As people grow older, their bodies become increasingly vulnerable to a number of age-related conditions. As a health professional, it's important to educate older patients on these illnesses to help them lower their risk.
There are a few diseases that affect the elderly most frequently, including chronic lower respiratory diseases, arthritis, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. For many of these diseases, maintaining an active lifestyle and a nutritious diet can significantly reduce people's chances of experiencing them.
Inform seniors of the symptoms and causes of these five prevalent diseases among the elderly.
1. Heart disease
The American Heart Association noted that heart disease is the leading cause of death among adults aged 65 or older. In 2013, more than 83.6 million adults had one or more types of cardiovascular disease. As high blood pressure and high cholesterol are two of the biggest risk factors for heart disease and often aren't associated with any symptoms, it's crucial that seniors undergo blood tests to have these health factors examined. Staying physically active and eating a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables and lean meats will help older patients reduce the likelihood of developing a heart condition.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 1 in 4 adults over 60 in the U.S. has diabetes. The disease is a serious health threat to seniors, causing thousands of deaths each year. However, the good news is that diabetes can easily be identified with the proper blood tests. While Type 1 diabetes is an unavoidable, hereditary disease, the majority of adults with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, which can be controlled and prevented with a healthy lifestyle. Checking patients' blood sugar levels and alerting them to the symptoms and preventative measures against Type 2 diabetes will work to reduce the impact the disease has on the elderly population.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease results after the airways of the lungs become damaged. The condition is progressive, making it harder for patients to breathe as it worsens. The National Institutes of Health explained that COPD is responsible for an estimated 120,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. As the disease develops over time, it's essential to keep an eye out for symptoms, such as chronic coughing and wheezing. Encourage seniors to quit smoking, as the condition is more common in those who smoke. Influenza can also cause complications in people with COPD, exacerbating the symptoms. Make sure your older patients are getting their flu shots and taking precautions against the illness, such as washing their hands regularly.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pointed out that 52.5 million adults throughout the country currently experience some form of arthritis. Remind seniors that their chances of developing the condition increases as they age. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, followed by rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Emphasize the importance of seeking medical attention if adults experience chronic joint pain, swelling or stiffness. There are exercises, stretches and diet recommendations that can help adults lower their risk of joint pain and inflammation or prevent existing pain from getting worse.
Lung function tests can help protect seniors from developing respiratory diseases like pneumonia. Chronic coughing and fatigue are two of the most common symptoms of pneumonia. While most younger patients who are treated for the condition recover after a few days, elderly patients are at a higher risk of developing severe pneumonia - which can be fatal - due to their weakened immune systems. Encourage older patients to get the pneumonia vaccine, which protects adults from the most common bacterial cause of the condition. Similar to COPD, many cases of pneumonia can also be avoided if people protect themselves from the flu, which often leads to pneumonia.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living