The Rochester Medical Center Division of Geriatrics and Aging recently identified the nature and causes of health problems afflicting and expected to afflict the aging population.
1. Physical activity and nutrition: Physical activity and good nutrition prevent or delay many diseases and conditions. As we age, many of us become sedentary and less careful about our diets, compromising our health.
2. Overweight and obesity: Too many of us are or will become too fat. There is a strong correlation between excess weight/obesity and debility/death from diabetes, high blood pressure, heat disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, and certain cancers.
3. Tobacco: Smoking and chewing tobacco leads to and worsens a litany of diseases and disorders, and it is the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in theU.S.
4. Substance abuse: Some seniors purposefully abuse alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal substances—resulting in a host of health problems. Many others unintentionally over-medicate, improperly mix prescription medications, or unwisely mix prescription meds with nonprescription remedies or alcohol.
5. HIV/AIDS: People over 50 account for 11 – 15% of AIDS cases in theUnited States. Stigma and stereotypes keep some from seeking medical attention and informing sexual partners of their diagnoses. Treatment improves the health and prolongs the lives of people with HIV/AIDS. Prevention saves lives.
6. Mental health: We’re all aware of Alzheimer’s and other age-related cognitive disorders. But the most common mental health condition of people over 55 is depression, which can lead to suicide. The suicide rate for white elderly males is higher than for any other demographic.
7. Injury and violence: Falling is the leading cause of injuries to the elderly, affecting 1 in 3 people over 65 every year. Falling is also the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations, incapacitation, and death.
8. Environmental quality: Many seniors live just above the poverty level or on modest fixed incomes. Consequently, many live in neighborhoods and dwellings that are rife with environmental pollutants posing health risks.
9. Infectious diseases: Influenza and pneumonia are among the leading causes of death among seniors. One contributing factor is failing to get annual flu and viral pneumonia immunizations.
10. Access to healthcare: Seniors tend to monitor and seek medical attention for health issues less often than other age groups. Many simply cannot afford the healthcare they need. Another factor is a shortage of geriatricians and healthcare specific to the aging population.
Be aware. Take care. And enjoy a longer, healthier, fuller life.
Colleen Sell is the editor-in-chief of GRAND and the health-conscious grandmother of six beautiful, brilliant, and blessedly healthy grandchildren.
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