay down new bone to heal the break. People with osteoporosis have a reduced ability to do so. Although bones remain the same size, they become thinner and more brittle. Eating a diet rich in calcium and improving muscle tone and balance help reduce osteoporosis.
As we age, it becomes more important to keep good control of our blood sugar levels. Sugar trapped in your blood inflicts damage on small blood vessels and nerve fibers around your whole body. Long-term effects of diabetes include blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and problems with your feet.
Losing your teeth is not due to old age, it’s due to neglect. Periodontitis is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and the bone supporting teeth. The first stage is gingivitis - a more milder gum disease with symptoms such as swollen and red-looking gums that bleed easily when brushed or flossed. Gingivitis can be prevented with twice daily brushing and flossing and regular tartar removal by a hygienist.
Your lifestyle changes as you age. Past activities may not be possible now. Friends or family may have moved away or died, leaving you feeling isolated or lonely. It’s a myth that older people can’t learn new skills, try new activities, or make fresh lifestyle changes. Overcoming depression often involves finding new things you enjoy, staying physically and socially active.
Flu and Pneumonia
Our immune defenses weaken as we age. Almost 90% of people who die from the flu or pneumonia every year are over 65. The best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get a flu vaccine every fall. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information about vaccines.
Vision and eye problems
As our body ages, so do our eyes, and there are a number of different conditions that can impact on our sight. Get your vision checked right away if any number of vision and eye pain issues occur. Regular eye exams can help detect changes in your eyes before they cause symptoms.
Bladder Control and voiding
With age, our bladder loses its capacity to hold large amounts of urine. The ability of our kidneys to remove waste products from our blood declines. Urinary problems in both men and women are common. See your doctor if you experience any form of irregular voiding. Many problems can effectively be treated.
While the list of common health consequences as we age is long, we seldom will experience all or even many of them. The trick, they say, is to work hard to minimize what is naturally likely to occur and embrace the many good aspects of our health that are not compromised!