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Recently, average life expectancy in the United States reached more than 78 years. Thus, many people can expect their golden years to last a lot longer than in generations past. However, even though longer life expectancy means more of life to enjoy, it also means higher instances of many of the most common health issues facing the elderly. As we get older, the mileage we put on our bodies and our minds begins to take its toll. What’s more, health issues ranging from diabetes to depression become larger presences in our lives. Nearly everyone over age 65 deals with some form of physical or mental health issue. However, even though aging is inevitable, many of the most common physical and mental health issues facing the elderly can be dealt with through early prevention and treatment.
For example, elderly people tend to have diabetes in higher proportions than other age groups, but this could be prevented through proper diet and exercise. Many mental health issues, including memory loss and depression, are the result of elderly people losing opportunities to socialize and remain active, so group activities can go a long way to keep them alert and vibrant. The accompanying guide lists some of the most common mental and physical health issues facing the elderly, as well as some tips to help prevent or treat them.
Follow this guide, created by Nebraska Oral & Facial Surgery, to help prevent or treat some common health issues facing the elderly.
Physical Health Issues
- Heart disease: Aging exacerbates the risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. To lower the risk, maintain a healthy body weight through diet and exercise, and get a good night’s sleep each night.
- Respiratory disease: People past age 65 are at higher risk of chronic respiratory issues such as emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Having regular lung function tests and using oxygen as recommended by a doctor can help prevent such issues.
- Diabetes: As many as 25 percent of Americans over age 65 are estimated to be living with diabetes. Lifestyle changes including diet and exercise can halt the progress of the disease if the warning signs are caught early enough.
- Injuries from falls: As people age, their bones become more brittle and their coordination decreases, making falls more likely and more damaging. Installing handrails and other fall-prevention measures in the home can reduce the risk.
- Oral health: A lifetime of neglecting oral hygiene can have serious repercussions for the teeth and gums. Proper brushing and flossing habits are crucial for keeping teeth and gums healthy.
- Hearing and vision loss: The acuity of people’s senses tends to decrease with age. Regular hearing and vision tests can help determine whether or not elderly people need glasses or hearing aids.
Mental Health Issues
- Depression: Depression can strike the elderly particularly hard, as many don’t have the opportunity to socialize as much as they would want. Making time to see friends and family or participating in group activities can help alleviate the gloom.
- Memory issues: Many elderly people report a decline in their ability to remember—even simple things such as their phone numbers or the names of friends and family members. Keeping the mind active is just as important as being physically active; so reading, crossword puzzles and other mentally stimulating activities can help prevent memory issues.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Almost 10 percent of people over age 65 experience Alzheimer’s disease. Regular testing can help identify the early warning signs and help family members prepare loved ones for long-term care and treatment.