As you age, your body starts to become more susceptible to various health problems. Listed below are a few of the most common problems you may run into as you age.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, and is caused by the wear and tear of daily life on the cartilage. Over time, the cartilage is broken down, and the joints that were once lubricated and moved with ease, now have the bones rubbing on each other, causing discomfort. Osteoarthritis commonly involves the hands, knees, hips and spinal joints (Mayo Clinic). This is a slowly progressive problem that is not able to be reversed. Symptoms may include joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of mobility. A provider may order x-rays of the affected joint in order to aid in the diagnosis. In order to relieve pain, you may take Tylenol or other NSAIDs, as well as participate in physical therapy to increase mobility.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure is an increased pressure of the blood in the arteries. The risk of developing hypertension increases as one ages. According to the American Heart Association, hypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure of 130-139 or a diastolic blood pressure of 80-89. With hypertension you may experience headaches, fatigue, confusion, chest pain, and many people with high blood pressure may have no symptoms at all. Hypertension is commonly called the silent killer, as it can lead to heart attack, stroke, vision loss, heart failure, kidney disease and sexual dysfuction (American Heart Association). Hypertension can be managed both medically and by lifestyle changes, and it is common for a provider to use both in the treatment plan. Lifestyle changes include the DASH diet, increasing exercise, limiting alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight.
Type 2 Diabetes is a disease caused by an increase in insulin resistance, that causes an increase in blood sugars (hyperglycemia) over time. Patients may experience frequent urination, excessive thirst, weakness, and blurred vision. The incidence for type 2 diabetes increases with age, obesity, and reduced physical activity. To diagnose type 2 diabetes, a fasting glucose level greater than 126 mg/dL, a random glucose measurement greater than 200 mg/dL or a 2 hour glucose measurement after a glucose tolerance test greater than 200 mg/dL is required (ClinicalKey). Once diagnosed, your provider will educate you on how to monitor your glucose levels, and the lifestyle changes that would help lessen the effects of type 2 diabetes. You may also be placed on medication, such as Metformin to help control your blood sugar.
High cholesterol levels can cause the buildup of deposits in the blood, limiting the amount of blood flow, or making it difficult for blood to pass through the arteries. This can be detrimental, especially when these deposits come loose, causing a heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol has no symptoms and is diagnosed through blood work (MayoClinic). Ways to prevent high cholesterol include eating a low fat diet, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and smoking cessation. If you are unable to achieve a goal cholesterol level, your provider may also place you on statins or other medications to help lower your cholesterol.
A heart attack is when an artery in the heart becomes blocked, causing a reduction in blood flow to the heart muscle. The most common signs and symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, shortness of breath, left shoulder pain that radiates to the jaw, heartburn, and nausea. It is important that if you have one or more of these symptoms to seek emergency care right away. The longer that someone waits for the symptoms to subside, the more damage the heart will experience. If you are unable to get to a hospital in a timely manner, it is recommended to go to the nearest fire station, as they can give you the necessary care and a safe transport to the hospital. There is no way to prevent a heart attack once it has begun, but it can be helpful to have a healthy lifestyle, stop smoking, limit alcohol intake, and take medications as directed (MayoClinic).
This article reviewed by Dr. Jim Liu, MD and Ms. Deb Dooley, APRN.
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April 8, 2023