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6 Chronic Illnesses That Affect Older Americans

Old Man having Arthritis
As you grow older, the likelihood of suffering from one or more chronic health conditions increases. While healthy living can help you manage a chronic illness and prevent potentially life-threatening complications, it's important to develop awareness of common chronic health problems that aging adults face.

1. Heart Disease

Reports show that heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women age 65 and older. Age increases the risk of chronic health problems such as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels - both risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

Treating heart disease as early as possible can help decrease your risk of heart attacks.

If you have heart disease, then it's important to know the symptoms of a heart attack. These symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, nausea, dizziness, and pain in the arms, back, neck, or jaw. Some individuals experience upper stomach pain that feels like heartburn. If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, get help. Early action improves the chance of survival.

2. Cancer

Although the number of cancer deaths has decreased over the last 20 years, cancer remains the second leading cause of death among Americans. Like other chronic diseases, the risk of you developing cancer increases with age. While all cancers are potentially deadly, lung and colon cancers are leading causes of cancer-related deaths for both men and women.

Healthy lifestyle practices, such as not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, eating nutritious foods, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight can help lower your risk of certain cancers.

If you have an increased risk of developing cancer, then seeing your doctor for regular cancer screening tests can detect cancer early, which can lead to a more successful treatment outcome.

3. Respiratory Disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other respiratory illnesses such as chronic bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema, are the third most common cause of death among older Americans.

This disease also increases the risk of developing influenza and pneumonia - infections that rank high among the causes of death in senior adults.

Tobacco smoke, air pollutants, and genetics play a role in developing a chronic lower respiratory disease. Early detection may help slow the course of a respiratory disease. However, if you have other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, congestive heart failure, and asthma, there is an increased risk for complications.

4. Diabetes

Diabetes - a chronic condition that increases your risk for heart disease - affects an estimated 25 percent of individuals in the U.S age 65 and older. Whether it is an underlying or contributing cause, the disease is the seventh leading cause of death among Americans, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Obesity, a family history of the disease, sedentary lifestyle, and high blood pressure are risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. The symptoms of diabetes include blurry vision, dry mouth, excessive thirst, and frequent urination.

5. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis - a disease that weakens bones - affects many Americans. This disease is not life threatening, but it can diminish your quality of life. Osteoporosis can be disabling, as bone loss makes you more susceptible to fractures if you fall.

Some of the signs of osteoporosis include, a loss of height or your upper back curving forward, leading to a stooped posture.

However, you can prevent bone loss through weight-bearing exercises, strength training, and adequate consumption of nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.

6. Arthritis

Arthritis is a painful condition that can lower your quality of life. According to the Arthritis Foundation, this condition affects an estimated 54 million adults. Many individuals with arthritis suffer other chronic conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.

Osteoarthritis - the most common kind of arthritis - is a degenerative joint disease that causes stiffness and a decreased range of motion, generally in the hands, hips, knees, and spine.

If you are an aging adult in need of treatment for arthritis or other chronic conditions, the medical staff of NEON can provide the ongoing medical care you need. Give us a call to set up an appointment today.