While getting older isn’t synonymous with getting sick, some health conditions in the elderly that can be common. The good news about senior health concerns is many solutions for treatment exist.
So, what are the most common health problems of older adults? What are common elderly health problems?
Read on for the 15 most common senior health problems, plus some tips for treatments to get you started.
Most Common Senior Health Problems
Sensory, cognitive, and physical changes can begin to happen as early as age 50. Additionally, many people in the United States aged 65 and older have chronic conditions they are struggling to manage. Addressing and understanding medical conditions is important to improving the quality of life in later years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading causes of death in adults aged 65 and older are heart disease and cancer. But these are just two of the 15 common health issues older adults face.
Here are 15 health conditions to be aware of with age, including some steps you can take toward treatment.
1. Hearing Loss
Did you know that earwax production increases with age and can add to being “hard of hearing?” While it might sound like a stereotype, seniors really are prone to hearing loss.
Changes in hearing can affect quality of life since speech processing and verbal communication can consequently be affected. Hearing aids can be used to help reverse the effects, but unfortunately not all insurance companies cover the cost.
2. Vision Loss
Along with hearing, vision can become less sharp with age. Common vision problems for the elderly include:
- Refractive errors
If these conditions are affecting you, it might be time to see the eye doctor. In the meantime, avoid night driving (which is generally riskier as you age). Sometimes surgery for cataracts can help eye function, but may not solve the problem altogether.
Depression can often stem from increased social isolation. People with disabilities often struggle with depression, too. Remember, while depression may be common. it is not a “normal” part of aging.
Aggressive treatment can help take seniors from surviving to thriving during the later years of life.
4. Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Dementia is a common chronic condition for those over 85 years of age. While some older adults retain the brain function of their younger years, others decline in cognitive function as they get older.
Screening for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can help catch these diseases early and provide several treatment options, such as:
- Assistive technologies
- Caregiver support
- Cognitive stimulation
The second most common chronic condition in the elderly is osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis. While its prevalence is higher in women than in men, both can be affected.
Visit the doctor if you suspect symptoms, and they may be able to recommend medicine and other therapies that help make day-to-day activities less painful.
Osteoporosis is more than just “brittle bones”. It is a severe decrease in bone density that causes higher rates of pain, fractures, and falls.
As with other conditions, screening at the age of 65 years is recommended. However, you can be screened sooner if you suspect symptoms. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is also a great way to preserve bone mass.
7. Back and Neck Pain
Back and neck pain aren’t necessarily a disease on their own. However, pain can be an indicator on its own that medicine or therapy may be needed. It may also be a symptom of another root issue.
In any case, pain can be successfully managed through medication, mindful movement, and therapy (i.e. physical, hot/cold).
8. Chronic Respiratory Diseases
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic lower respiratory disease are two respiratory diseases in the elderly that may require intervention. Respiratory complications open the door to other infections and complications as well, and can even lead to death if left untreated.
It’s important to receive regular care as a senior in order to treat both acute and chronic respiratory diseases.
9. Cardiovascular Disease (Heart Disease)
High blood pressure is a common risk factor for heart disease. As one of the leading causes of death, heart disease is no joke.
It can also be underdiagnosed in the elderly and women, in particular. Noticing the warning signs is key to preventing a cardiac event.
Following heart disease, cancer is the next leading cause of death. Regular screenings (as recommended by your doctor) can help to catch slow-growing tumors that may go unnoticed otherwise.
A range of treatments and therapies are available, and, generally, the sooner you get a diagnosis the better.
Impaired vestibular function is common among the geriatric population and can cause dizziness and falls. More than a mere accident, falls can be serious and even lead to disability or death.
Since falls account for more than half of injuries in the elderly, it is important to make your home safe and prevent accidents from happening.
12. Immune Function Decline
The immune system weakens with age, making it easier to catch viruses like influenza or infections like pneumonia. Chronic inflammation doesn’t only cause pain, it can also cause immune cells to become dysfunctional.
Luckily, modifying diet and lifestyle habits can help fortify you against common or seasonal threats to your immunity.
13. Mobility Issues
Mobility disabilities have become more prevalent among the elderly, especially since the population becomes more overweight on average. Nearly three-quarters of the population over 85 years of age has trouble walking.
Difficulty walking not only increases social isolation but may make it difficult for one to live alone. Addressing these issues and providing accommodations is key to enabling seniors to be physically active and involved in their community.
Rates of diabetes have been rising, and they may rise even more in the coming decades. Linked with peripheral artery disease (PAD), foot ulcers, and other complications, diabetes can be serious and even life-threatening.
Learning how to manage blood sugars can quite literally add years to your life.
15. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
While your urinary tract might not be something you want to discuss, bladder health can be compromised with age. The bladder contains its own environment of bacteria, and sometimes a bacterial imbalance makes it unsterile. Antibiotics are often used as a treatment and may be able to help.
Treating Health Conditions in the Elderly
Healthy aging is possible, even for those dealing with chronic diseases. The following tips for treatment can help you address health concerns early.
Screening and Tests
Early detection of certain health conditions expands life expectancy. If you have symptoms or discomfort that persists, be sure to bring it up with your doctor. Your health care team can recommend the appropriate screenings and tests based on the information you provide.
Eating a healthy diet is a great way to encourage wellness. If you’re not into cooking, nutritionally-balanced meals from Silver Cuisine take minimal preparation. Plus, meals delivered by Silver Cuisine may help lower the risk of most health conditions or help you manage diseases like diabetes.
Health care needs usually increase with age. Having family, friends, or professionally-trained medical personnel step and help can be a lifesaver. Caregivers can make managing symptoms and complicated medicine regimens easier.
Recapping Common Senior Health Problems
While health can decline with age, it doesn’t have to. Seniors who get screened early for health concerns may be able to reduce the risk of common diseases.
Whatever age you are, simple lifestyle modifications and healthy habits can ensure you thrive in your senior years.
Jaul E, Barron J. Age-Related Diseases and Clinical and Public Health Implications for the 85 Years Old and Over Population. Front Public Health. 2017;5:335.
Ageing and health. World Health Organization. Published October 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/ageing-and-health.