Aging is a natural part of life, and it brings about a series of changes in our bodies. For instance, as we grow older, our organs tend to work a bit more slowly. Our skin might show signs of aging, like wrinkles and less elasticity, and our hair may turn gray.
In addition to these physical changes, some common health issues like osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, joint pain, and hearing loss can become more common as we age.
The good news is that by adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can reduce the chances of facing these age-related health problems. In this article, we’ll discuss the most common diseases associated with aging and share some practical tips on how to lower your risk of developing them.
Common Diseases Associated With Aging
The prevalence of diseases associated with aging may vary among the older population. For instance, physically active individuals are less likely to experience health problems associated with aging compared to inactive individuals, who may experience several chronic conditions at the same time.
Here are eight common diseases you may face as you get older:
1. Cardiovascular Diseases (Heart Diseases)
Cardiovascular or heart disease remains the number one common cause of older adult deaths in the United States. According to a CDC report, around 695,000 people (including adults over 65 years of age) in the United States died from heart disease yearly.
With age, your arteries and large blood vessels that carry blood to your heart or the rest of the body become stiffer and less elastic. This requires the heart to work harder to pump blood through them. When your heart muscle is stressed chronically, it can eventually fail, leading to heart failure. When this happens, your heart is no longer able to pump adequately to provide necessary blood flow to the rest of your body, which can eventually lead to organ dysfunction.
Another common cause of heart failure is coronary artery disease (CAD), which occurs due to the blockage of the main blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. Due to inadequate oxygen delivery, the heart function becomes compromised. In fact, about 2 in 10 deaths from CAD occurred in adults less than 65 years of age in 2021, according to CDC statistics.
Tips to minimize the risk: A well-balanced, healthy diet (low in salt and saturated fats) and regular exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Osteoarthritis is the second most common disease associated with aging and the fourth leading cause of disability in the world. Osteoarthritis is a wear-and-tear disease that results in the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the end of the bone. This chronic condition causes joint pain, swelling, and stiffness and is more common in older people. According to CDC statistics, nearly half of seniors (aged 65 and older) are diagnosed with this joint disease.
Osteoarthritis is more prevalent in women (older than 55 years old) than men. Certain metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity are risk factors that can increase your risk for osteoarthritis.
Tips to minimize the risk: A healthy lifestyle (e.g., eating a well-balanced diet, staying physically active, and maintaining a healthy body weight) can help reduce the chances of osteoarthritis in later life.
The risk of getting osteoporosis (also known as brittle bone disease) also increases with age. This disease causes your bones to become weak and more prone to fracture.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, around 10 million Americans aged 50 or older are affected by osteoporosis, and out of them, 80% are women. Osteoporosis increases the risks of fractures or falls, leading to severe disabilities in older people, such as loss of mobility, loss of independence, and impaired quality of life.
Tips to minimize the risk: A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, weight-bearing exercise, and decreased intake of tobacco and alcohol consumption can help prevent osteoporosis.
4. Type II Diabetes
The risk of Type II diabetes increases if an individual is above 45 years old and obese. Type II diabetes occurs due to a high blood sugar level, and your body becomes resistant to insulin — a hormone produced by your pancreas that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood.
The American Diabetes Association reported that about 29.2% (15.9 million) of the U.S. population aged 65 or older have diabetes, and the prevalence of diabetes will double over the next 20 years due to the aging population.
Diabetes is also a risk factor for other serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, eye and nerve damage, as well as kidney failure if not controlled in time.
Risk factors for diabetes include obesity, inactivity, family history, and poor diet.
Tips to minimize the risk: A well-balanced diet, staying physically active, and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of getting diabetes.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the older population. Though cancer can develop at any stage, the risk of cancer increases exponentially in old age. Research has found that people aged 65 and above are 11 times more likely to develop cancer compared to younger people.
Some common cancers that usually occur in old age include breast, colon, skin, lung, prostate, and bladder cancer.
Tips to minimize the risk: A healthy lifestyle (i.e., proper nutrition rich in fiber, low tobacco and alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and protecting yourself from the sun) can help to prevent the risk of cancer. It is also important to be proactive in getting age-appropriate cancer screenings with your doctor.
6. Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a major health problem associated with aging. With age, the blood vessels change and get stiffer and less elastic. This causes the blood pressure to go up.
Hypertension is also a leading cause of other chronic conditions such as heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, vascular dementia, and eye problems.
According to research, over 90% of people who do not have hypertension by the age of 55 will develop it at some point during the rest of their life. Moreover, the likelihood of developing hypertension is greater in women, particularly after menopause.
Tips to minimize the risk: A healthy diet low in saturated fats and sodium and moderate exercise can help lower the risk of hypertension. Maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise are also important.
7. Age-related Hearing Loss (Presbycusis)
The ability to hear declines gradually as you enter your 60s. Age-related hearing loss is a common problem among older people.
In fact, about 25% of people between age 65 and 74, and 50% of people older than 75 have hearing loss in the United States.
Tips to minimize the risk: Stay away from continuous loud noise and use earplugs or earmuffs to help safeguard your hearing as you age.
8. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Aging is the major risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and is most common in people over 65 years of age. This is an inflammatory condition that causes restricted airflow and breathing problems like asthma. Symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, and sometimes chest tightness. The main cause of COPD is tobacco use.
Tips to minimize the risk: Avoid smoking and make sure you have less exposure to industrial pollution. This will help lower your risk of getting COPD.
In summary, you may experience age-related health problems as you grow older. However, some proactive measures, such as eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet, maintaining weight, and exercising regularly, can substantially reduce your risks of facing these age-related diseases.
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