According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), technological advancements help seniors live longer. But for them to reach a longer lifespan, they need to stay healthy by managing their chronic illnesses.
Poor health and chronic illnesses are inevitable as people grow older, but they can handle them properly to delay signs and symptoms. Quality life doesn’t necessarily mean quitting from bad habits, like smoking cigarettes and drinking alcoholic beverages. Seniors need to accompany a healthy lifestyle, social interaction, and physical activities to ensure their minds and bodies are well.
Aside from the financial burden, chronic diseases result in weakened functions, abilities, and memory. Fortunately, there are preventive measures to avoid those diseases. To ensure the best quality of life for our senior loved ones, it’s important to know the common diseases that target seniors and those that they are susceptible too. You may also want to understand their causes and symptoms and identify possible treatments for an illness.
Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension happens when there is an increased force of blood against your artery walls. Unhealthy levels of blood pressure might cause body issues, even resulting in heart disease. Seniors can get high blood pressure into two: primary and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension results from hereditary conditions, physical changes in the body, and an inactive lifestyle. Meanwhile, secondary hypertension results from several conditions, like kidney failure, thyroid problems, drug consumption, and tumors.
Causes: Certain activities increase blood pressure among aging adults. Among them involve smoking, excessive eating, salty meals, lack of physical activities, and alcohol consumption. Seniors’ genetics is also a contributing factor as to why specific individuals gain hypertension. Seniors who have sleeping disorders or sleep apnea are prone to developing high blood pressure.
Symptoms: Seniors suffering from severe hypertension experience headache, shortness of breath, frequent nosebleeds, nausea, and breathlessness. What’s more, blood in the urine is also an indicator of high blood pressure.
Treatments: Most physicians will suggest seniors take medication for their blood pressure but still depend on the complications and medical issues. Otherwise, seniors can prevent hypertension through healthy meal plans, regular exercise, and a good amount of sleep.
2. Heart Failure
If seniors don’t treat their hypertension immediately, it might lead to heart failure. When an individual experiences one, his heart isn’t able to pump out blood that his body needs. When this happens, your body doesn’t obtain an adequate supply of blood and oxygen, resulting in an enlarged heart. According to the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, heart failure in the elderly links with low functional status
Causes: Events leading to heart failure are congenital heart defects, irregular heart rhythms, lung diseases, anemia, alcohol misuse, and heart valve diseases. Additionally, obese seniors tend to have sleep apnea and heart failure to those non-obese elderly.
Symptoms: Family members should take note of the signs of heart failure, which include chronic coughing, shortness of breath, swelling of feet or ankles, appetite loss, increased heart rate, excessive sweating, and chest pain.
Treatments: Help your senior loved ones maintain a desirable cholesterol level and blood pressure. Support certain medications, like statins, blood thinners, beta-blockers, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. For most serious cases, seniors may need to undergo surgery to treat blockages and heart problems.
Arthritis is a common disease among seniors, which causes
joints, inflammation, and swelling. Arthritis isn’t a single condition. There
are cases when seniors experience osteoarthritis, gout, fibromyalgia, and
rheumatoid arthritis –all of which produce pain to seniors. Weakened bones are
attributed to cartilage breakdown, resulting in osteoarthritis to individuals,
Causes: All types of arthritis might have different causes, but the most common is injury, abnormal metabolism, hereditary factors, and infections.
Symptoms: Common signs of arthritis are joint stiffness or swelling, redness of the impacted body part, pain when touching a joint, and problems with moving a body muscle.
Treatments: Arthritis has many forms. Thus, ensure to give the right medication and treatment to your senior loved one. Aside from giving them remedies, encourage them to participate in physical therapy. Gentle exercises can help them improve their range of motions and strengthen their bone muscles and ligaments. Yoga and tai chi are good forms of exercise that cater to seniors suffering from arthritis.
