The Most Common Senior Health Concerns
According to the Population Reference Bureau, our aging population is growing at a huge rate – the number of Americans aged 65 and older is expected to double from 46 million to 98 million by the year 2060.
While there have been some positives associated with an aging population – for example, the poverty rate for Americans aged 65 and older dropped from 30 percent in 1966 to 10 percent today, and education rates are increasing, with 25 percent of elderly Americans having a bachelor’s degree or higher – there have also been some challenges.
For example, the obesity rate has increased to 40 percent. In addition, more elderly Americans are requiring long-term care. In 2010, 1.3 million Americans required long-term care – and it is expected that this number is expected to rise to 2.3 million in 2030.
The fact of the matter is that as there are more seniors aging, there are more health concerns to prepare for. But that doesn’t mean that seniors need to worry – making healthy lifestyle choices now can stave off some of these risks.
Three-fourths of people over the age of 60 are overweight. We know that being overweight or obese is linked to a myriad of health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and various types of cancers.
Obesity is also part of a set of risk factors called metabolic syndrome, which also puts people at an even higher risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by:
- A waist that measures greater than 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men.
- A blood triglyceride level higher than 150mg/dL or higher.
- HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) less than 50mg/dL in women and 40mg/dL in men.
- A blood pressure higher than 130/85.
- A fasting glucose of 110 mg/dL or higher.
Coming up with a plan for weight loss is important – and not just for vanity!
If you think your joints are getting more painful with age, it isn’t just in your head! The CDC estimates that arthritis afflicts 49.7 percent people over the age of 65 – which means that you have a 50 percent chance of developing arthritic joints.
And not to lay it on thick, but obesity can contribute to arthritis. The famed Framingham osteoarthritis study indicated that even losing 11 pounds reduce the chances of developing arthritic knees by 50 percent!
According to WebMD, “In a given year, more than one-third of adults age 65 and older experience a fall. Twenty percent to 30 percent of those who fall suffer injuries that decrease mobility and independence; falls are the leading cause of death from injury in this age group.”
And falls lead to fractures. And why are so many people over the age of 65 sustaining fractures? Osteoporosis – which is often undiagnosed.
Osteoporosis affects 44 million adults over the age of 50. Although osteoporosis is common, the National Osteoporosis Foundation states that it does not have to be a normal part of aging – healthy behaviors can prevent osteoporosis.
Quitting smoking, upping dietary intake of calcium, getting a bit of sun (for the vitamin D, of course), and getting weight-bearing exercise, all can prevent osteoporosis. And work on balance exercises, too – that can prevent falls from occurring in the first place!
4. Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease affects one-third of men and women aged 45 to 54 years old. And guess what? That number only increases with age.
Cardiovascular disease is basically an umbrella term for diseases of the heart and blood vessels and includes congenital heart disease, hypertension, stroke, orthostatic hypotension, heart failure, coronary heart disease, arrhythmia, and arteriosclerosis.
The statistic listed above is pretty sobering. But you don’t necessarily need to suffer from heart disease. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing heart disease by as much as 80 percent.
What exactly does that mean? Quitting smoking if you’re a smoker, reducing alcohol intake, getting plenty of exercise, and consuming a high fiber diet.
5. Alzheimer’s Disease
The Alzheimer’s Association reports that about 11 percent of Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. However, diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be challenging so that that number may be higher.
Regardless of the actual number, other cognitive impairments can afflict the aging population.
Staying “mentally active” is important. Doing puzzles, such as Sudoku, crossword puzzles, or word search puzzles can stimulate the mind. Here’s your perfect excuse to play the game Words with Friends with your grandchildren!
The Bottom Line…
Staying active, both physically and mentally, can stave off many of the health conditions that afflict seniors. Eating well can play a role as well!