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10 Common Conditions that Affect the Elderly

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10 Common Conditions that Affect the Elderly

October 13
16:13 2017

Have you ever heard the expression that aging is not for the young or that getting old is hell?

That’s because the older we get, the more likely we are to have one or more health problems. I thought of this when I realized that I had forgotten that October 1 was the International Day of Older Persons. Yes, I forgot old people day, and I pray that’s not a sign of any of the things shared below.

Do you know what are the most common health problems older people have? I once asked a friend that question and he responded ‘dying’. Excluding his obvious answer, here are the 10 most common health conditions that affect us elderly:

1.    Alzheimer’s: We’ve had numerous posts on Alzheimer’s. It’s the most common form of dementia and is characterized as loss of memory and then other mental and motor skills. There is no known cure, but the earlier the condition is diagnosed, the faster the treatment can start which often slows down the progression of the disease and prolongs a person’s life. Recent research may have made a huge breakthrough towards identifying a direct cause and thus a possible cure. It was thought that Alzheimer’s was due to plaque buildup in the brain, but this latest research indicates the possible cause of being a virus which causes the plaque buildup.

2.    Parkinson’s: Dr. Vijay Chandran, a renowned neurologist described Parkinson’s as: ‘an illness, which affects the brain, in which certain nerve cells – which play an important role in motor functions of the body – are lost or die. Patients with Parkinson’s disease may also have difficulty maintaining balance, walking and tend to fall even when they are slightly off-balance, however, this usually occurs much later in the disease. Other common symptoms include a change in the quality of voice, stooped posture and change in handwriting.’ Like Alzheimer’s, there is no cure for Parkinson’s.

3.    Arthritis: Most cases of osteoarthritis occur in people once they pass the age of 40. In most cases, it is due to the wear and tear on the cartilage between joints. It can also be caused by an over-active autoimmune system. As the cartilage wears it gets thinner and eventually the bones begin to rub against each other and this can be very painful and cause swelling and a buildup of bone growth that causes deformation of the joint. It is commonly found in fingers and toes, but also knees, hips, wrists ankles and spine. Sometimes, surgery can smooth out the bone to reduce the deformation and swelling, but this is often temporary and can stimulate the growth of scar tissue. I have arthritis in my thumbs and base of my toes.

4.    Diabetes: Guilty as charged, by mine is minimal and under control. The most common form of the disease in older people is type 2 diabetes. It can be controlled by diet and sometimes reversed and put into remission, but many others are forced to take medications as well as watch their diets and exercise. Diabetes can lead to other health concerns such as heart disease, stroke, kidney and liver disease, loss of vision and amputation of feet.

5.    Disk prolapse: This is where the cartilage disks between the vertebra wear and slide out of position. This can cause tingling, loss of feeling in hands feet or other parts of the body, or severe pain. Sometimes, prolapsed disks can be surgically repaired, but not always.

6.    Urinary incontinence: This is the inability to control one muscles that control urination. Sometimes it is minor with an occasional dribble after a sneeze or cough, much like a woman in her later pregnancy experiences and other times, it can be the complete inability to prevent wetting one’s pants. There are some medications that can help, but not always. Some doctors have been trying percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation to help. Others have tried BOTOX injections into the muscles of the bladder to reduce the sensitivity of the bladder, giving the person better control

7.    Stroke: Simply stated, a stroke is caused by a blockage in one or more arteries in the brain, which starves part of the brain of blood and oxygen. If not caught quick enough and the flow of blood restored, that part of the brain dies and the damage generally becomes permanent. Strokes often lead to loss of motor function on one or both sides of the body, loss or decreased ability to speak and sometimes interferes with cognitive functions. While in college, I worked as the night orderly on the intensive care wing of a nursing home and took care of a number of stroke victims, including one man, Mr. Clausen, I will never forget.

8.    Cancer: Considering there are over 200 forms of cancer, the odds of developing at least one of those forms gets greater and greater as we get older and older. Some are now curable and some aren’t. Regardless of what kind anyone gets, hearing the dreaded ‘C-word’ from your doctor is enough to scare years off of anyone’s life.

9.    Tremors: Shaking is not always a sign of Parkinson’s. Essential tremors, as they are called, are due to the slow deterioration of nerves and passage of impulses between the brain and extremities – legs and arms/hands. Often affects simple tasks like writing, lifting objects and tying one’s shoes.

10. Dementia: Not all forms of dementia are Alzheimer’s. We have previously discussed the various forms of dementia. Depending on the type of dementia, it can affect a person’s memory, performing normal daily tasks, speaking, disorientation of time and place, judgment and more.

Yes, getting old can be hard, but many of us seniors will tell you there are also many joys and good times being old. Time spent with family and friends, seeing and doing things we couldn’t do when younger and so much more. Don’t fear aging, embrace it and make the most of it.

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