Common Health Problems To Look Out For As You Get Older

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As you get older, the risk of developing health problems increases. Fortunately, many of these health problems can be treated – providing you catch them early enough. Even when it comes to the health problems that cannot be cured, there are still often ways to slow them in their tracks or stall them completely. Alternatively, there may be ways of learning to live with health problems more easily. 

Below are just some of the most common health problems that people suffer from as they get older.

Vision loss

Vision loss is a natural part of aging. Presbyopia is the most common condition – this is the gradual loss of ability to focus on nearby objects. Fortunately, this can be easily fixed by going to an optician and buying yourself a pair of reading glasses. Most people first experience this in their 40s.

Cataracts is a more serious eye condition that can cause more rapid loss of vision. This is when the lenses of our eyes become cloudy. This is often genetic, although bad habits like smoking and heavy drinking can increase the risk of developing it. If your vision seems cloudy, you often see halos and you can’t see at night, it could be worth seeing a doctor and getting checked for cataracts. Surgery is the best treatment for cataracts and could help restore your sight to normal. You should not ignore the development of cataracts as you could eventually go blind. 

Hearing loss

A lot of people lose their hearing as they get older. This tends to be a natural part of aging, although exposure to loud noise can cause some people to lose their hearing prematurely. Hearing loss can usually be treated by getting a hearing aid. An audiologist will be able to help you find your prescription.

Some people experience tinnitus as they get older, which is characterised by a ringing in the ears. There are hearing aids that may be able to help with this condition. 

Respiratory problems

Some people experience breathing difficulties as they get older. This could be caused by a chest infection or the flu or it could be the result of years of lung damage from smoking. 

Flus and chest infections tend to result in rapid loss of breath. As you get older, such illnesses can be more serious, so it’s important to see a doctor as soon as you experience difficulty breathing. It’s usually possible to prescribe medicine to help treat these conditions. Annual flu shots can prevent you from catching the flu.

COPD as a result of smoking is much more difficult to treat. While giving up smoking can help your lungs to heal, further treatment such as surgery may be needed in more serious cases. You should see a doctor as soon as you start to experience notable breathing difficulties (such as getting out of breath after walking short distances). An inhaler may be prescribed to you to help you breathe more easily. 

Heart disease

Heart disease can be very common in older people and can be fatal if not treated. It can be a natural side effect of aging, although it can also be brought on by many lifestyle factors such as smoking, stress or a poor diet. Signs of heart disease include shortness of breath, dizzy spells, chest pain or random pain in other areas such as the arms or legs. It is worth seeing a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms – heart disease may be able to be managed by making lifestyle changes recommended by a doctor and by taking prescribed medicine. 

Related to heart disease are strokes. This is when an artery becomes blocked or bursts cutting off blood supply to the brain. Strokes can be very serious and require emergency treatment. It can be worth looking out for warning signs a few days before – transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) are mini-strokes that are common before a major stroke and can result in drooping of the face, speech problems or not being able to raise one’s arm.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body stops producing insulin properly, preventing sugar from being able to be broken down. Like heart disease, it is very common in older people. While it can be genetic, it is usually caused by factors such as lack of physical activity and being overweight. 

Diabetes can be kept under control by changing your diet or by injecting insulin. You should see a doctor if you experience symptoms such as frequent urination, constant thirst and hunger, blurry vision or constant tiredness – these are all telltale signs that you may be diabetic

Gut issues

You may find that you’re also more susceptible to digestive problems as you get older. This could result in symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea or stomach pain. A digestive problem could be caused by a condition such as IBS or something more serious such as an ulcer

Most gut issues can be treated with surgery or made manageable with medication, so it can be worth seeing a doctor if you experience any worrying symptoms. You should particularly consider seeing a doctor if you’re experiencing serious pain in your gut.

Back pain

A lot of older people suffer from back pain. This type of pain can have many causes from poor posture to lifting heavy loads. Back pain can sometimes be treated with medication or surgery. Even if there is no effective cure, there may be ways of relieving back pain such as upgrading your mattress, reducing stress or using herbal medicine. It’s worth seeing a doctor if the pain is severe. 

Joint pain

Joint pain can also be common in older age. Arthritis is the most common cause of joint pain – this is when the soft tissue between joints wears away resulting in pain and inflammation. This could be an effect of natural wear and tear, however it could also be a knock-on effect of being overweight or not allowing enough recovery time after an injury. While there is no cure for arthritis, there are ways in which you can make this condition more manageable such as taking pain relief and switching to low impact exercise.

Other diseases can also affect the joints such as gout. This causes a sharper pain and is caused by uric crystals forming on the joints as a result of too much uric acid in the blood. Gout is often the result of an unhealthy diet – drinking too much beer, consuming too much sugar or eating too much meat can increase the risk of gout later in life. Fortunately, this condition can be easily treated providing that you see a doctor early.

Mobility issues

A common side effect of aging is mobility issues. This could be the result of a joint disease such as arthritis – if walking becomes too painful, you may find that you’re unable to get around. Other conditions such as multiple sclerosis and parkinson’s are neurological conditions that can affect the way in which nerve signals are picked up – this could similarly make movement difficult. 

There is no cure for many of these mobility issues. However, there are many ways in which you can make living with a mobility problem more manageable. If pain is the big problem, you may be able to take painkillers to help manage symptoms. Alternatively, you could look into equipment and technology to help you stay independent with limited mobility. Mobility scooters can give many people the freedom to get around locally and can take you very far outdoors. Improvements to your home such as a walk-in shower or stairlift could make it easier to get around the house. You could even embrace smart technology to help you control elements of your home remotely such as lighting and heating. 

Cancer

The risk of developing cancer increases as you get older. While the exact cause of this disease is still unknown, certain lifestyle factors can put you at greater risk such as being a smoker or heavy drinking. Cancer can sometimes be easily detected as it may form lumps or marks on the skin, however it is not always easy to detect if it is internal. Common symptoms to look out for include unexplained weight loss, strange pain or fatigue. Most cancers can be easily removed if you treat them early. This is why it’s so important to see a doctor the moment you suspect anything. 

Memory loss/confusion

Memory loss and confusion can be a sign of dementia. This is the result of deterioration of the brain. Such deterioration tends to be gradual – many people realise they have dementia when they start forgetting words or getting lost in familiar places. Scientists still don’t know how dementia is caused and there is no cure. However, getting dementia diagnosed early can still have benefits. By exercising the body and brain, it may be possible to slow down the progression of dementia in the early stages

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