The very thought of getting older can make a person worried regarding the age-related health issues. No matter what, these challenges are bound to appear in everybody’s twilight years.
Aging is the fact of life as our physical and mental faculties start declining with age. Our ability to process information deteriorates, we start losing our capacity to remember things, and by the age of 70, it is much harder for our brain to produce creative ideas. As far as physical health is concerned, our body becomes vulnerable and it can pick up any ailment. We are at a risk of developing life-threatening diseases.
Having said that, the changes that we experience with age could be different for different individuals; and often based on lifestyle choices, genetics, and environmental factors.
Here are some surprising health challenges of aging:
It is no surprise that just like other body parts; vision is also affected during the age-old age. Even around the age of 40, many people struggle to read small prints and colors aren’t as easy to distinguish. There could be more serious eye problems in the later part of life such as sudden single eye vision blur, spots in field of vision, stabbing pain like a needle in the back of eyes (caused from acute dryness), double vision, narrowing of visual field, distorted vision, cloudy vision, glaucoma, cataracts, etc.
The good news is many of these problems can be treated by seeking appropriate medical care. Eyesight problems can also be indicative of other health problems relating to high blood pressure, diabetes or heart health.
- Eating foods that support eye health such as fish with Omega-3 fatty acids. Foods rich in antioxidants, like leafy green vegetables are also a good choice.
- Wearing sunglasses to block UV rays.
- Using anti-glare screens on computers, taking breaks and focusing on a distant object.
- Doing exercise to improve energy and blood flow to the eyes.
With old age, the skin tends to lose its elasticity. It becomes more susceptible to diseases and disorders. How it changes also depends upon certain factors like lifestyle, diet, heredity, and other personal habits. However, sun exposure is the main cause of skin damage. The sun’s UV light breaks down the elastic tissue (elastin) in the skin and causes the skin to stretch, sag, wrinkle, and become blotchy. Other factors may include stress, gravity, daily facial movements, and obesity.
Treatment of skin conditions in elderly:
- Wrinkles: Can’t be cured, but their appearance can be made better by the use of “tretinoin”.
- Dry skin: Needs to be lubricated via the use of over-the-counter lotions. Moisturizers help to hydrate (trap moisture) the skin.
- Skin cancer: A "changing mole" or new skin growth deserves evaluation by a dermatologist.
- Using sunscreens when outdoors.
- Avoiding the use of tanning booths and sunlamps.
Weaker immune system
In the old age, the immune system isn’t as strong as it used to be. Elderly people are among those who die or are hospitalized for flu-related problems. It is not completely known why immunity decreases with time, but researchers do know a few things regarding weaker immune system during old age. According to researchers, most of the older people don’t respond well to vaccines. Since immune system includes T-cells that attack disease-causing bacteria, during old age, the body makes fewer T-cells, and most vaccines require new ones to work. When the body produces fewer immune cells, including white blood cells, the process of healing slows down. Hence, recovery from injuries, infection, and illness takes place more slowly. The immune system also weakens because of excessive abuse of substances. Some of these addictive substances are alcohol, heroin, marijuana, opioids, and prescription drugs. Similarly, methamphetamine is an extremely addictive drug that makes a serious impact on the immune system. Therefore, quitting meth is absolutely necessary to prevent its side effects.
Solutions for the stronger immune system:
- Getting vaccinated: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccines for – annual flu shot, pneumonia, zoster vaccine, and tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap).
- Doing regular exercise and physical activity, which helps boost the production of immune system cells and lowering inflammation in the body.
- Getting good sleep
- Eating a protein-rich diet that also focuses on vitamins A, B, C, and E, as well as zinc, folate, selenium, and prebiotics and probiotics.
- Managing stress
Balance issues are widely prevalent in older people. According to CDC, one in three adults over the age of 65 falls each year. Apart from the deteriorating conditions of bones, there could be many factors that can cause balance issues in elderly. Older adults may be taking many medications or are coping with chronic conditions that can interfere with balance. Some of these conditions are inner ear problems, including vertigo; arthritis and orthostatic hypotension. To have a good balance, the muscles have to work smoothly together in response to several sensory systems like visions, constant sensation from nerves in the skin, and nerve signals from the inner ear. Errors in any of these systems can produce balance problems.
Balance is a motor skill that can be maintained and even improved with exercises. The following exercise can be helpful for elderly:
- Staggard stance: Improves static or standing balance strengthens ankles for greater ability to maintain the center of gravity.
- One-leg stands
- Heel-to-to walking
- Unassisted standing from a chair
Another surprising challenge that comes in the latter part of life is slow reflexes. As people age, they find that they are getting slower to process information and react. Usual slowing of reflexes is not necessarily an indication of serious cognitive decline; however, frequent bouts delayed reflexes can be alarming. Studies suggest that the speed of information processing changes with age along an inverted U-shaped curve. In certain situations, slowing processing speed could be the first sign of a neurodegenerative illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Encephalitis, etc.
- Living in an atmosphere that has the insufficient amount of oxygen, or increased pollution can inhibit reflexes. Therefore, having good atmosphere helps in better functioning of our mind.
- Improving social life. How people mix with other people and their ways of communication. These factors independently affect reflexes.
- Reflexes also increase by various exercises to sharpen the mind. Meditation and Yoga can be helpful.