5 Health Issues You Want to Take Care of as You Start to Age
Have you ever attended a high school or family reunion? Such an event is a wake-up call, a reminder of advancing age. Over time, our body systems weaken, making us prone to certain diseases. Here are five conditions to guard against and ways to retain your vitality.
This joint disease affects the hands, shoulders, knees, hips, spine, and feet. Over time, we lose the cushioning tissue between our joints called “cartilage.” The resulting bone friction inflames our joints, making them achy, swollen, and stiff. The friction can also create projections of bony overgrowth, called “spurs.” You may especially feel arthritis upon awakening from sleep and before storms when atmospheric pressure increases.
An orthopedist can determine if you have osteoarthritis by ordering x-rays or an MRI. One orthopedic option available is injectable medication. Cortisone lowers inflammation, and hyaluronic acid increases lubrication and shock absorption.
You can reduce bone friction by strengthening the muscles around your joints. To avoid injury, see a physical therapist for guidance on safe strength training and exercise. Ideal types of gentle activity are swimming, walking, and the stretching poses of yoga and tai chi, which are best learned from a skilled teacher. Inquire about classes at your local library, community center, or community college. Also helpful is using a heating pad over achy joints, on a low setting, for 15 minutes at a time.
For hand arthritis, consider seeing an occupational therapist. This health professional can show you how to modify activities, so they’re easier to perform. A type of complementary medicine is acupressure, stimulating nerve centers with very thin, sterile needles. For severe arthritis, an orthopedic surgeon may recommend joint replacement.
Are you increasingly seeing floating spots, halos, and blurry images? These are just a few signs of age-related eye problems. Common to older adults are glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic eye disease, macular degeneration, and dry eye syndrome.
Glaucoma—High pressure from eye fluid injures the optic nerve. Since the pressure doesn’t cause pain, you may not notice eye damage. If untreated, glaucoma causes faded and tunnel vision that can progress to blindness.
Cataracts—with this condition, the lens of the eye hardens and acquires a cloudy film called a “cataract.” Consequently, objects look faded, blurry, and haloed, especially at night.
Diabetic Eye Disease—This is a complication of uncontrolled high blood sugar. Blood vessels feeding the eyes leak fluid or bleed. If not controlled, vision loss can be irreversible. Diabetic nerve damage can also impair eye muscles, causing involuntary movement and double vision.
Macular Degeneration—with age, the central part of the retina or “macula” can deteriorate, making it hard to read, write, drive, and distinguish colors. Objects directly before you appear fuzzy, wavy and shadowed.
Dry Eye Syndrome—This results when the eyes don’t generate sufficient tears and lubrication. Your eyes may burn and water, along with feeling gritty and sore. Vision may blur, making reading and computer use difficult.
These eye conditions are easily detected by a dilated eye exam, after which they can either be controlled or cured. To catch eye pathology before it worsens, see an ophthalmologist every year. However, promptly see an eye doctor if you have:
Flashes of Light
Double or Tunnel Vision
Poor Dental Health
“Dry mouth” can result from taking medication for hypertension, asthma, and high cholesterol. Dry mouth promotes tooth decay, oral infection, and gum recession, where the gums pull away from the teeth.
Recession can spur gingivitis, with symptoms of gum swelling, redness, soreness, and bleeding. With a domino effect, gingivitis can then progress to periodontitis, a bacterial infection that can lead to tooth loss.
To keep your gums and teeth healthy, floss and brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. At least twice yearly, see a dentist and obtain professional cleanings by a dental hygienist.
Even denture wearers should visit a dentist every six months. Over time, changes in the gums, jaw, or face may warrant denture re-assessment. A poor fit can cause gum irritation and mouth sores. The dentist may determine that an appliance needs re-lining, re-basing, or re-manufacture. Repair may be indicated for denture chips, cracks, breaks, and loosening.
With diligent home care, dentures have a lifespan of five to seven years, at which point they need replacing. With advancements in dental technology, denture wearers now have several appliance options.
Dentures can be made of metal or cobalt chrome alloy, smaller and stronger than acrylic. A loose appliance can be secured with implant anchors. Flexible partials are removable, made of non-allergenic and break-resistant material. Here you can read further about the various types of full dentures now available.
With aging, we’re more vulnerable to cancer of the lungs, bowels, and skin. Men are prone to prostate cancer, while women are susceptible to breast carcinoma. Here are ways to raise your immune defenses.
One of the easiest ways to slash cancer risk is making wise food choices. Key components of a protective diet are whole fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and fiber, rich in compounds that hinder abnormal cell growth, as follows.
Antioxidants—These plant substances curb cancer by subduing “free radicals,” unbalanced molecules that harm cells by snatching their electrons. To obtain antioxidants, consume foods high in Vitamins C and E and beta-carotene. Rich in Vitamin C are berries, oranges, pineapple, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and summer squash. Excellent sources of Vitamin E are almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and broccoli. Top picks for beta-carotene are carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, and spinach.
