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Common Health Concerns for Seniors
While no one knows how long they will live, there is good news for adults in the U.S. The CDC reports that the average lifespan has increased year after year since 2017, with the number now up to 78.7 years old. Good health habits can help you get the most out of these years.
Here are the more notable elderly health concerns experienced today. Which of these is currently a top concern for you?
Of the most common diseases in elderly patients, arthritis and other conditions that cause pain or inflexibility are often the most limiting. While we know that exercise and movement can reduce or even reverse some health concerns, it can be hard to get moving when you're hurting all the time.
The CDC estimates that almost 50% of adults over 65 deal with arthritis. Working with your physician as soon as pain or stiffness starts is crucial to keep it from becoming a debilitating condition.
2. Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's may cause the most fear out of all the diseases that impact the elderly. Dementia can occur in up to 11% of the over-65 population, but it may not be reported as widely as other conditions. Also, not all dementia is Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's occurs even before the cognitive impairments begin, which is why early diagnosis is so important.
Alzheimer's treatment is continually changing to help alleviate symptoms and keep patients safe as they navigate through it. Speaking to your family about how you'd like to be cared for in the case of significant cognitive decline is always recommended. This gives you options in the event you develop the condition.
3. Heart disease
Probably the most common health problems in the elderly, heart diseases kill more adults in the over 65 age bracket than any other condition. It can also be addressed through a number of lifestyle changes, medication, and even surgery.
Many of the other risk factors that older adults deal with can worsen heart conditions, so it just makes sense to approach health holistically and with the continued guidance of your physician. The right steps forward with your health, such as eating right and incorporating movement into your routine, can go a long way to managing heart disease.
While cancer was the second leading cause of death (after heart disease) in the U.S. in 2019, the cancer death rate has gone down significantly. There were 27% fewer deaths in the U.S. in 2019 compared to 1999. Cancer screenings are a big part of prevention and early treatment, and it's common for older adults to skip these appointments thinking they are too old to see a benefit.
There is a lot that your treatment team can do to minimize symptoms and offer you a longer, healthier life, so make sure cancer prevention is a top priority. You may be able to avoid some cancers, such as lung cancer (leading cancer in 2019), by simply changing your lifestyle (i.e., quit smoking).
5. Bone health
Bone weaknesses are among the most common diseases in older adults, with 200 million adults worldwide diagnosed with osteoporosis. Bone breaks are a leading cause of hospitalization among those aged 65 and older, and they're a common cause of losing independence. This is why it's important not to ignore bone health and its impact on your daily life.
Osteoporosis-related fractures happen every three seconds. Regular bone strength tests can go a long way to measuring your likelihood of damage, so you can start a treatment plan early if needed.
Blood sugar and insulin concerns are not new for the older population, and diabetes is still one of the top diseases that affect the elderly. With new technology making blood sugar checks and insulin delivery more accessible than ever before, diabetes is no longer the disruption to an active life that it once was.
If you are concerned about diabetes, check in with your physician. Even pre-diabetic patients have more options for staying healthy for the long term.
One in four older adults falls every year, but not all of them tell their doctor. One of the first things you can do is get serious about fall-proofing your home and yard as much as possible. Also, remember that it's OK to accept help with doing things that are now more difficult, like yard work or fixing things around the house.
If you fall once, your chance of falling again doubles, which is why it's essential to tell your doctor when it does happen. Plus, injuries aren't always apparent or obvious at first.
You may not think of mental health issues as one of the most common health problems in the elderly. Still, the many changes in the environment, mobility, socialization, and health can lead to anxiety and depression. Mental health isn't always talked about openly, and some older adults may not feel comfortable bringing up feelings of sadness, loss, or self-harm to others.
However, seniors must have a strong support system that includes mental health resources. While it's common to feel down, and it may not seem like a cause for alarm, it's always best to keep your physician updated about how you're feeling mentally.
9. Substance abuse
Drinking or drug use is another area of health that may be awkward to discuss with friends, family, or your physician. However, new substance abuse problems can happen in older age, especially in relation to depression and anxiety. If you rely too much on alcohol or even prescription drugs to get through the day (or night), check-in with a professional to determine a healthy response to your situation and what may warrant taking action.
10. Dental health
Losing your teeth or experiencing gum disease is not something you should accept as just another "sign of getting older." Poor oral health can lead to other problems, including raising your chances of severe heart disease or malnutrition.
While most dental care isn't covered by traditional health insurance, Medicare Advantage plans like KelseyCare Advantage often include specific benefits to help you take care of your gums and teeth. Being proactive with regular cleanings, exams, and X-rays can keep you feeling your best and even reduce costly procedures and dentures down the road.
The above concerns are just some of the more notable issues facing aging adults, and there are other common health problems in elderly patients that you can discuss with your doctor. These include obesity, respiratory diseases, and shingles. By checking in with your doctor—even if you're feeling healthy—as part of an annual health check, you can talk about issues that aren't yet concern and look at preventative measures to keep them far on the horizon.
Remember, just because you haven't found the right solution to your health issue in the past, it doesn't mean there isn't hope for treatment or prevention. New medical advances happen all the time. Plus, physicians with experience in treating older patients are keeping up with the latest and greatest options for prolonging life and helping you feel better in the meantime.
If you aren't sure if your physician is the right fit, contact your Medicare Advantage health plan provider. They should have a directory that shows you all of the providers in your area. They can help you pick a professional that's experienced in treating older patients, whether it's a geriatric care specialist or a provider with diagnosis-specific skills.
At KelseyCare Advantage, we prioritize the health of our members by helping to manage chronic diseases and by providing high-quality customer service. Learn more about what a KCA plan can do for you today!