4. Type 2 Diabetes
Our bodies change as we age, becoming more susceptible to diseases. As such, one of those changes involves our pancreas’ inability to produce enough insulin to our body, resulting in Type 2 diabetes. Without proper insulin, seniors’ bodies won’t be able to regulate their blood glucose and convert them into cells. As cells diminish, their energy decreases. If not treated immediately, diabetes might result in eye damage, kidney damage, cardiovascular diseases, and nerve damage.
Causes: Contributing factors of Type 2 diabetes comprise genetics and environmental factors. Besides, inactive and overweight seniors are most likely to develop this type of diabetes.
Symptoms: Seniors with diabetes are likely to experience frequent urination, increased thirst and hunger, weight loss, headache, fatigue, and blurred visions. You’ll also notice that a senior’s sore or infection might take a longer time to recover, as blood circulation isn’t enough to fix them.
Treatments: Through early diagnosis, doctors can measure a senior’s blood glucose levels. Following the recommended medications, encouraging aging adults to eat a healthy diet, maintain an ideal weight, physical exercise, and getting enough sleep. If they’re smoking cigarettes, make sure to stop them immediately.
5. Chronic Kidney Disease
Seniors are at risk of developing chronic kidney diseases, such as urinary tract problems. Chronic kidney disease is a condition where seniors lose their normal kidney functions. In case you haven’t heard, high blood pressure and diabetes contribute to the formation of kidney diseases. Several studies confirm that approximately 37 million American adults are at risk of developing this disease. What’s more, seniors with a history of kidney failure are likely to have worsened conditions.
Causes: Possible causes of progressive kidney damage cover toxic food consumption, such as salty foods. Abusive seniors in terms of medical usage can result in forming chronic kidney disease.
Symptoms: Kidney failure among seniors include symptoms like vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, muscle cramps, persistent itching, declined cognitive memory, and problems with sleeping.
Treatments: By identifying early signs of kidney failure, ensure that your senior loved ones take their medications. Likewise, regular exercise is good for seniors’ bodies. The elders should follow a low-salt, low-fat diet and should have regular check-ups with their physician. Limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding cigarette smoking also work best.
6. High Cholesterol
One of the contributing factors of heart disease is the “bad” cholesterol, also referred to as the low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol. This type of cholesterol forms masses inside the walls of blood vessels and builds up until it blocks blood circulation. As soon as the blood circulation weakens, an individual’s body experiences severe symptoms of heart attack and stroke.
Causes: Conditions that contribute to high LDL cholesterol include inactivity from physical workouts, cigarette smoking, hereditary factors, and eating a diet high in saturated fat. To avoid saturated fat, seniors need to stay away from dairy products, baked goods, and processed foods.
Symptoms: The most common signs of high LDL cholesterol comprise chest pain, dizziness, severe fatigue, breathlessness, and pains from the neck, jaw, or back. Additionally, seniors might feel numbness or coldness in their extremities.
Treatments: Effective strategies to lower seniors’ LDL cholesterol include taking drug medications. Some examples are lovastatin, fluvastatin, simvastatin, and atorvastatin. Lifestyle changes play important roles in diminishing the harmful effects of high LDL cholesterol in a senior’s body. Eating fruits, vegetables, and fishes contribute to faster recovery.
Perhaps you didn’t know; seniors are vulnerable to
depression. Several factors contribute to their feeling of loneliness. One of
them is losing a friend or family member. Immobile seniors are likely to become
depressed, as they think they won’t be able to do the things they love.
Depression is a serious issue, needing medical care and treatment. Take note
that depression isn’t a normal part as people age, so ensure to keep up with
your senior loved ones to prevent them from being sad and alone.
Causes: Significant life changes cause
seniors to feel depressed. Such examples include chronic health problems,
financial burden, social isolation, death of a loved one, and a reduced sense
of purpose. Even the fear of death causes seniors to be pessimistic and lonely.
Symptoms: Common signs of depression involve the sense of loneliness, miserable feeling, social isolation, and losing interest in favorite activities. Excessive weight gain or loss is also a sign that an individual is depressed.
