Thanks to the advances in healthcare, people are living longer than ever. Life expectancy for the total U.S. population was 78.8 years in 2019 but did dip to 77.8 years for January through June 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. During that same time period, life expectancy for non-Hispanic Black people decreased by 2.7 years (74.7 to 72); for Hispanic individuals, 1.9 years (81.8 to 79.9); and for non-Hispanic white people, 0.8 years (78.8 to 78). While this one-year decline due to Covid-19 has reduced life expectancy in the short term, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2060, life expectancy for the total population is projected to increase to 85.6. With the increase in life expectancy, many have to deal with health issues common in the senior population.
Health Concerns for Seniors
The most widespread health conditions affecting those 65 and older include arthritis, heart disease, stroke, cancer, pneumonia, and the flu. Accidents, especially falls that result in hip fractures are also unfortunately common in the elderly. However, there are many other common health concerns for seniors, including:
- Cardiovascular conditions (hypertension, heart disease, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease)
- Dementia (Which includes Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, and others)
- Incontinence (urinary and bowel)
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Lung disease (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis, pneumonia, and influenza)
- Frequent falls, which can lead to bone fractures
- Parkinson’s disease
- Sleep disorders (insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome)
- Eye diseases (cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, dry eye, and low vision)
- Weight loss
Many of those over 65 are coping with multiple health problems known in the medical field as comorbidities. Family caregivers are often put in a position to help manage and prevent these and other age-related diseases. Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans have developed many programs to help Medicare beneficiaries manage their chronic health issues to help them achieve the best possible health outcomes given their conditions.
Ways to Combat Health Concerns For Seniors
While it’s impossible to prevent aging and the many health-related issues that can come along with it, there are things you can do to stay healthy as you age. Ensuring a long and healthy life starts when you are young. Making healthy lifestyle choices that include staying active and eating healthy are good habits you can start when you are young and maintain throughout your life. Below are several ways to combat age-related health issues:
- Stay informed – Developing a relationship with your primary care doctor is an essential part of remaining healthy. Talk to them about what you can and should be doing to stay healthy and manage any health issues you have. This includes asking about any new treatments that may become available for your conditions. Always consult with your doctor if you are starting a new diet or exercise program.
- Stay active – As little as 15 – 30 minutes of walking per day can reduce cholesterol, improve cardiovascular health, and delay the natural loss of muscle mass. As you age, getting out of shape happens faster, and it takes longer to get back in shape as you age.
- Eat healthy – Eating fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-sodium foods can help keep your cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems in good condition. Avoid fatty and fried foods, especially fast food, which can lead to heart and other problems. Choosing a mostly plant-based diet has been shown to have an immediate positive impact on your heart and overall health.
- Drink less alcohol – Many people enjoy a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverages throughout the day or evening. While studies show that a single glass of red wine can positively impact health, excessive drinking can lead to bone loss, falls, depression, and other health issues.
- Stop smoking – It is amazing that we still have to bring this issue up, but we do. Smoking can cause many health issues and premature death. It’s never too late to stop smoking!
- Keep your mind active – Staying socially active can help decrease the chances of depression and keep your mind sharp. Puzzles, reading, and other engaging activities can help keep your mind and body sharp. Some Medicare Advantage plans include online programs designed just for this. Check with your insurance company to see if these benefits are included in your plan.
- Visit your doctor for regular checkups – Through regular checkups, your doctor can identify changes in your health and provide you with ways to avoid health issues. They do this by ensuring you have the recommended immunizations (like flu shots) and tests and asking questions to identify any changes that may be occurring. They will also ensure you are doing the things necessary to manage any chronic health conditions you may have.
Virtually all of the common health concerns we have discussed can affect a senior’s ability to socialize, be physically active, and take good care of themself. So addressing these health concerns for seniors is crucial to staying healthy as you age.
Unfortunately, many of these issues can fall through the cracks if you do not see a doctor regularly. This can mean seniors suffer from these problems for years if they don’t identify and treat their health issues. Don’t assume nothing can be done or that they are just “part of getting old.” Correctly identifying, evaluating, and managing these problems helps older adults feel better, live better, and live longer. Healthy aging is not just about preventing health concerns for seniors. It’s also about identifying and dealing with them before they get worse and your health and independence slip away.
While the population ages, we have seen that many of those over the age of 65 take control of their health. They want to live not just a long life but have a high quality of life. Remaining active, eating healthy, developing and maintaining relationships are all critical, and if you take a proactive approach to your health, you can stay active throughout your entire life.