Common Health Concerns for Seniors
This article was updated on: 09/15/2018
As people age, their health concerns change. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 60% of seniors live with two or more chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, emphysema, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. If managing chronic diseases weren’t enough, one in three seniors experience a fall each year.
Here’s a look at the health concerns affecting seniors today and what you can do to lower your risks.
What are the most common health concerns for seniors?
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), 80% of seniors suffer from at least one of the following health concerns:
- High blood pressure is the most common health concern. Almost 60% of Americans were treated for hypertension last year. Seniors can have high blood pressure for many years without symptoms, but left untreated, it can cause dangerous conditions such as heart attack or stroke.
- High cholesterol is another very common health concern. About 50% of adults have high cholesterol, or an excess of bad fats in the blood. High cholesterol can cause clogged arteries and other types of heart disease.
- Arthritis. About a third of seniors were treated for this painful condition that causes stiff and swollen joints.
- Coronary heart disease. One in three seniors show signs of ischemic or coronary heart disease, a condition that can lead to angina, blood clots, or even heart attack.
- Diabetes. Your chances of developing diabetes increase after age 45, and almost a third of seniors are treated for this health concern. Complications from diabetes include kidney and heart disease.
- Chronic kidney disease. About one in five seniors were treated for CKD last year, a condition that can lead to kidney failure and heart disease.
- Heart failure. Although heart failure is one of the less common health concerns for seniors, 14% were treated for this condition, which causes fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, and confusion.
- Depression. Seniors should not mistake signs of depression (sadness, hopelessness, difficulty making decisions, fatigue) for normal signs of aging. About 14% of seniors were treated for depression last year.
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. More than one in 10 seniors suffer from some form of dementia, a condition that is not a normal aging process. Dementia conditions cause memory loss and problems with thinking and problem solving.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Last year, 11% of seniors had this chronic and progressive respiratory condition as a health concern. Signs of COPD include coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing.
What other health concerns disproportionately affect seniors?
The NCOA notes that falls are the leading cause of injury, both fatal and nonfatal, in seniors. The statistics are sobering: Every minute, at least five seniors are treated in the emergency room for a fall, and every 19 minutes, a senior dies from injuries sustained in a fall.
Although not in the top 10 most common health concerns of seniors, malnutrition is a serious problem among the elderly, according to the Mayo Clinic. Seniors with malnutrition are at risk for a weakened immune system, weak bones which may increase the incidence of fracture, and even death.
What can I do to help seniors lower their risk of chronic health concerns?
Common sense steps to protect your loved one’s health can go a long way toward reducing chronic health concerns. The NCOA offers the following advice:
- Make sure your loved one gets adequate sleep at night; most experts recommend seven hours at a minimum.
- Encourage your loved one to eat a healthy diet; limit caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.
- Help them get regular exercise; most health care professionals recommend at least 30 minutes, 5 days per week. Always talk to your health care provider before starting a new exercise routine.
- Help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Find ways to help seniors manage stress.
- Ask your health care provider about risk factors and recommendations to minimize the potential for common health concerns.
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