Health issues can happen to us at any time in our lives. Some of us experience illness even before we are born. Luckily, many ailments that would have been major issues 20-30 years ago, are simply inconveniences in our modern age.
As we get older, we tend to find that our health issues become more prominent. Not just that, but new health issues can pop up at random, which can be scary and frustrating.
You may find it comforting that many of these health issues are very common among seniors – even those who take very good care of their health. A lot of times, there are simple ways to handle these health issues.
Here are a few of the most common senior health problems along with suggested remedies and treatments.
Tooth and gum care is incredibly important for everyone, but more so for seniors.
As our age increases, our oral health will naturally decline due to the breakdown of enamel, decrease in saliva production, and reduced sense of taste, which may cause you to add gum damaging levels of salt to your food.
The most common oral ailments that affect seniors are:
- Dry Mouth
- Tooth Decay
- Receding Gums
- Tooth Loss
Dry mouth is caused by a decrease in saliva production which may occur naturally or be a side effect of certain medications. The condition can be uncomfortable and also lead to worse oral health issues.
Dry mouth can be treated with medicated mouthwashes, over the counter oral sprays, and prescription medications.
The decay of teeth becomes much more likely the older we get. This is due to medications, bad hygiene, gum disease, and more.
Tooth decay can lead to the loss of teeth, which can cause more advanced dental issues down the line. It is important to maintain proper oral hygiene, avoid smoking and chewing tobacco, and keep routine dental appointments to ensure your teeth last as long as possible.
One of the most common senior health problems is the onset of receding gums.
This condition can be painful and lead to bacteria build up on the sensitive bases of your teeth. It takes less than 72 hours for this bacteria – known as plaque – to harden into tartar on the teeth. When your gums are receded this tartar can find its way onto the roots of teeth, causing pain and the premature loss of the teeth
Physical trauma, poor hygiene, enamel damaging medications, receding gums, and many other conditions can all contribute to the loss of teeth. However, the likelihood of losing your teeth increases as you age.
Though some people manage to live their full lives without losing their teeth, most people aren’t so lucky. Tooth loss is one of those common senior health problems that was answered the same way for decades. However, recent innovations in dental implants have made replacing lost teeth far easier for seniors everywhere.
Cosmetic/ Beauty Issues
Aging is the most natural thing that can happen to a person. Still, many seniors find themselves dissatisfied with the changes to their bodies that time has created.
In a perfect world, we would all be completely satisfied with the state of our bodies. However, the human condition pushes many of us to seek repairs for the things we don’t like. Some people seek facial repairs like cosmetic eyelid surgery or Botox injections. Other times, people want to focus on removing the overarching signs of aging no matter where they appear in the body.
You may think that cosmetic surgery sounds dangerous for those over 65, but studies have found that there was no evidence of an increased risk when comparing senior patients with younger ones. The key is to find a reputable plastic surgeon that takes the risk of common senior health problems seriously.
Joint and Bone Issues
From Arthritis to Osteoporosis, there are many bone and joint diseases that are considered extremely common senior health problems. As we age, our bones and joints can begin to break down and cause a lack of mobility, pain, and discomfort.
If you feel your range of motion has severely decreased in any of your joints, it is important to speak with a doctor about the possibility of a degenerative disorder.
If the degradation of any of your bones or joints is severe, you may end up with a referral to an orthopedic surgeon who can replace damaged joints and improve your quality of life.
It goes without saying that eyes are an important part of our bodies. Still, issues with vision is a problem found in people of all ages. Many of us are born with vision trouble that must be corrected with lenses, surgery, or other forms of optical care.
Vision is a common senior health problem due to age-related Macular degeneration, as well as the onset of cataracts. Even more serious conditions like glaucoma and diabetic eye disease can occur as well.
It is crucial to attend any yearly eye exams and let your optometrist know if you have any reason to believe there is an issue with your eyes or vision. With early intervention, seniors can often find great success with topical treatments, corrective lenses, Lasik eye surgery, and many other optical therapies.
The process of hearing is an intricate one, but part a large part of our ability to hear is thanks to tiny hair cells inside our inner ears. When the cells get damaged, our ability to hear decreases.
The longer we live, the more likely these hairs will become damaged. Unfortunately, once the hair cells are gone, they don’t regrow. This is one of the major reasons hearing loss is considered one of the most common senior health problems. Still, there are many other reasons older people may have a decreased ability to hear
Another hearing issue common in seniors is Tinnitus. This hearing disability can be caused by exposure to loud noises, medication, and health issues. However, many seniors experience unexplained Tinnitus. This hearing issue causes a nonstop ringing or similar noise to resonate in the inner ear. Though many people describe the noise as a ringing sound, Tinnitus can present differently to every sufferer.
