As an older adult, you may face a variety of senior health issues. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones for people age 65 and older:

1. Respiratory Illnesses

A respiratory illness is any of the diseases and disorders involving the airways and lungs, and they are the third most common cause of death. They can encompass a wide range of disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Prevention:

  • Avoid or stop smoking, including second-hand smoke
  • Engage in regular exercise
  • Get regular respiratory screenings
  • Stay hydrated

2. Cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death for seniors. With age, women’s chances increase for cervical, endometrial and breast cancer, and men have a higher risk for prostate cancer. Early screenings are a must to catch cancers when they are more treatable. They include:

  • Mammograms
  • Colonoscopies
  • Skin checks

Prevention: 

  • Avoid tobacco, including second-hand smoke
  • Protect your skin from UV rays
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight

The CDC also recommends getting tested for Hepatitis C, an inflammation of the liver which can cause cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer.

3. Heart Disease

This is the leading cause of death of seniors, and is one of a number of cardiovascular diseases, such as:

  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmia
  • Heart valve problems

Prevention:

  • Choose healthy foods and drinks
  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Don’t smoke
  • Regularly check cholesterol
  • Control blood pressure
  • Manage diabetes

4. Diabetes

Twenty-five percent of people 65 and older are living with diabetes.

A warning sign called pre-diabetes occurs when you have a higher-than-normal blood sugar level, though not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes. However, without lifestyle changes, type 2 diabetes can develop, and it occurs most often in middle-aged and older adults.

The list of senior health issues associated with diabetes is long, and includes loss of vision, kidney disease, nerve damage and amputations.

Signs of pre-diabetes include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Excess hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision

Prevention:

  • Maintain healthy weight.
  • Avoid red and processed meat, and sugar-sweetened foods and drinks. Consume foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, whole grains, and olive oil.
  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week
  • Do not smoke
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure

Diabetes also links to cardiovascular diseases as it is associated with the following health issues:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke

5. Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth-leading cause of death for people 65 and older, and is the second biggest health fear for seniors after cancer.

Alzheimer’s disease results in progressive memory loss and difficulties thinking and problem solving. The disease progresses to  more serious symptoms, including difficulty communicating, issues with swallowing, becoming disoriented, and displaying personality changes such as aggression, anxiety or hostility. It eventually ends in death.

There is no curative treatment, and nothing has been conclusively proven to prevent Alzheimer’s, though many possibilities are being explored including:

  • Staying physically active
  • Cognitive training
  • Healthy diet
  • The development of new medications

Also, recent research has revealed individuals with high blood pressure diagnosed between 35 to 44 years of age have a higher risk for dementia.

According to the National Institute on Aging, “Alzheimer’s is complex, and the best strategy to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s, may turn out to be a combination of preventative measures.”

Discover more Health & Wellness topics on Bethesda’s blog.