Diseases and Chronic Conditions Associated with Aging
14 Oct 2022
In the last 50 years, with the rapid pace of medical development, the average life span of the population began to increase. According to the latest population census, the share of people who are over the age of 65 is 13.71%. In parallel with this, however, the risks of developing diseases that are associated with aging have also increased. In this article, we look at the most common diseases that can occur as we get older with age.
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a condition of increased pressure of the arteries’ circulating blood, which correspondingly puts pressure on them. It is completely normal for blood pressure to rise with age as the arteries become “stiffer” due to their loss of elasticity. Although you may have a healthy heart, this does not exclude the risk of developing hypertension, as it is closely related to the blood vessels.
Chronically elevated blood pressure is a chronic disease that affects almost all organs and systems and can lead to serious consequences – impaired kidney function, atherosclerosis of cardiac, peripheral, cerebral, and renal arteries, as well as life-threatening conditions such as stroke, heart attack, and others. Generally, blood pressure readings within 120-129/80-84 mmHg are considered normal; the values 130-139/85-89 are considered the so-called “high-normal” blood pressure that can be treated with lifestyle changes alone and usually does not require medication. Whereas values >140/90 mmHg are showing signs of arterial hypertension and long-term treatment is usually required.
Type 2 diabetes can develop in adults over 45, due to the development of insulin resistance or insufficient insulin production. As a result, elevated blood sugar levels are observed, which in itself leads to a greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease, even with optimal blood pressure and blood sugar control. To avoid any of these complications, we advise you to have regular physical activity (exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week), monitor your carbohydrate intake more closely, and try to keep your body in the normal index of body mass (BMI = body weight in kilograms/height in meters ^ 2).
A stroke is a disease that is the result of an acute violation of the blood supply to a part of the brain - most often it is a blockage of one of the arteries that supply it with blood. The cells in the human brain are extremely sensitive to their constant need for oxygen, which is carried through the blood. Therefore, it is good to minimize the risk of a stroke by taking measures in time. Some of them are the following: maintaining normal blood pressure levels, quitting smoking, reducing cholesterol levels, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Arthritis is one of the most common diseases in adults over the age of 65 that causes swelling or pain in the joints. It prevents many of the elderly population from moving actively. It is more common in women, but men also suffer from arthritis as they age. Since no specific medical treatment has been found to completely cure this disease, taking pain-relieving or anti-inflammatory drugs is recommended. For people with this disease to have a better life, it is recommended to take the following measures: increased caution when performing certain actions to reduce accidents and bone injuries; constant support of the back, arms, and legs; maintaining a normal weight (losing even 1 kilogram of body mass would reduce the pressure on your knees by 4 times).
Osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease, is characterized by the loss of bone mass, which leads to their thinning and, therefore, a weakening of their function. It is most often diagnosed in adults aged 50+. They must be very careful not to injure their bones, as even one fracture would lead to prolonged immobilization. The disease is also common in people who live in isolated northern regions of the Earth, where the lack of vitamin D is palpable. For prevention, the following is recommended: weight-bearing exercises, consumption of foods rich in calcium & vitamin D, as well as quitting smoking.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD), or kidney function decreasing, is another common disease in the elderly population. With CKD, there is a gradual decline in kidney functioning, and the disease’s progress over time can lead to a complete loss of the kidney’s function. This will also cause the need for chronic hemodialysis. A doctor’s consultation is needed to find out exactly what is the reason behind the kidney damage.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an illness characterized by obstruction of the airways, which leads to a decrease in the air flow entering the lungs which leads to a decrease in the amount of oxygen delivered to each cell of the body. Unfortunately, this disease cannot be completely cured, but it can be controlled. The most important risk factors for its development are smoking and/or working in a highly dusty environment. Some of the signs of having COPD are worsening chronic cough, wheezing, and/or shortness of breath.
Cancer can form in almost any part of the human body (even the blood). No one is immune from developing cancer. Many types of cancer can be detected at an early stage on regular annual examinations such as mammography (for women), prostate examination (for men), complete blood count, and heart, lung, and kidney examinations are carried out. The earlier a cancer is diagnosed, the higher the chance to be cured. Be vigilant and visit your general practitioner annually to perform the most important preventive examinations.
Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases – 3 illnesses that affect the brain and its function, but do not necessarily develop with the aging process. Dementia is characterized by memory loss, frequent mood swings, confusion, and communication difficulties. Alzheimer’s disease is closely related to dementia, with a large proportion of dementia patients also suffering from Alzheimer’s. The causes that lead to Alzheimer’s disease are not fully understood, but doctors recommend frequent mental and physical exercise (reading books, solving crosswords, doing puzzles, etc.) as preventive measures. Another thing that is also important is that the body of a person has to be within normal body mass index levels.
Depression may occur in the elderly population. Forms of depression reduce the strength of the immune system and therefore it would not cope as effectively in cases of mild disease, for example, a cold. In addition to psychotherapy and medication, depression can be prevented by more social contact and physical activity.
The elderly population is exposed to a higher risk of developing serious health issues. To take care of our loved ones and relatives in old age, it is wise to help them by monitoring their health. Medrec:M is a mobile app that helps in such situations because it lets you track symptoms, record all prescribed medications, and save medical documents such as tests and diagnoses. You can even conduct a remote consultation with a doctor via the app.
With the option for “Family profiles”, a family can benefit from monitoring the health of each member. Let’s take the best possible care of our elderly parents and loved ones by closely monitoring their health status through the Medrec:M application. You can learn more about its functionalities in detail by downloading it from here.
Author: Dr. Ivan-Asen Shishmanov, a cardiologist and member of the Medical Advisory Board