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Common Elderly Ailments and How to Prevent Them

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Written by Rose Smith, Public Outreach,

Advances in medicine during the 20th century dramatically increased the average American's life expectancy. However, there is still a considerable list of health challenges as we age. Elderly patients can reduce their risk by having regular health check-ups, and making certain choices about nutrition, exercise and sleep. Some of the most common ailments among the elderly can either be prevented or controlled, allowing them to lead longer, healthier lives.


Common Ailments of the Elderly

Diabetes: Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, including almost a third of those who are older than 65. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can no longer control blood glucose levels.

  • Heart Disease: Nearly 600,000 people die annually from heart disease. According to the National Institute on Aging, therisk for heart attack or stroke rises dramatically after age 65. Heart disease is caused by the stiffening of the arteries, as fatty deposits called plaque build on the walls -- allowingless blood to flow to the heart.

  • Urinary Tract Infections: Elderly people are susceptible to chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs), which are infections of the kidneys, bladder and urethra. If untreated, UTIs can cause serious complications.

  • Falls:The CDC reports that oneinthree adults 65 or older suffers a fall each year. Falling is the leading cause of injury and death among that age group. More than2 millionolder Americans reported non-fatal fall-related injuries in 2010.Falls can cause hip fractures and injuries that could require hip replacement surgery or being admitted to a long-term care facility.While surgery is the answer for many patients, there have been recalls on certain hip replacement devices. Stryker recalled its Rejuvenate and ABG II modular-neck hip stems, due to the implants displaying signs of corroding and fretting. Patients filed lawsuits against Stryker Orthopaedics after suffering from these complications and being forced to undergo revision surgeries to remove faulty implants.

Control and Prevention

  • Preventing and Controlling Diabetes: Weight loss and exercise can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. This can be achieved by healthy eating and participating in 30 minutes of physical exercise, five days a week. Once a patient is diagnosed with type 2, they may need to rely on medication to control it. It's important for them to discuss their medication options with their doctor, since some diabetes medications can have serious side effects.

  • Preventing and Controlling Heart Disease: The best way to prevent heart disease is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Eating a healthy diet with more fruits and vegetables and less sodium and trans fatsis extremely important. Exercising and avoiding smoking are also extremely helpful in controlling weight, blood pressure and cholesterol (which are factors in heart disease).

  • Preventing Urinary Tract Infections:Women may be more likely to get UTIs after menopause. Diets rich in fluids and cranberry juice can help prevent UTIs. Cotton underwear and general cleanliness can also reduce the risk of infection. Also, consider avoiding alcohol and caffeine, which can irritate the bladder. Once a UTI is diagnosed, a doctor will typically prescribe an antibiotic.

  • Preventing Falls:Older adults can take several precautions to prevent a fall. A simple way is to make sure they have regular eye doctor visits and that their eyeglass prescriptions are up to date. Older people can do exercises that improve balance safeguard their home to make sure there are as few fall-related hazards as possible.
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