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Health problems in old age

Getting older can bring along many health challenges. The elderly suffer from the dual burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases, besides impairment of sensory functions like vision & hearing and other degenerative diseases. As per WHO, in 2016 an estimated 1.6 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes and close to 17.9 million people die each year from cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), an estimated of 31% of all deaths worldwide. The chronic diseases can drastically reduce the quality of life in elderly age.

Some of the chronic conditions, common among elderly people are:

Arthritis- Mineral loss happens faster than replacement in bones. It results in stiffness, chronic pain, deformity, and loss of independence.

Hypertension- The several reasons why blood pressure rise with age are degeneration of heart muscle cells, thicker cell walls, reduced elasticity of blood vessels, sedentary lifestyle.   

Coronary Artery Disease- This is the most common form of heart disease among elderly people. In this arteries connected to heart get hardened or narrowed, resulting in heart attack, chest pain etc.

Congestive Heart Failure- Efficiency of heart get affected and unable to pump effectively. It results in shortness of breath, chronic disability, and dependence.

Diabetes- Type 2 Diabetes happens most in middle and elderly-aged people. Body starts to make insulin but doesn’t use it the right way, therefore leading to serious health problems.

Cancer- The most common cancers in elderly women are breast, gynecological while in elderly men are prostate, gastrointestinal and lung.

Respiratory disease- Medical conditions that can cause breathing problems include, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, pneumonia, heart failure, neurological disorders, and cancer.

Kidney disease- Kidney disease often develops slowly that’s why it called a ‘silent disease’. It shows very few symptoms, and many elder people don't even realize until the disease is advanced.

Osteoporosis- Bone loss happens due to hormonal consequences of aging, and result in the decline in estrogen and testosterone. As people get older, their bones get less dense because they begin to lose more bone than they build.

Oral health- Oral health is one of the most important problems for elderly people. Problems such as cavities and tooth decay can cause trouble in maintaining a healthy diet, resulting in low self-confidence, and other health conditions.

Digestive Problems- Digestive issues are common in elderly people and impact their quality of life. This happens because enzymes produce fewer digestive juices, as a result, the muscle action becomes slower, leading to loss of teeth, appetite, and use of multiple medications.

Nervous Health problems- Flow of blood to the brain decreases with aging resulting in, progressive loss of brain cells that interferes with the functioning of the brain like thinking, reacting, interpreting, and remembering.

Vision Problems- If not detected and treated in time, vision problems in the older adults could lead to partial or complete vision loss. The most common causes of vision loss among the elderly are age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract, and diabetic retinopathy.

Hearing problems- A lot of health conditions contribute to hearing the loss in older adults such as diabetes, high blood pressure etc. In addition to this, taking certain medications and heredity can also be the contributing factors for loss in hearing.

Depression- Depression can be a side effect of medical problems, including chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.

A comprehensive preventive approach is the need of the hour which takes into account geriatric problems and their prevention, along with healthy nutrition, physical exercises, yoga & meditation and promotion of mental wellbeing.

The chronic diseases can drastically reduce the quality of life of older people. But the good news is, these chronic diseases can be prevented, predicted and managed through regular preventive health checks ensuring a long and healthy life.