Getting older can seem like a daunting process for many. Indeed, aging brings on a whole range of health complications that can make even the simplest of tasks feel difficult and strenuous.
The good news is that America is experiencing a surge in its senior population, thanks to the giant headway it’s made in terms of medicine and nutrition. Data suggests that if you can make it to 65, you can easily be expected to live for an average of 19.3 years.1
The bad news is that those common health problems associated with aging are going to continue to persist. This means that for many, a large part of senior living is going to be spent carefully managing chronic conditions and diseases to stay healthy.
We have another suggestion. Why not just stay informed about common conditions to watch out for post your 40s and their symptoms? That way you can start taking the necessary steps to prevent them way before they encroach upon your health! Here are 4 of the most common health problems to watch out for and what you can do to fix them.
Arthritis is one of the most common conditions that affect people once they age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis affects 49.7 percent of all adults aged 65 and above.
What it is: Arthritis occurs when a joint loses its fluid content and cartilage, causing the bones to scrape hard against each other, thus creating pain.
Symptoms: Symptoms of early arthritis include joint pain (especially in the fingers, hands, back, knees, ankles, and neck), muscle weakness, fatigue, decreased range of motion, joint swelling, physical deformity, and redness.
Prevent it: It’s a well-known fact that your body needs adequate vitamin D to keep your bones healthy. Food, sunlight, and supplements are three ways in which you can manage your vitamin D levels. Unfortunately, as you age, your skin loses its ability to produce vitamin D from sun exposure. Therefore, it is advisable to ensure you take a vitamin D supplement along with vitamin D-rich food to make up for this lost amount.
Fix it: It is natural to not want to move much when you have arthritis. However, staying active along with proper medication is the best way to treat this disease. Work with your doctor to have a personalized activity plan drawn up for you and try and stick to that plan as much as possible.
Obesity is common health condition that increases the risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer – chronic conditions that can heavily impact the quality of your life. The heavier you weigh, the higher the risk of these diseases.
What it is: Obesity is a condition when a person’s body accumulates so much fat, it starts to impact his health in a variety of ways. Hormonal decline, stress, and lack of exercise are the main reasons why people tend to pack on more pounds than usual once they cross 40. Women in perimenopause and menopause tend to gain fat around their waist and hips, while men gain the typical “pot belly” by putting on weight around the stomach.
Symptoms: A waist measurement of more than 40 inches in men and more than 35 inches in women, high triglyceride levels, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar are usually the most common symptoms of obesity.
Prevent it: Exercising consistently and following a healthy diet that’s high in fiber and low in sugar are two best ways to prevent obesity.
Fix it: Once again, following a healthy diet and following an exercise routine every day can keep your obesity under check.
Avoid drinking too much alcohol, as the calories will go straight to waist and gut and settle there. Eating foods that are high in fiber will help keep your metabolism active while keeping you full for longer so you don’t feel the need to snack in between. You can also eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These will help keep your cholesterol levels under control and contribute to excellent heart health.
When it comes to exercise, you don’t have to choose one that’s too heavy or vigorous, but it has to be something you can follow consistently. Therefore, try finding an activity you enjoy and would look forward to doing every day.
3. Alzheimer’s Disease
One in nine people aged 65 and above (which is roughly 11 percent) have Alzheimer’s disease.2 Because diagnosing this disease is so tough, researchers find it difficult to know exactly how many people have this chronic condition.
What it is: Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It progressively destroys memory and essential cognitive functions of the brain by causing the brain cells to degenerate and die.
Symptoms: Alzheimer’s disease usually starts with the person experiencing mild confusion and forgetfulness. He will also find it difficult to multitask or make important judgment-based decisions. But as the disease becomes more chronic, it can result in the person being unable to remember his own name, or the people important to him and may even undergo dramatic personality changes.
Prevent it: The same blood vessels that travel to your heart, branch off and find their way to the brain. Thus by adopting a lifestyle that keeps your heart healthy will also protect your brain. Exercise religiously, and eat a healthy diet that’s low in saturated fats and sugar. This will also help keep your diabetes and blood pressure under control if you have these health conditions. You will also want to quit bad habits like smoking, and while there is mixed evidence regarding alcohol intake, it is best to keep it to a minimum as much as possible.
Being mentally active is just as important as being physically active, so do things that will make you think. Read regularly and stay up to date with the news, engage in conversations and do plenty of puzzles that will help enhance your thinking and memory skills.
You may also want to ensure you get quality sleep so that your brain can flush out harmful toxins. Otherwise, these may accumulate over time and form tangles and plaques, thus interfering in the communication between neurons in the brain and worsening your thinking skills. Sleep is also extremely important for memory formation and consolidation.3 Therefore getting 7-8 hours of restful shut-eye could be very beneficial in preventing Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.
Fix it: Today, Alzheimer’s disease medications and management strategies have proven to temporarily improve symptoms of the disease. They can often help people maximize their brain function and lead a fairly independent lifestyle for a longer time. However, there is really no way to reverse Alzheimer’s disease completely. This is why it is very important to not ignore the symptoms and seek help as soon as possible.
4. Heart Disease
Heart disease is one of the leading killer diseases of adults over the age of 65, claiming 610,000 lives in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.4 That roughly comes up to 1 in every 4 deaths. The incidence of this disease only increases as you age as people are more likely to fall prey to common risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
What it is: Heart disease is really an umbrella term for any kind of health condition that affects the heart adversely. Common examples of heart diseases are angina pectoris – where a certain area of the heart muscle is starved of oxygen, arrhythmia – which means irregular heartbeat, and coronary artery disease – where the heart’s coronary arteries get damaged due to plaque formation.
Symptoms: Symptoms of heart disease vary according to the disease you have. So for instance, for angina pectoris, the symptoms may be shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness or pain or numbness in affected parts of your body. If you have arrhythmia, common symptoms would include dizziness, fainting, and abnormal heartbeat. If your heart disease is caused by certain defects in the heart, the symptoms may involve a slightly blue or grey tone in your skin, or a swelling in the legs, abdomen, and under the eyes.
Prevent it: Unfortunately, certain types of heart disease like heart defects can’t be prevented. However, you can still bring down your risk of other heart diseases by making some positive lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, avoiding drinking too much, avoiding putting yourself in stressful situations, eating a diet that’s high in fiber and unsaturated fats, and exercising every day to work your heart muscles.
Fix it: Once again, while you can’t reverse certain types of heart disease, it is still highly possible to take certain measures that will stop your heart from failing you constantly. For instance, if you have high blood pressure, bring it under control immediately by reducing your sodium intake and eating plenty of fiber-rich foods. If you have bad habits like drinking or smoking too much, now is the time to stop. Additionally, exercising every day will not just keep you from getting overweight, but will also help keep your heart muscles super strong by forcing them to circulate blood through your body.
|↑1||Mortality in the United States, 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s Association.|
|↑3||Can getting quality sleep help prevent Alzheimer’s disease? Harvard Medical School.|
|↑4||Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|