The natural progression of aging comes with many additional health worries, such as respiratory disease, obesity, arthritis, and dementia. Thankfully, most of these conditions come with an array of telltale signs which prompt you to seek help faster. But what about those illnesses which aren’t as obvious?
Don’t miss this quick guide to 10 “invisible” senior health issues to watch out for:
1. Heart Disease
As the leading cause of death in America, heart disease warrants the concern. You can take immediate action against this looming fear by visiting the doctor or learning how to test blood pressure and cholesterol at home. It is also highly recommended that everyone quits smoking and that you are familiar with the best procedure in times of a heart attack. Furthermore, remember that moderate exercise, a healthy diet, and the recommended amount of sleep will reduce these risks significantly.
A regular conversation about any peculiar lumps appearing on the body is a good start. However, one should also frequently attend screenings which test for the various manifestations of this disease, including mammograms, colonoscopies, and skin inspections. The earlier the diagnosis, the more treatable it is.
Diabetes is when glucose levels in the blood rise due to an impaired insulin production. This can ultimately lead to damaged vessels and nerves while also causing blindness, kidney failure, and heart disease. There are simple blood tests available to gage these sugar levels, and with an early diagnosis, alterations in the diet can be pursued accordingly.
Nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing a senior fall, but what if caregivers aren’t around when a stumble takes place? Would they tell their loved ones? Truthfully, these accidents are very common with around one in every four American seniors falling each year, which is why an open communication policy is imperative. As with everything, prevention is your best defense, hence why you should scour the home for trip hazards, removing clutter, installing grab bars, purchasing a raised toilet seat, replacing loose mats, and clearing a path from one side of the house to the other.
A dip in your loved one’s mental and emotional health can stem from multiple sources, most common of which include loneliness, isolation, or a frustration due to diminishing mobility. According to the Center for Suicide Prevention, people aged 65 and older have a higher suicide rate than any other group, which is why you must initiate the discussion and look out for the warning signs (such as lack of motivation, disinterest in social events, or a fixation on death).
6. Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is often an overlooked issue for the elderly, but some reports state that up to 2.5 million older adults are currently suffering from this problem. The reasons why a senior may turn to drugs or alcohol are varied, for example, the loss of a loved one, an attempt to quieten their depression, or even an already existing problem which has escalated in later years. Said intoxication is even more detrimental to an aging body, especially in regards to balance and the effects of other medication. Ask your loved one if they think they may have a problem, and keep an eye on any behavioral changes.
A nutritious diet is essential for everyone’s immune system to function at its peak. Malnutrition is a particularly significant concern for seniors, as they generally need this immune protection much more than the younger generations. Elderly malnutrition may derive from a loss in motivation, not enough social contact, or a lack of funds. If you are a concerned friend or family member, contact local nonprofits to connect your loved one to meal delivery services for seniors.
8. Oral Health
While a few lost teeth are nothing new for an older body, an overall oral upkeep should still come into serious consideration. Many seniors suffer from a dryer mouth and this can lead to cavities, tooth decay, and severe gum infections. Emphasize the importance of adequate hygiene, look over their diet for any problematic items (such as candy, coffee, or alcohol) and enforce annual dental checkups.
9. Bladder Control and Constipation
Incontinence and constipation are so common among the older generations that people tend to accept them as normal parts of aging. However, this (often embarrassing) condition can affect the quality of a person’s entire life. Approach the topic with sensitivity and suggest pelvic floor exercises, weight loss, or a visit to their medical professional.
10. Sexually Transmitted Infections
A drop in the libido is not unusual for seniors, but sexual desires can still run strong throughout the retirement community. This is perfectly normal and healthy. However, with the current rise in pharmaceutical assistance and divorce rates, older adults are more sexually active than ever which means a faster spread of infections. In fact, 45% of HIV-positive Americans are reportedly aged 50 and over. Have the awkward conversation about sexual protection, ask your loved ones to get tested regularly, and keep an eye on any weight loss, fatigue, or new rashes.