Some ways Tinnitus is described are:
- Grinding metal
- High-pitch whine
- Rushing wind
- Hissing sound
- Constant ringing
Unfortunately, there is no cure-all Tinnitus treatment. Addressing this hearing issue is done through behavioral therapy and the use of white noise.
Major Organ and Hormone Disorders
Dealing with any common senior health problems is intimidating, but there are certain illnesses that are even scarier. As we age, our organs can weaken and even begin to shut down. This is often due to small amounts of damage that have added up over the years of our lives.
Some of these chronic issues, like congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and kidney disease can be maintained through treatments that can elongate a patient’s life. However, other diseases and conditions that result from changes in the brain or hormone production are more difficult to address.
Modern medicine has only come so far. The devastating truth is, some common senior health problems are difficult to overcome. These disorders include Alzheimer’s, cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The idea of such pernicious illnesses may have you seeking out a hospice nurse, but there are ways to cope.
Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Losing the ability to maintain memories, both short and long-term, is one of the cruelest tricks time can play on us.
If you are dealing with the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s it is important to follow brain health “best practices.” Caretakers for loved ones affected by these illnesses can implement these practices as well. They include:
- Eat a brain-healthy diet.
- Design a daily care routine that is simple to follow.
- Use only dementia trained health specialists.
- Have or prepare for quality in-home care.
- Don’t be afraid to lean on your support system.
Managing Cerebrovascular Disease
Cerebrovascular disease refers to a group of illnesses that involve the blood-flow to the brain. What makes the disease so scary is many people don’t realize they have it until they suffer from a stroke or aneurysm.
If you are concerned about the health of your cerebrovascular system, you must focus on prevention through maintaining heart-health and monitoring your blood pressure. Additionally, knowing the signs of a stroke is important as early intervention is the best way to prevent devastating damage to your brain.
The signs of a stroke are summarized by the acronym F.A.S.T.
F = face drooping
A = arm weakness
S = speech difficulties
T = time to call for help
Keeping up with care for your diabetes is important at any age, but more so for seniors. The effects of neglecting your diabetes can be detrimental. Your organs can fail, you may lose a limb, and you might even go blind.
The disease, which is often caused by your body’s inability to properly process glucose, is one you must think about every day to ensure you live a quality life. Test your blood sugar regularly, maintain a healthy diet, and try to stay active.
These practices, along with honest communication with your healthcare provider, can help keep diabetes from running your life.
Though they can occur in people of all ages, some of the most common senior health problems are cancers. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop breast, colon, prostate, or bowel cancer.
Early intervention is the best way to prevent the spread of cancer, so tell your doctor if you experience any bodily changes like:
- unexplained changes in stool
- lumps in breasts
- difficulty passing urine
- blood and/or pain during urination
- unexplained weight-loss
Diseases like cancer force us to make difficult decisions.
Sometimes it is important to remember that the treatment options provided to you by a healthcare professional are optional. You should always consider the extent of your cancer and your quality of life when making long-term health and care decisions.
Avoid Falls and Accidents
Sometimes we focus so heavily on internal health issues that we forget how dangerous everyday accidents can be. According to the CDC, unintentional injuries are in the top 10 causes of death for those over 65.
The best way to prevent these types of injuries is through prevention.
- Clear unnecessary hazards from your home
- Be realistic about your abilities
- Train your strength and balance
- Get frequent checkups
- Opt for accessibility
Practicing injury prevention might look like taking a taxi over driving, installing a walk-in tub or entryway ramp, taking yoga classes, or removing area rugs and other trip hazards.
Even if you survive an accident, taking a fall or getting into a traffic collision is a quick way to trigger other common senior health problems like dementia.
Obtaining Health Coverage
Now that you’ve learned about all the common senior health problems you may or may not deal with, you might be interested in upping your health coverage. Medicare (the federal health insurance program for seniors) can be great, but often leaves a lot of holes in regard to coverage.
Luckily, many companies offer supplemental plans that are contracted with the federal government and work to fill in the holes in your current coverage.
They might provide you with better preventative care, dental and vision coverage, and reduce the cost of prescriptions, surgeries, chiropractic care, and other expensive procedures.
End of Life Care
Even if you are running marathons and keeping up with people half your age, it is never too early to consider your choices for end of life care.
When the time comes for you to need hospice services or another end of life option, you may not be in the state of mind to make quality decisions.
Researching your options and creating an advanced directive is the only way to ensure that you close out your life’s journey the way you see fit.
Taking Control of Your Health
The strongest defense against illness and accidents is education. Armed with knowledge, you have the ability to monitor your health and implement the best practices to keep yourself living well for as long as you can.