Aging. It happens to us all, if we are lucky enough I suppose. The effects of aging are unavoidable. So, it is in our best interest to confront our aging bodies and educate ourselves about the changes that occur.
While there is nothing we can do to stop aging, in and of itself, there are measures we can take to minimize damage and live long, fulfilling, enjoyable lives. Isn’t that what we all want?
So, here is a list of the most common illnesses related to aging with their causes and ways to minimize risk and prevent or mitigate progression.
Osteoarthritis is a disorder of the joints caused by wear and tear. Although not life threatening, this very common illness of aging can cause disability and greatly decrease independence and quality of life.
The symptoms of osteoarthritis are joint pain and possibly joint swelling and poor mobility. Individuals who are more prone to develop osteoarthritis are people that are genetically predisposed, obese, or have had injuries to their joints.
Prevention of developing and decreasing the progression of osteoarthritis may be achieved by obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding high impact activities, and evading joint injury.
The downside of only participating in low impact exercise is that it actually increases your risk of osteoporosis, which is also related to age. So, as with most all things in life, there are no sure things, and it is all about lifestyle balance.
Once osteoarthritis develops, it is treated with pain medication, weight management and physical and/or occupational therapy.
Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaques in arteries. This narrows the arteries, decreasing or eliminating blood flow to affected areas of the body. Atherosclerosis causes coronary artery disease, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, and kidney failure.
Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in the United States as blood clots get stuck in narrowed arteries and cause heart attacks. Strokes also can be deadly, and they are the leading cause of serious long-term disability in the United States. So, atherosclerosis is a very dangerous and prevalent illness associated with aging.
Many of the risk factors of atherosclerosis are also diseases related to age, such as hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Atherosclerosis is caused by damaging the walls of the arteries.
Hypertension is high blood pressure. This high-pressured blood going through the arteries damages the walls and allows material to deposit on them.
In type 2 diabetes, the body is not sensitive to insulin. This insulin insensitivity causes the cells in the blood vessels to release material that damages the inner arterial walls.
In addition, nitrous oxide is important in keeping blood cells flowing and away from arterial walls. Insulin helps produce nitrous oxide, and of course insulin insensitivity of diabetes decreases nitrous oxide. Cholesterol is a major substance also contributing to blocking arteries.
The good news is there are ways of preventing or at least decreasing the severity of atherosclerosis. See your doctor regularly to monitor for development of hypertension, diabetes, or high cholesterol.
If you do develop one of these conditions, follow your doctor’s instructions and be vigilant about taking prescribed medications to keep it under control. Don’t smoke and do maintain a healthy diet and weight.
Cancer is abnormal cell growth that invades, or has the potential of invading, other parts of the body. Because most cells of the body are capable of becoming cancerous, the symptoms vary greatly with any part of the body that is affected. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in people over 65 years old.
Many cancers can be treated if caught early enough. So, utilize screening tests such as mammograms, pap smears, and colonoscopies.
There are many substances that may cause cancer. Educating yourself as to what things are carcinogenic and avoiding them is helpful for decreasing your risk. Smoking, excessive alcohol intake, low fiber diet and sun exposure are common causes of certain cancers.
Dementia is the loss of brain functioning. It includes symptoms of memory loss, confusion, mood changes, and poor judgement.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Other forms of dementia include Parkinson’s, Vascular, Lewy body, and Huntington’s. The progression of some of these diseases can be mitigated with medication.
For more information on Alzheimer’s please see Understanding and dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease.
For more information on Parkinson’s Disease please see Sixty and Me’s Parkinson’s Disease Guide / Resources.
As per its name, COPD is obstruction of the airways in the small parts of the lung called bronchi or bronchioles. There are different types of COPD but regardless of the type, it makes it difficult to breathe. Respiratory disorders are the third most common cause of death in the elderly.
Various airborne irritants may cause COPD but by far, the most common cause of COPD is smoking. There is no cure for COPD but there are many different medications that can make a significant difference in longevity and quality of life.
Certainly, there is nothing we can do to stop our bodies from aging. Yet, as you see, there are many ways to prevent and/or treat the top 5 illnesses related to age. Such measures can make life longer and more active and enjoyable.
Are you concerned about developing any of these diseases? Are you already dealing with many of these disorders? If so, what have you found the most useful at improving your quality of life with any of these diseases? Please share.