17 Health Conditions to Watch for As You Age

From vision loss to balance issues, be on the lookout for these 17 health conditions as you age.

17 Senior Health Conditions and Risks

1. Vision Loss

Aged-related vision loss, also known as presbyopia, is the normal loss of focusing on nearby objects with age.

Experts believe it is caused rom a gradual thickening and loss of flexibility of the natural lens inside your eye, which makes the lens harder and less elastic over time, thus comprising vision.

Most people begin to notice the effects of presbyopia sometime after age 40, when they start having trouble seeing small print clearly, including when reading a smart phone, books, magazines, and menus.

Aside from presbyopia, these eye conditions and diseases are also common in seniors including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and glaucoma.

2. Hearing Loss

Also known as presbycusis, age-related hearing loss is a gradual process that occurs as we grow older and has numerous causes. Most frequently, it stems from changes in the inner ear as we age, variations in the middle ear, complex changes involving nerve pathways, and certain medical conditions and medications.

Age-related hearing loss is one of the most shared conditions affecting older and elderly adults and according to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.

Difficultly hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor’s advice, respond to threatening warnings, and hear phones and doorbells. Hearing loss can also make it hard to enjoy talking with family and friends, subsequently leading to feelings of isolation.

Though there is no known prevention, protecting your ears from loud noises with ear plugs and muffs may limit the amount of hearing you might lose as you get older.

3. Incontinence

Incontinence is the lack of voluntary control over urination and defecation.

Seniors are more prone to incontinence for a number of reasons, including memory loss causing forgetfulness to remember to go or the bathroom location, muscle weakness in the pelvic floor, certain medications, and neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

Managing incontinence is primarily based on establishing a bathroom routine, monitoring fluid intake, incorporating appropriate strength-training exercises, and offering reminders and assistance as recognized. 

4. Constipation

Reported by the American Family Physician, constipation is common in older adults and accounts for about 2.5 million physician office visits annually and the number of persons reporting constipation increases with age.

While constipation is not a physiologic consequence of normal aging, many age-related problems may increase its prevalence, including decreased decreased mobility, comorbid medical conditions, increased use of medication side effects.

Like incontinence, resolving constipation may be achieved by establishing a bathroom routine, particularly by going at consistent times each day and after waking and after meals when colonic activity is greatest.

Increasing fiber and fluid intake, partaking in physical activity, and considering medications can also offer relief from constipation and reduce its risk.

5. Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when germs infect the tract that transports urine from the body, which includes the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. When bacteria introduced into the urinary system and travels up the urethra to the bladder, an infection can occur.

A UTI is one of the most commonly diagnosed infections in older adults related to a number of factors, including a compromised immune system, muscle loss and weakening, menopause in females, and increased frequency of catheter use.

Whereas UTIs regularly affect the bladder and kidneys, agitation, delirium, and other behavioral changes may be the only sign of a urinary tact infection in elderly men and women. It is absolutely imperative to seek medical help if symptoms are present, as unmanaged UTIs can be life-threatening.

6. Cognitive Decline

Age-related cognitive decline describes the deterioration in cognition that causes changes in memory, reaction timing, problem-solving, and judgment. Age is one of the largest risk factors of cognitive decline, with some individuals starting to experience related symptoms as early as age 45.

Cognitive decline is often used interchangeably with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), although MCI is the intermediate stage between what is expected with advancing age and a more serious decline of dementia.

Mild cognitive impairment causes noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive functions that are considered greater than changes associated with normal aging and increases the risk of progressing to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurological conditions later down the road.

7. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition in which glucose from carbohydrates are unable to be utilized by the body for energy, bones become weak and brittle and increases the risk of fractures, falls, and more severe injuries from them.

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), 1 in 3 women over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men aged over 50 worldwide. Furthermore, women over 45 years of age, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, myocardial infarction and breast cancer.

The condition in and of itself has no symptoms, so it is important to consult with a doctor to schedule a bone density test to check the current health of your bones. These scans can identify osteoporosis and a less serious loss of bone density called osteopenia.

Preventative measures to offset osteoporosis risk include an ensuring adequate calcium and vitamin D intake intake, consuming a Mediterranean-style diet, participating in weight-bearing activities, and limiting drinking and cessation from smoking.

8. Arthritis

Arthritis describes inflammation of one or more joints, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and decreased range of motion that can worsen with age and is a common described symptom of old age.

The discomfort may result to a declined capability for completing day-to-day functions and a lower quality of life. Adults with arthritis are also about two and a half times more likely to have two or more falls and suffer a fall injury compared to adults without arthritis.

Arthritis is considered to one, if not the most, senior health condition, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting almost 50 percent of persons aged 65 or older described doctor-diagnosed arthritis between 2013 to 2015.

The goal of treatment is to reduce associated pain and inflammation and improve overall functioning and quality of life. Individuals may be prescribed with medications, use a splint or brace, or undergo surgery.

9. Cancer

Cancer is an umbrella term to describe a collection of related diseases, particularly in which the body’s cells become damaged. There are over 100 types of cancer, which may impact a single area of the body or spread to other tissues and organs, though 70 percent of the death associated with many cancers including prostate, bladder, colon, uterus, pancreas, stomach, rectum and lung occur in patients 65 and older.

