While consistent medical care and check-ups are crucial for long and healthy life, the truth is most people don’t invest in health maintenance until it becomes an undeniable necessity. Is it not true that you’d avoid visiting the doctor till you’ve fallen ill and won’t focus on taking proper care of your body unless there’s a visible or physical manifestation of symptoms?
Most people will spend a lot more time fixing a problem after it has worsened than preventing it in the first place. The importance of preventative healthcare cannot be emphasized enough for people of all ages, but especially for senior individuals.
As you grow older and your body ages, the risk for developing health issues also increases. Diagnosing these problems early on can sometimes prove to be the difference between life and death, especially at an age where you’re susceptible to infections, illnesses, and health disorders of all kinds.
The main objective of preventative health care is to diagnose potential problems before they become life-threatening. Even the smallest of issues—if left unattended at an old age—can cause major problems that may stay with you for the rest of your life and can even shorten your lifespan. Regular check-ups are therefore key to ensuring long-term health.
If you’re going for a general check-up, your healthcare provider may ask for your age, height, weight, medical history, existing health conditions, and a list of current medications you’re on, Health Canada Pharmacy. Whether you’re working with a physician or an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, this basic information is crucial as it allows them to establish a history and plan for future appointments. They know exactly which areas to monitor, what blood-chemical levels to keep in check, and what symptoms to keep an eye out for—allowing them to highlight an issue before it causes any irreversible damage to the body.
While check-ups are important, self-awareness and basic knowledge about your own health are just as crucial.
For your ease, we have also compiled a list of common age-related diseases, the onset of which often goes unnoticed. Being well-informed is key to detecting the symptoms early on and starting treatment as soon as possible, so let’s look!
Common Age-Related Diseases That Can Be Avoided with Preventative Healthcare
High blood pressure is a common issue reported amongst males over the age of 55. A study by Harvard Medical School shows 70% of men in the US above the age of 60 are diagnosed with hypertension. If left untreated, excessive pressure can damage the walls of blood vessels, increasing the risk of dementia, stroke, heart attack, and other cardiac-related issues. Thinned blood vessels can give rise to aneurysms, which are fatal if ruptured. There are no clear symptoms of high blood pressure even when it reaches dangerously high values, however, it can only be easily detected amidst routine appointments and treated accordingly.
- High Cholesterol:
Nearly 50% of the elderly population struggles with high cholesterol levels. The human body’s metabolic rate slows down with increasing age. This means that fats aren’t broken down as effectively in older adults as in younger individuals.
Excessive fat starts to build up and clogs blood vessels and arteries, leading to numerous fatal cardiac issues ranging from stroke to heart attack. Individuals with a family history of high cholesterol are even more susceptible to developing this issue as they age. Your doctor will likely encourage a healthy, heart-friendly lifestyle and prescribe medications if needed—to delay the onset.
A survey conducted by CDC back in 2019 reported that every 1 out of 4 US adults had doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Far more common in women than in men, patients struggling with arthritis deal with the immense pain of swollen joints. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body mistakenly attacks healthy cells leading to inflammation. Arthritis primarily targets the joints of wrists, knees, and hands. If this disorder isn’t diagnosed early on, it can worsen and lead to irreversible tissue damage. It can cause chronic pain, unsteadiness, lack of balance, and deformity within the bones. Therefore, any persistent pain in joints should be addressed and reported to a physician.
In 2020, the World Economic Forum described diabetes as the “silent pandemic,” causing three times more deaths than COVID-19. Of these fatalities, nearly two-thirds were adults over the age of 50. Diabetes is a chronic illness in which the body loses its ability to process blood sugar and supply it to the body’s cells for energy. Consistently high sugar levels within the blood can cause hypertension, aneurysm, dementia, nerve damage leading to a total loss of feeling in body extremities, and irreversible kidney damage.
Initial symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst, hunger, frequent need to urinate, sudden weight loss, blurred vision, frequent infections, and numbness within hands and feet. If you notice any of these signs, visit your doctor at the earliest.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder is a disease that obstructs normal breathing by causing inflammation of the airways within the lungs. It is commonly caused by long-term exposure to harmful gasses, pollution, and cigarette smoke. Symptoms include coughing, obstructive breathing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. COPD is a progressive disease that can start developing years before symptoms become visible. If left unattended and allowed to worsen, COPD can lead to respiratory infections like pneumonia, lung cancer, and pulmonary hypertension. The good news is that it is easily treatable with early detection and timely management.
While obesity itself isn’t an illness or a disease, it is linked to over 20 chronic disorders, most of which are life-threatening. A high BMI is the root cause for:
- Cardiovascular diseases leading to heart attacks and strokes
- High blood pressure leading to nerve and kidney damage
- Musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis and osteoporosis
- And many different types of cancers. Like cancers of breasts, ovaries, prostate, gallbladder, liver, colon, and kidneys
As you age, focusing on a healthy lifestyle becomes even more critical. Eating a balanced diet and keeping your body moving is essential to keep the excess weight off. However, if you notice sudden and unexpected weight gain, it is better to visit a doctor to ensure there aren’t any complex underlying causes.
While aging can be hard, it is inevitable. For the elderly, it is crucial to treat healthcare like a necessity and not a luxury. Investing in your health should be a priority because it is the only requirement of a long and happy life.