Treatments: Depression is treatable in most cases. Though it might take a long recovery, psychotherapy is an excellent way to address senior’s depression. Encouraging the elderly to participate in social activities is also an alternative to put an end to their negative thinking habits and behaviors.
8. Chronic Bronchitis
Seniors are prone to two types of bronchitis: acute and
chronic. Acute bronchitis lasts only for a few weeks and doesn’t have any
harmful effects on the body. Meanwhile, chronic bronchitis is the type that
doesn’t go away easily. In fact, this type of bronchitis keeps coming back,
infecting, and swelling the lungs of the infected seniors. Chronic bronchitis
happens when the bronchial tubes of an individual get infected, inflamed, and
Causes: The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is seniors’ exposure to air pollution, smog, industrial pollutants, and cigarette smoke. Seniors who have been previously diagnosed with asthma or cystic fibrosis are in great danger for having a chronic bronchitis disease.
Symptoms: Signs of chronic bronchitis among aging adults encompass chest congestion, cough with mucus, breathlessness, low fever, sore throat, and body pains. Additionally, seniors suffering from chronic bronchitis tend to hear a wheezing sound when they breathe due to mucus congesting their bronchial tubes.
Treatments: Physicians may advise seniors to rest, drink plenty of water, and take medications like ibuprofen. Another case involves using a humidifier to release mucus. Seniors also gain proper breathing since it improves airflow.
Dementia isn’t a single condition. In fact, it is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of medical conditions, from Alzheimer’s disease to cognitive and memory loss. As seniors continue to hit their decade mark, their brain functionalities decline. Dementia affects seniors’ memory, communication, and thinking skills negatively.
Causes: Common roots of dementia comprise vascular disorders, degenerative neurological diseases, drug or alcohol abuse, and vascular disorders. Seniors who experienced traumatic head and brain injuries, falls, and concussions can have dementia as well.
Symptoms: One of the common signs of dementia is memory loss, wherein seniors tend to forget things. They also find it difficult to communicate with other people, solve mental games, and handle complicated tasks. Seniors with dementia get confused and disoriented easily.
Treatments: Although brain cell death can’t be
reversed, dementia symptoms can be reduced by taking medications. Currently,
the United States currently approves four drugs that accommodate Alzheimer’s
disease, including donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine, and tacrine. You can
also improve your aging adult’s memory by encouraging them to solve puzzle
pieces and problem-solving games.
10. Multiple Sclerosis
Lastly, multiple sclerosis affects a senior’s central nervous system. It is relatively known that our central nervous system is directly connected with our brains, spinal cords, and optic nerves. If multiple sclerosis occurs, there’s a great chance that an individual may lose some of his normal functions. Multiple sclerosis uses the senior’s immune system to attack his nerve fibers’ protective sheath, known as myelin, causing permanent damage to nerves.
Causes: Possible sources of multiple sclerosis are still undiscovered because an individual’s autoimmune system attacks its own tissues. Yet, potential risk factors include heredity, environmental condition, activities, and lifestyle.
Symptoms: Multiple sclerosis impact seniors differently. Yet, the most common indicator includes weakness of the limbs, numbness of the body parts, electric shocks on the neck, and unsteady gait. Seniors are likely to suffer from vision loss, fatigue, and tingling sensation.
Treatments: There are no cures for multiple sclerosis, but family members can slow down its progression to affected adults. One of them is through medication management, like injectable, oral, and infused medications. Other alternatives include massage treatment, acupuncture, and physical exercises.
Becoming familiar with the common diseases among seniors is a great way to manage your aging parents’ needs. Make sure to provide quality support while they maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Try Oasis’ gentle exercises today!
As mentioned above, one of the best, non-medicinal ways to treat chronic diseases is through gentle physical exercises. Oasis Adult Day Center has your back! We implement yoga, tai chi, meditation, and exercising to music sessions to help seniors improve their physical well-being. Encourage your loved ones today!