The Most Common Health Concerns for Seniors

As people age, certain physiological changes occur in the body. Hair becomes gray and may thin. Skin loses its elasticity and wrinkles form. Some people have difficulty sleeping, and some find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Blood vessels may narrow or become stiffer, and the heart rate may slow. Because bone density decreases, bones become more porous and fracture more easily. Muscle tone and muscle mass decrease. Many elderly people experience vertigo or have difficulty maintaining balance. 

Since each person ages differently, these physiological changes may happen at different ages or may not occur at all. In a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41 percent of seniors reported very good or excellent health. However, most seniors report some health problems. Common health issues that seniors face include arthritis, osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and respiratory illness. Other health concerns such as obesity and depression are linked to more serious health issues. 

Weight Gain and Obesity

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important ways that people of any age can manage their health. Approximately 75 percent of Americans older than 65 are overweight, and about 34 percent are obese. Obesity is associated with heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, certain cancers and gall bladder disorders. As people age, fewer calories are needed to maintain a healthy weight, but more nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D may be required. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids can help keep weight off and reduce the possibility of major health problems. 

Arthritis

Arthritis affects almost half of all those over 65. Pain, stiffness, swelling of joints and limitation of movement are common symptoms. Exercising, maintaining proper weight and eating a well-balanced diet can prevent arthritis or minimize its effects. Extra weight puts a strain on joints, particularly knees. Losing as little as 11 pounds can lower the risk of developing arthritis in the knees by more than 50 percent. Gaining weight increases the risk. Exercises that reduce body weight on joints such as swimming, other water sports and bicycling are recommended.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the primary cause of death in those over 65. High blood pressure and high cholesterol increase the chance of stroke, heart attacks and other heart diseases. Diabetes, obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and high-fat diets are linked to heart disease. Having regular check-ups to monitor cholesterol levels and overall health is important. 

Diet plays an important role in preventing and controlling heart disease. Limiting foods with saturated fats such as butter, dairy products and meat helps lower cholesterol levels. Lowering cholesterol is correlated with reducing the risk of heart disease. Diabetes is linked to heart disease because too much glucose can damage blood vessels and the heart. Eating high-fiber foods such as oats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains helps regulate blood sugar and contributes to a healthy heart. 

Developing and maintaining healthy habits is important throughout life. As people get older, these lifelong habits can prevent disease or minimize the effects of health problems. Eating sensibly, getting regular exercise, developing a supportive network of friends and relatives and maintaining a positive attitude towards life can help overall well-being in the later years of life.