As we age, we become more susceptible to illness and disease due to our weakening bodies and immune systems. Interestingly, people are living longer today than ever before. Retirement is no longer the standard 65 years of age, as the data from the CDC shows people are living 19 years beyond 65 on average. That is six years longer than the average life expectancy in 1950.
That said, there are many years beyond retirement that are essential to maintaining good health so you can enjoy your golden years. Understanding the most common illnesses that seniors face and what you can do to keep them at bay will give you a long, healthy, and active life beyond retirement.
The most common ailment as we get older is arthritis, which can begin as early as our twenties. There are two main types of arthritis: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid. Both can be debilitating, though they are very different. Osteoarthritis is when the cartilage between joints breaks down and causes pain and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that targets the lining of joints causing them to swell.
With over 200 types of arthritis and half of them caused by genetics, you can’t always prevent the inevitable. However, you can delay the onset and manage the symptoms mitigating how it affects your day to day life. Both common types of arthritis cause pain enough to inhibit activity levels, so what can you do to keep these issues at bay?
One of the main contributing factors to osteoarthritis is obesity. It is essential to maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet, and take vitamins. One of the most effective natural resources is omega-3 fatty acids. These supplements block inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins, which are then converted by the body into powerful anti-inflammatory chemicals called resolvins.
EPA and DHA have been extensively studied for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory health issues. In 2010, a meta-analysis found that fish oil significantly decreased joint tenderness and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis patients, and reduced or eliminated the need to take pain management medication such as acetaminophen.
Once you are diagnosed with arthritis, it is important to treat it and not ignore it, so you can keep your social calendar active. With so many varieties of arthritis caused by genetics, sports injuries, viruses, and many other factors, there isn’t just one simple treatment. However, a combination of physical therapy exercises, medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and cold packs can help you keep the pain levels down.
The leading killer of adults over the age of 65 is by far heart disease. According to the CDC, it claimed 488,156 lives in 2013. Affecting more men than women, it is still common in all of the human race. Risks become greater as we age because of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and being overweight. The best way to prevent heart disease is to eat healthfully, exercise often, and manage stress levels before they get out of hand.
Some types of exercises have proven to be excellent for the body and the mind, such as tai chi and yoga. The meditative properties of these exercises allow the mind to manage stress better and keep our bodies limber and in great condition. Also, these exercises can be done at pretty much any age, so even if you are over 65 and facing health issues, taking up a yoga class could save your life.
Influenza and Pneumonia
Aging causes our immune system to weaken and leaves you susceptible to more infections. A common cold can turn into pneumonia if it isn’t treated properly from the onset. In seniors over 65, pneumonia can be a deadly prognosis, as the lungs aren’t as strong as they once were and can fill up with fluids more quickly. While you may not be able to prevent a case of the flu, you can certainly try many things to keep the worst of it away.
Obviously, exercise and diet play a big factor in keeping your immune system as strong as possible. Also, sleeping between 7-8 hours per night will allow for healing as you rest. There are vaccine shots for flu and pneumonia that are either free or at very low cost, and which are recommended for anyone over 65.
Always wash your hands when you come in contact with public areas and other people. While this may seem like a simple gesture, frequent handwashing can make a huge difference in maintaining good health.
If you do come down with something that seems to be more than just the usual cold, see a doctor immediately before it gets worse so you can nip it before it explodes. There is nothing worse than waiting too long to see the doctor and causing yourself unnecessary pain and out-of-pocket medical costs. Prevention and early treatment are the best ways to stay healthy as you age.
When you are faced with a diagnosis of something that may be long term, it can be helpful to think about treatment plans that include having in-home care. This will alleviate some of the stress on your family and give you someone to help you recover back to your old self.
There are so many more diseases and illnesses facing seniors today, from diabetes to cancer, and many more. The common denominator for all of them is to take care of yourself through healthy living, and you will have many more years to enjoy with your loved ones.