Phytonutrients—Certain plant compounds spur your body to make detoxifying enzymes. Foods with anti-tumor properties are bok choy, kale, arugula, broccoli, kohlrabi, rutabagas, and turnips. Regularly eat cooked tomato products, supplying lycopene. Also, punch up your meals with garlic and onion, steeped in cancer-fighting sulfur compounds.
Tea—This beverage thwarts cancer with catechins. Teas highest in these chemicals are green, white, black, and oolong, each type of shielding against specific mutagens.
Spices—Flavor your food with cancer-quelling herbs, especially turmeric, rosemary, and ginger.
Fiber—Also called “roughage,” fiber consists of plant cell walls. Your diet should include two types of roughage. Soluble fiber acts like a sponge, soaking up water and helping to normalize cholesterol and blood sugar. Insoluble fiber doesn’t absorb water and stays mostly intact. Insoluble fiber works like a broom, sweeping waste through your digestive tract, reducing toxins, bulking up stools, and keeping you regular.
Stellar sources of soluble fiber are oats, carrots, apples, and citrus fruits. Satisfying options for insoluble roughage are whole grain bread, popcorn, green peas, asparagus, beets, and bell peppers. Beans are unique, with both soluble and insoluble fiber. Legumes providing the most are kidney, pinto, navy, black, lima, chickpeas, and lentils.
Here’s information on what foods hamper specific types of carcinomas, good to know if certain cancers run in your family.
Avoid Uv Light
Sunlight and tanning beds emit ultraviolet (UV) light, which injures skin cells. Your best defense against skin cancer is broad-spectrum sunscreen, rated at least SPF 35. Apply it every day, 30 minutes before heading outside. Cover skin areas most exposed to sunlight, including your neck, ears, face, hair part, hairline, thinning scalp regions, and feet. Don’t forget any scars and tattoos!
Use at least two tablespoons of product, an amount equal to a shot glass or golf ball. Protect your scalp, neck, and face with a wide-brimmed hat. Shield your eyes with sunglasses that block UV light. They’ll lower your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Consider wearing sun-safe apparel if you’re fair-skinned, live in a mountainous region, or take medications that increase sun sensitivity. Sun-safe clothing is made to resist UV penetration. Similar to sunscreen, it’s rated with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF), indicating the extent of shielding effect. Choose clothing rated with UPF 30 or more.
Obtain Screening Tests
Medical tests can identify potential cancers and remove them before causing harm. They can also find carcinomas while small and responsive to treatment. Below are cancer screenings you should obtain, including those based on gender.
Fecal Occult Blood, Flexible Sigmoidoscopy, and Colonoscopy—detect both carcinomas and polyps, growths that can morph into cancer.
Psa—a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), signaling prostate cancer in men.
Mammograms—Identify Breast Cancer in Women
Pap Smear—for Cervical Cancer in Women
Skin Exam—diagnoses squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas, melanoma, and precancerous growths called “actinic keratoses.”
Are you having “senior moments?” This is the comical term for memory lapses. For example, you may forget why you chose to enter a room. You might misplace familiar objects, such as your keys. Words and names temporarily evade your memory.
With age, mild forgetfulness is normal, so long as it doesn’t threaten your health and safety. However, severe memory loss may reflect dementia or the start of Alzheimer’s disease. If you or those close to you notice significant memory problems, see your primary care physician. The doctor may identify medical causes, which can be remedied. For instance, forgetfulness can be the result of some medications, Vitamin B12 deficiency, and hypothyroidism.
If the doctor finds no medical basis for memory loss, there are ways to sharpen your mental faculties. Regular exercise revs blood flow to your brain. Choose a fun activity, and do it for 30 minutes daily. Dancing counts!
Challenge your brain with a jigsaw and crossword puzzles, board games, word searches, computerized brain games, and learning new skills, such as playing an instrument. Read more, and taper TV viewing. Isolation worsens memory loss, so stay involved in healthy relationships. Do you smoke? If so, quitting will boost your cognitive function by improving blood vessel flexibility.
Give your brain a daily tune-up by singing! The act of mentally processing tone, rhythm, resonance, and pitch recruits brain areas involved with language, learning, movement, and creativity.
Also, include “brain foods” in your cuisine. Antioxidants shield your brain cells from free radical attacks. Eat daily servings of blueberries, strawberries, avocado, beets, broccoli, eggs, spinach, walnuts, hazelnuts, turmeric, and rosemary.
With age, it’s common to develop osteoarthritis, impaired vision, oral problems, cancer, and memory loss. Heed your body’s signals while seeking the help of medical professionals, and you can retain your stamina into the golden years. Impress fellow guests at your next school or family reunion!