Age-related diseases are conditions and illnesses that occur frequently as people get older. Chronic disease can affect a person at any stage of their life, although, the chance of developing certain chronic diseases increase as we age. Typically, chronic diseases lead to other health issues and are not cured completely. Some are life-threatening including a heart attack or stroke. A few of the most common chronic diseases in older people are:
- Mental health disorders
- Coronary heart disease
- Chronic kidney disease
This article will explain the top 8 age-related chronic medical conditions and how to prevent them.
The number one killer in the United States and the leading cause of death in many countries is heart disease. It’s related to a process called atherosclerosis which is a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the artery walls. The plaque narrows the arteries making it difficult for blood to flow to the heart. Obstructions develop over time and lead to a heart attack or stroke. Adults with high LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, or who smoke have a higher risk of developing heart disease. Several other medical and lifestyle factors increase your risk including:
- Excessive alcohol use
- Physical inactivity
- Poor diet
There are several things you can do to decrease your risk of developing heart disease. High blood pressure is a huge risk factor, so it’s vital you keep your blood pressure under control. Has it checked regularly with your doctor at least once a year? Medication and lifestyle changes can help lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels. Maintaining a healthy weight will lower your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Eating a healthy diet that limits saturated fats, salt, and added sugars can help lower your risk of heart disease. Regular exercise will strengthen the heart muscle and improve blood circulation. Cigarette smoking raises your blood pressure and increases your risk for a heart attack or stroke. Quitting will decrease your risk of developing heart disease.
Cerebrovascular Disease (Strokes)
A stroke occurs when blood stops flowing in an area of the brain due to a blockage in one of the blood vessels. When brain cells are deprived of oxygen in the blood, they begin to die rapidly. The most common type of stroke is called an ischemic stroke that occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel. The second is a hemorrhagic stroke that’s caused by a ruptured blood vessel. Depending on the severity of the rupture or blockage, strokes can cause severe disability or death. Age makes individuals more susceptible to having a stroke.
There are many ways you can lower your risk of having a stroke, starting with reducing your blood pressure. Eat 4-5 cups of fresh fruit and vegetables per day, exercise regularly, and limit your alcohol intake. If you have atrial fibrillation, get it treated immediately. Afib causes clots to form in the heart then travel to the brain causing a stroke.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Blood pressure tends to rise generally with age. Chronically elevated blood pressure leads to serious problems for your kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and other systems in the body. Blood pressure is defined as the force of your blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels. When it is consistently too high, it will result in hypertension. Your organs and tissues need oxygenated blood carried throughout your body to function properly and survive. Each time the heart beats, it pushes blood through the arteries, capillaries, and veins. When the force of the blood pressure is too high, it causes harm by increasing the workload of the blood vessels and heart. Over time, the force damages tissues inside the arteries. This damage can lead to heart arrhythmia, stroke, or heart attack. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a low sodium diet, limiting alcohol, managing stress, and quitting smoking are all ways you can prevent high blood pressure.
Cancer is a result of abnormal cells growing uncontrollably as we age. The American Cancer Society claims that cancer affects 77% of adults over the age of 55. The most common types of age-related cancers are breast, skin, colorectal, bladder, prostate, lung, lymphoma, and stomach cancers. Certain types of cancers are genetic, and others are caused by leading an unhealthy lifestyle.
Cancer prevention is always evolving. However, there are lifestyle changes that make a difference. Nicotine is linked to many types of cancer including lung, throat, mouth, pancreas, kidney, and bladder cancer. Avoiding tobacco is a crucial part of preventing cancer. Avoid refined sugars, high-fat, and processed foods. Switching to organic fruits and vegetables will also lower your risk.
Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes disrupts the way the body uses sugar from digested food. Those with diabetes have a higher risk of stroke, nerve damage, heart attack, blindness, and kidney failure. Type 2 diabetes is on the rise thanks to the high rates of obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and poor nutrition. Weight is not a factor in type 1 diabetes. It’s typically caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. By adopting healthier habits like eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and keeping blood glucose levels normal, you will lower your chance of diabetes.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that causes slow movement, stiffness, and tremors. Nearly all cases of Parkinson’s begin after the age of 65. Family history, head injuries, and exposure to specific toxins also play a role. Research suggests that regular exercise can reduce the risk of this disease. Those who drink caffeine found in cola, coffee, and tea are less likely to get Parkinson’s.
Dementia (including Alzheimer’s Disease)
Dementia is a loss of brain functioning and can manifest as confusion, memory loss, poor judgment, mood changes, and difficulty communicating. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. There are other causes including vascular dementia, dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. While it’s not a natural part of the aging process, your chances of dementia do increase with age. To prevent dementia, it’s important to protect the brain.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or (COPD) occurs when there’s a reduction of airflow in and out of the lungs due to inflammation in the airways. Symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, or a chronic cough. COPD is caused by chronic exposure to tobacco smoke, airborne irritants, industrial pollution, or occupational contaminants. To prevent COPD be aware of your surroundings and protect yourself against fumes, dust, perfumes, and chemicals at work and in your home.
If you’re living with a chronic age-related disease, Landmark Health can treat and help you self-manage the disease. It’s important to learn as much as you can about your condition to find ways to improve your nutrition and general health.