While there are numerable risk factors for cancer and individuals of all ages can develop such malignancies, those over 65 is 10 times greater than in those younger than 65 and the cancer death rate is 16 times greater in patients over 65 compared to younger patients according to an article published in the The Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association. Furthermore, the Scientific American reports cancer is the leading cause of death in Americans between 60 and 79 years old.

The American Cancer Society outlines getting regular cancer screenings, getting to and staying at healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, avoiding alcohol, and limiting alcohol can reduce cancer risk.

10. Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition in which glucose from carbohydrates are unable to be utilized by the body for energy. Type 2 diabetes Type 2 diabetes is mostly related to insulin resistance, a condition in which cells do not use insulin effectively, and is the most common form.

It occurs most often in middle-aged and older adults, with the chances of having diabetes increases after age 45. Additional risk factors include being overweight or obese, living a sedentary lifestyle, consuming a poor diet, and having a family history of diabetes.

Seniors are encouraged to assess diabetes risk and take appropriate action. Early detection and treatment can reduce the risk of serious complications, including of the skin, eyes, nerves, kidneys, and heart.

11. Flu and Pneumonia

While anyone can get the flu, seniors are at greater risk of for complications from it related to a weaker immune system that comes with advancing age.

The CDC highly recommends people 65 or older to get the vaccine, along with their respective caregivers, it has been estimated between 54 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred in people aged 65 and older, with an estimated 71 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths!

Seniors exhibit similar flu symptoms as the younger adult population, with mutual symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some individuals may also experience respiratory symptoms even in absence of a fever.

The flu shot and pneumococcal vaccination are two separate shots. So in addition to getting the flu shot, people aged 65 and older should be current with their pneumococcal vaccination(s). Doing so can prevent against forms of pneumococcal disease, including pneumonia, which is a serious flu-related complication that may lead to death.

12. Heart Disease

According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 85.6 million American adults have one or more types of heart disease, which may include high blood pressure and heart attack.

Of the estimated 85.6 million, 43.7 million are estimated to be over 60 years of age. Furthermore, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over the age 65 and about 80 percent of people who die of coronary heart disease are age 65 or older.

There a number of risk factors that can add up to heart disease, though adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle comprised of heart-healthy foods, adequate exercise, stress management, and sleep can deter the risk of heart disease.

13. Shingles

Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is a common senior health condition caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the viral infection can reemerge and trigger a painful, blistering skin rash that can last two to four weeks over even up to years.

The CDC estimates the over 1 million cases of shingles each year, further reporting one out of every three U.S. citizens will get shingles during their lifetime with the risk of contracting it increases as you get older.

The CDC also recommends that healthy adults age 50 years and older receive two doses of a shingles vaccination, which is the only method to reduce shingles risk at this time. 

14. Balance Issues

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), “your sense of balance relies on a series of signals to the brain from several organs and structures in the body, which together are known as the vestibular system.”

The mechanism is quite detailed and convoluted, yet the negotiation of good balance may be related to medications, ear infections, a head injury, low blood pressure, conditions affecting skeletal or visual systems, arthritis, and rising age.

In fact, each year more than two million senior adults go to the emergency room due to a fall-related injury. Even the smallest of falls can result to large injuries, leading to tremendous pain and require extensive recovery.

Although aging is inevitable, poor balance and injury does not necessarily have to be. Practicing these seven balance exercises for seniors, balance can be restored and improved. 

15. Depression

Depression is a mental health disorder described by a persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, which often results to a significant impairment in daily life.

And whereas the signs and symptoms of old age are often physically-focused, we must not discount mental health. In fact, according to Mental Health America, depression affects more than two million of the 34 million U.S. adults aged 65 years and older.

Risk factors for depression are numerable, though it may be triggered by age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and even transitioning into retirement.

Seeking out professional guidance is advised for proper treatment and management of depressive feelings and symptoms.

16. Insomnia

Unlike popular belief, a lesser amount of sleep is not a normal part of aging. In fact, people aged 18 years or older, including those over 60, require seven to nine hours of sleep each night according to the National Sleep Foundation.

And similar to younger adults, seniors still face the repercussions of inadequate and poor sleep, including a greater risk of excessive daytime sleepiness, attention and memory issues, depression, falls and injuries, diabetes, heart disease, overuse of over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids and eventually, a poorer quality of life.

Unfortunately, good sleep does get tougher with age. In fact, approximately 44 percent of seniors report insomnia, or the inability or difficulty of falling asleep or staying asleep, and most start to notice a shift in their sleeping patterns.

Seniors can combat against insomnia by implementing a bedtime schedule, creating a relaxing environment, reducing caffeine intake, and keeping active throughout the day.

17. Malnutrition

Malnutrition is a condition in which the body is not getting, or able to get, enough nutrients. Common symptoms of malnutrition include fatigue, dizziness, and weight loss.

Causes of inadequate nutrients include poor diet, starvation related to inaccessibility to foods, eating disorders, problems with digesting and absorbing nutrients from foods, and medical conditions that may cause a person the inability to eat. When it relates to food access, one in 12 seniors are recognized as food insecure. Also, as people age, the risk of vitamin D and B12 deficiencies are increased.

The pairing of malnutrition and age-related deficiencies can curate additional concerns of bone loss, anemia, muscle weakness, and cognitive decline.