Health Concerns to Be Aware of Later in Life

Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy good health through most of your life. Or perhaps staying strong and fit has been a lifelong challenge.

No matter what your personal health history might be, the inevitable fact is that being well gets tougher as you age. The good news, though, is that there are things you can do to slow the aging process. This article describes the top health concerns you should be on the lookout for as you age, as well as what to do about them.

Chronic Pain

Studies show that nearly 20% of Americans suffer from chronic pain. Unfortunately, the odds that you may be one of them increase with age. In fact, more than 50% of adults aged 65 or older are thought to be living with persistent, if not chronic pain. And the causes of this recurring pain are often highly complex, ranging from common musculoskeletal disorders, such as arthritis, to the long-term impacts of injury and systemic illness, to the after-effects of surgery and other invasive medical treatments.

The good news is that there have been a number of important advances in recent years for the treatment of chronic pain in seniors. This includes the strategic use of low-dose opioids, combined with adjunctive therapies, such as physical therapy, massage, and chiropractic, to contend with persistent pain more effectively than in the past.   

Stress and Anxiety

Let’s face it: getting older isn’t for wimps. As we age, we face challenges we perhaps never could have imagined when we were younger. Not only do many of us find ourselves working harder to maintain the physical health that once came so easily, but we are also likely to face the physical and cognitive decline of our loved ones.

We may experience the loss of a spouse or siblings, even as grown children move away to start families of their own. Chronic illness or increasing frailty may require us to leave the family home to settle in with adult children or to seek care in an assisted living facility.

No matter what your particular circumstances may be, aging can be accompanied by significant change, as well as a number of losses that, inevitably, take their toll. For this reason, it’s imperative to develop a stress-management strategy as early in life as possible. The better able you are to cope with stress, the more you will be able to slow the aging process and reduce your risk of stress-related chronic illnesses, from hypertension to cardiovascular disease.

Vision and Hearing Loss

Poor eyesight and bad hearing seem to be so much a part of the aging process that they’ve almost become the cliched image of the elderly person. But the fact is that there are important things you can do to prevent, or at least to mitigate, these issues. 

After the age of 40, for example, the crystalline lens responsible for visual acuity begins to stiffen, resulting in presbyopia. While there’s nothing that can be done to restore or retain the lens’s suppleness, a good pair of bifocals or reading glasses can correct the problem almost entirely.

Hearing loss is also a common feature of aging, but it, too, can be mitigated with routine hearing tests. The good news is that the newest generation of hearing aids and sound amplifiers are so sensitive that they can virtually reverse even significant hearing loss, and they come in styles so compact they are practically invisible.

Varicose Veins

Varicose veins aren’t just unsightly, they can also be debilitating. Vein disorders can result in significant swelling, pain, and difficulty in walking. Even scarier, vascular disorders can dramatically increase the risk of life-threatening medical complications, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Again, though, varicose veins and related disorders can be very effectively managed through lifestyle changes and medical intervention. Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of varicose veins or slow the progression of the condition.

Likewise, seeking medical treatment to control blood pressure and cholesterol and support overall cardiovascular health can not only prevent the disorder from worsening but may even reverse some of its effects.

Mental Health Challenges

For most of us, aging is a time of significant, and not always welcome, transition. We may face greater physical health challenges than ever before. At the same time, we may have less contact with close friends and family, especially for those who are retired or contending with chronic illness. This can put seniors at particular risk for mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Combatting these challenges takes commitment and effort — the concerted effort to stay engaged with friends, family, and the broader community. Seniors prioritizing mental health should also put an emphasis on low impact exercising as well as practicing self-care. Above all, staying mentally healthy means reaching out for help when you need it. 

Mental health counselors can not only help you learn to regain your joy in challenging times, but they can also connect you with the resources you need to re-engage with life and your community — even if that requires a bit of creativity in this age of social distancing!

No doubt about it: aging isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you know what to expect, what to look out for, and you have a plan for confronting those risks head-on, you can continue to live a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life well into your golden years.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment