Growing older is a privilege not all people are lucky enough to experience and with it comes many benefits: you have a lot of life experience that you can share with younger generations, you may have a strong network of close family and friends to rely upon, and you might be financially secure enough to own your own home and enjoy a comfortable retirement. However, aging also brings with it the gradual wearing out of your body, both physically and mentally, and as such you are likely to experience various health conditions commonly found in older bodies. To help you out, here are six age-related conditions to watch out for.
Cataracts are most commonly found in people over the age of 65, and it is predicted that most people will experience this condition if they live long enough. A cataract is the clouding of the lens in your eye. Symptoms most commonly included blurred and misty vision, difficulty with seeing in very bright or very dim light, double vision, the appearance of haloes of light around bright lights such as car headlights, and colors appearing faded. As the condition is not painful, cataracts can develop over several years before you notice any significant changes to your vision. Due to this, it is important to ensure that you keep up with regular eye tests; your optician will be able to spot a cataract in its early stages and prescribe you stronger glasses to help with your vision. Eventually, the cataract will ripen to a point where the affected lens can be surgically removed and replaced with a synthetic lens, after which most patients experience vastly improved eyesight.
Dementia is not a single condition; rather, it is a term used to refer to a number of progressive conditions that affect the brain. There are over 200 types of dementia, but the most common types found in people aged over 65 are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Dementia symptoms often include memory difficulties that start off relatively mild, (for instance, difficulty in remembering recent events or repeating conversations), and a marked change in personality and behavior (a person who is usually mild-mannered behaving uncharacteristically aggressively, for example). A person with dementia can be helped to live as independently as possible in their own home through the use of tools such as notes and labels. However, there will come a point where the person will have to receive dementia care at a specialist residential facility that is staffed by healthcare professionals who specialize in caring for those with dementia.
Hearing loss commonly affects older people due to wear and tear to the hair cells in the inner ear; however, this condition can be exacerbated by factors such as regular unprotected exposure to loud noise, a family history of hearing loss, and a history of middle ear infections. Hearing loss can be gradual and you might initially experience it as needing to turn up the TV volume or difficulty in following a conversation in a crowd, for example. If you notice any changes in your hearing, contact your physician for a hearing test that will establish the level of your hearing loss. You might benefit from wearing a hearing aid. Though these will not fully restore your hearing, they work to make sounds louder and clearer and can distinguish between foreground noise – the conversation you are trying to follow – and background noise – other conversations and banging plates in a busy restaurant, for instance.
Osteoporosis is a progressive condition that causes fragile bones that are particularly vulnerable to breaks. It is a condition commonly found in older people, as the cells that replace old bone do not work as efficiently as you age, leading to a loss of bone tissue and therefore weaker bones. Women are particularly susceptible, due to the reduction in the bone protecting hormone estrogen following menopause prompting rapid bone tissue loss. Unfortunately, as osteoporosis has no symptoms you might be unaware that you have the condition until you break or fracture a bone. However, there are certain preventative measures you can take to look after your bones. Eat foods that are rich in calcium such as dairy products and leafy green vegetables, as this mineral is essential for strong bones. Also, ensure that you regularly carry out weight-bearing exercises and strength training such as aerobics or using elastic resistance bands.
Incontinence is the inability to control your bladder or bowel. It is a condition caused by weak pelvic floor or bowel muscles, changes in the nerves controlling the bladder or the bowel, an overactive bladder, diarrhea, or an enlarged prostate. Many people are reluctant to talk about incontinence and see it as a deeply embarrassing condition. They might even begin to avoid going out, which could eventually lead to increased anxiety and a feeling of loneliness and isolation. However, with the advice of a healthcare professional, incontinence can easily be managed and treated. Pelvic floor and bowel exercises can help to strengthen the muscles controlling these areas, and disposable pads and bed and chair protectors will give you the confidence to socialize without the fear of being caught short.
Older people are just as susceptible to depression as those who are younger. It is a condition that might be triggered by certain age-related situations such as the death of a loved one or close friend and the subsequent feeling of isolation, or a battle with a disability or poor health. Older people might experience more physical symptoms of depression, such as weight loss, tiredness, or difficulty sleeping. If you have experienced these symptoms for two to four weeks or longer, don’t simply disregard them. A healthcare professional will be able to help you with either talking therapy or antidepressants, to ensure that you are as healthy and happy as possible in your old age. Seeking help is an incredible first step to feeling better.