With age, the body often has a difficult 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 people in their age group and what they can do to prevent these illnesses. People around the world are living longer than ever before, but they’re not always enjoying good health and quality of life in their later years. Fewer 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 major roles in their wellbeing. Seniors and their caregivers can protect senior health by learning more about the diseases that affect older adults most frequently.
1. Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., causing 610,000 deaths each year. About 70 percent of seniors between the ages of 60 and 79 have some form of cardiovascular disease, and more than half of all cardiovascular procedures are performed on people who are 65 and older. The prevalence of heart disease increases with age. In fact, among seniors 80 or older, 83 percent of men and 87 percent of women are affected by cardiovascular disease.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, but fortunately, seniors can control these risk factors by having routine medical screenings, eating healthy, and exercising regularly. By staying physically active and eating a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables and minimizes meat consumption, older adults can drastically reduce their likelihood of developing heart disease. If your loved one has heart disease, following the doctor’s advice and making positive lifestyle changes can mitigate the illness to some degree.
Diabetes is another illness that’s widespread among the older population, and it affects about a quarter of all Americans over the age of 60. A large number of older adults have prediabetes, a condition that causes the blood glucose level to be above normal but not quite in the diabetes range. Most people who have prediabetes will go on to have diabetes.
Diabetes can contribute to a number of health issues, including vision loss, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, and cognitive impairment. Older adults 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 doctors’ instructions to avoid some of the more severe consequences of the illness.
If your loved one needs help with maintaining a healthy diet or exercising safely, consider hiring a professional caregiver. At-home care agencies can be a great boon to seniors. With the help of the caregivers at Home Care Assistance, your aging loved one can lead a happier and healthier life. We offer a revolutionary program called the Balanced Care Method, which encourages seniors to eat nutritious foods, exercise and socialize regularly, and focus on other lifestyle factors that increase life expectancy.
3. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
COPD is prevalent among older Americans, and nearly 17 percent of all men and women aged 60–79 are living with the disease. COPD obstructs airflow from the lungs and results in breathing difficulties, coughing, wheezing, and excessive mucus production. The disease greatly increases the 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 didn’t learn about the dangers posed by cigarettes until middle age, a large number of them smoked and are at higher risk for these illnesses.
COPD and other pulmonary illnesses can drastically impact 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 seniors should seek immediate treatment for respiratory ailments to stave off the illness. Caregivers working with seniors with COPD should encourage healthy habits, including taking medication prescribed by doctors and adopting a healthy lifestyle devoid of smoking and exposure to airborne pollutants.
Arthritis can drastically impair quality of life, making it difficult to exercise or enjoy ordinary activities. Arthritis is the number one 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, while rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in 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 in the joint of the big toe.
One of the key problems arthritis presents for older adults is limited mobility. The pain and reduced range of movement people with arthritis experience may deter them from physical activity. Lack of physical activity can contribute to a host of other health issues, so addressing arthritis and encouraging exercise are important tasks for caregivers. Some exercises, such as strengthening and range-of-motion exercises, can even help with arthritis.
Seniors with mobility limitations may find it difficult to exercise on their own. If your senior loved one needs hourly or live-in care, Tucson Home Care Assistance can help. Our caregivers can assist with exercise and mobility, prepare nutritious meals, provide timely medication reminders, and help with a wide array of other important daily tasks.
5. Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is an insidious illness that robs individuals of their cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s 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 that 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. Those with advanced Alzheimer’s require constant care and supervision, which can create a substantial burden for families.
With medical treatment and a healthy lifestyle, seniors can reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and seniors who already have Alzheimer’s can slow the progression of the disease and alleviate some of its symptoms. Caregivers for elderly people with Alzheimer’s should promote physical activity and encourage activities intended to challenge cognitive abilities.
There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to manage if their families opt for professional home care service. Tucson families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place. Home Care Assistance will work with you to customize a care plan that’s just right for your loved one’s needs. Call one of our friendly Care Managers today at (520) 276-6555 to learn more about our customized care plans.