Health concerns in your 60s and older

Friday, 20 January, 2017

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The risk for certain medical conditions including heart attack, stroke, dementia, diabetes, lung disease, chronic pain, some types of cancer and other health concerns increases with age. However, healthy lifestyle choices can help reduce your risk for many of these issues.

Here are some other common problems that can develop, even in relatively-healthy seniors:

Balance Disorders
Many older people experience problems with balance and dizziness (vertigo). There are many different causes for balance disorders, so contact your health care provider if you feel unsteady or dizzy.

Falls and fall-related injuries (including hip fractures) are serious concerns that can have a significant impact on your life and your ability to live independently. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of adults 65 years of age and older fall each year, and falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in seniors.

Memory Problems
It's important to know: While some degree of forgetfulness is normal with age, significant memory loss or cognitive decline is not an inevitable part of normal aging. If you experience mental lapses that interfere with daily life, contact your health care provider. Serious memory problems or a decrease in cognitive function may be caused by a treatable, underlying condition - such as dehydration, malnutrition or sleep deprivation or a medical problem like Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

If you're having trouble maintaining a healthy diet, talk to your health care provider. Many communities have programs that provide healthy meals to seniors.

Changes in digestion also increase choking and food-borne illness risk in older adults. As you age, your body produces less saliva and stomach acid and your digestion slows down. These changes make it easier to choke on foods and make it harder to get rid of harmful bacteria in your system. Also, changes in smell and taste may impair your ability to know when a food is spoiled.

Slower digestion also can cause constipation. Make sure to get enough fiber found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet.

Lack of Exercise
Exercise is an important part of a good health at every age; however, many older adults don't get the recommended amounts of physical activity. Staying active can boost vitality, help maintain strength and flexibility, improve mental function, reduce your risk for health problems, and even help relieve chronic pain. Be sure to talk to your health care provider before beginning an exercise program.

Find an activity you enjoy and begin slowly. Try to incorporate endurance activities, strengthening exercises, stretching and balancing exercises into your exercise program. Good choices include walking, swimming, biking, gardening, tai chi and exercise classes designed for seniors.

Trouble Sleeping
Many older adults do not get enough sleep. Insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep) and excessive daytime sleepiness are common problems. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, enlarged prostate), which affects as many as 90 percent of men in their 70s and 80s, can cause frequent nighttime urination that disrupts sleep.

If you're having problems sleeping, talk to your health care provider. These good sleep hygiene tips might be helpful:

  • Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet and that it's not too warm.
  • Adjust your bedtimes. Go to bed when you feel tired and get up at the same time each day.
  • Turn off the TV at least one hour before going to bed.
  • Wind down before bed by taking a bath or listening to soft music.