Gray hair, fine lines, and wrinkles aren’t the only things you have to worry about as you get older. As the body ages, your cells, organs, and systems function less efficiently, resulting in internal and external changes. While these changes happen to everyone, how you care for yourself can make a significant difference in your life’s quality and span. Having a clear understanding of common age-related health conditions is an excellent place to start.
Your joints are protected by a soft connective tissue known as cartilage. As you get older, the cartilage starts to weaken, resulting in the swelling of your joints. This health condition is known as arthritis. The tenderness, pain, and discomfort over time can lessen your quality of life and limit your mobility. Osteoarthritis is caused by normal wear and tear, while rheumatoid arthritis results from the immune system attacking tissue throughout the body.
While there is no cure for arthritis, there are treatment options, including medication, physical therapy, surgery, exercise, and a healthy diet.
Heart disease remains one of the leading causes of death in older women in the US. Atherosclerosis, the most common type of heart disease in seniors, is the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. Often resulting from a bad diet over an extended time, the arteries become blocked and cause a stroke or heart attack (leading to death). You can reverse the progression of heart disease by changing your diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding bad habits like smoking. If your condition is severe, you’ll need to take medications or undergo surgery.
Presbycusis is the loss of hearing over time. As you age, you might start to notice that you can’t hear high-pitched noises. Without treatment, you’ll eventually find it difficult to hear individual voices and sounds. You might also experience ringing in the ear or develop a sensitivity to loud noises. If you’re already suffering from hearing loss, you’ll need to do some research to determine which hearing aid is best. For those with significant hearing loss, there are surgeries available to ease your frustrations improve your quality of life.
Your hearing isn’t the only thing that declines as you age; adults 40 years and older report changes in their vision. It may start with difficulties seeing at far or close distances or having trouble viewing screens, but it can worsen with time. This age-related vision loss is called presbyopia. Correcting or improving your vision will usually require prescription glasses, contact lenses, or surgery. In extreme cases, however, the damage may be irreversible.
Osteoporosis is a common age-related health condition that causes the bones to become weak and brittle. As the body gets older, it is unable to break down and replace bones properly. The old bones become so frail that the slightest amount of pressure can cause fractures and injuries. While you cannot regain the bone density you lost, treating osteoporosis usually requires medications and changes to your diet.
Alzheimer’s disease is a condition in which your brain cells and cell connections degenerate and die. It directly impacts your short and long-term memory, as well as your ability to function. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but patients can ease symptoms with medications and management practices like exercise. As the condition progresses, your ability to live independently and enjoy your life declines. Most seniors end up moving into a nursing home or with a relative for the duration of their lives.
As you can see, many things happen to the body as you get older. Now that you’re aware of the many age-related health conditions, you can take preventative measures to reduce your risks and improve your life. From changing your eating habits and exercising to breaking bad habits and managing existing problems efficiently, you can avoid many of these extreme consequences from impacting you and the people you love.