Average Australian life expectancy has improved substantially in the past few decades. Today the average lifespan is 85 for women and 80.9 years for men. This has increased by about 6 years since 1988 and can be attributed to a number of factors such as improved access to universal health care, new research on the benefits of diet and exercise and greater aged care housing facilities.
With increased longevity, attention has turned to a focus on the quality of life. More and more people are concerned with maintaining a healthy and productive lifestyle for longevity. The following discusses 6 of the most common health conditions that affect seniors, as well as measures one might be able to take for prevention.
- Heart Disease
The leading cause of death in Australia and in the world has been (and remains) heart disease. In Australia, there were 10,448 deaths for men and 7,283 for women in 2019. Statistics from the Australian government have said that 21.5% of all people over 65 have some form of coronary heart disease.
Curbing your risk of heart disease comes down to a number of factors. Although genetics and family history can play a role in increasing your risk, a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in sugar and sodium can help lower your chances of developing the disease. Maintaining an optimal BMI for your gender is also important, as well as an active lifestyle with a focus on cardiovascular exercise. It’s best to consult your doctor first, to find out what level and amount of exercise is right for you.
Arthritis is an autoimmune disease, heavily associated with old age and genetics. The symptoms include swelling and pain in the joints, which affects almost half of everyone over the age of 65. Unfortunately, the pain can cause seniors to be reluctant to stay active which can often make symptoms worse. Although difficult, it’s important to still maintain an active lifestyle to decrease symptoms that come with arthritis. Quitting smoking, managing your weight are also important factors in the management of Arthritis. Some also report less pain in warmer climates.
- Respiratory Disease
Bronchitis, Asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) can all worsen with older age. As many seniors spend a lot of time in bed and are sedentary, minimised movement and exercise can be a factor in causing the worsening progression of these diseases. Often these can be managed by using medication’s and treatments prescribed by your doctor, as well as regular cardiovascular exercise is useful as well. Any substance use involving smoking, toxin inhalation etc can also increase risks and should be discontinued immediately.
The second most frequent cause of death among seniors is cancer. Two-thirds of all new cases are diagnosed in people over the age of sixty. With many cancers, the key is early detection of the disease before spreading. Over the years, medical sciences have improved in their ability to detect cancer early. Regular health checkups with your doctor are key as some cancers like breast, cervical and prostate cancer can often be detected prevented through early detection. Always take advantage of tests like pap smears, colonoscopies, mammograms and skin checks whenever possible.
- Alzheimer’s Disease
This debilitating disease, unfortunately, causes degeneration of memory and function in seniors. Once you hit the age of 65, the risk of Alzheimer’s doubles every 5 years. A family history of Alzheimer’s is a strong risk for developing the disease. There’s evidence to suggest that staying mentally active can reduce the onset of symptoms however it unlikely reduces the underlying disease changes in the brain. If you have a family history of Alzheimer’s or are showing symptoms, it’s important to monitor for symptoms.
There are two types of diabetes. The commonality between the two is they both involve the hormone insulin which is essential in maintaining optimal blood sugar levels:
Type 1 Diabetes: Where the body’s own immune system attacks its own pancreas which is the organ responsible for producing insulin. Type 1 diabetes is genetic and unfortunately cannot be prevented. It can be life-threatening without daily care which requires a plan for regular insulin injections. This means the body can maintain optimal blood sugar levels. Regular diet and exercise are also important in managing type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes: This is when the body no longer responds to insulin which is also known as insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is heavily associated with obesity, which means your risk can be substantially reduced through a regular exercise regime as well as a healthy diet low in processed sugar and sodium. In some instances, symptoms have even been reversed through lifestyle changes. Typically, managing type 2 diabetes requires drugs that will be prescribed by your doctor should you be diagnosed.
Early detection is key. Symptoms such as increased thirst, hunger or numbness or tingling in limbs can also be indicators of diabetes. A fasting blood glucose is a gold standard for detecting diabetes early which can be performed by a doctor.
OSAN Ability is a leading NDIS & Aged care service provider in Australia. We have a range of allied health professionals and carers that are experts in assisting seniors live their best quality of life. Get in touch with us today to find out how our aged care services can help you.