Last updated: December 26, 2020
An unprecedented shift is occurring worldwide, wherein the population over age 65 is growing in numbers. This demographic change will lead to the elderly population outnumbering young children. Part of this shift is due to increasing life expectancy, with people living longer thanks to better and more effective health care. The elderly do face a number of common health issues that need to be monitored. Check training online to learn about diseases such as Alzheimer's and cancer.
As the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, Alzheimer's disease has an alarming prevalence among the elderly population. This progressive illness usually begins with mild symptoms of forgetfulness. Over time, as the brain shrinks, the symptoms worsen and the patient loses important cognitive functions. While a cure is currently out of reach for Alzheimer's disease, treatment can help manage symptoms. The typical survival period from the onset of symptoms is eight years, depending on age and other health conditions.
With aging, the risk of developing cancer rises. The prevalence of cancer among the elderly is connected to several different factors. Cancer involves the mutation of cells over time. These cells are more likely to undergo cancerous mutations with advancing age. Long-term exposure to environmental carcinogens such as chemicals can also lead to cancer in old age. Other health issues can complicate and even mask symptoms, making it a challenge to diagnose and treat cancer in the elderly. With their declining stamina, many older people cannot tolerate typical cancer treatments, making it necessary for health care professionals to develop alternative courses of treatment for the elderly.
The American Heart Association® estimates that more than 42 million adults over the age of 60 have some type of cardiovascular disease. Approximately 70 percent of the men and women between the ages of 60 and 79 have cardiovascular disease. A number of factors contribute to the prevalence of heart disease among the elderly population. Older hearts tend to work less efficiently due to increased size, accumulation of fat deposits, and degeneration of muscle cells. Blood and blood vessels also change with aging. Adding other factors such as unrelated illnesses, medications, and injuries can increase an older person's likelihood of developing heart disease.
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A number of mental health issues can plague the elderly population. Depression is common among older people, stemming from life circumstances such as retirement, loss of loved ones and friends, isolation, and declining health. Untreated, depression can begin a cascade of physical health problems that could lead to failing health. Elderly people may also experience anxiety due to persistent worries about typical issues such as money, family, and work. This anxiety may interfere with day-to-day functions. Mental health issues may go undetected in an older person due to isolation. For this reason, it's important to check in regularly with an elderly person and monitor their responses to changes around them. Check for trainings online to learn common symptoms of depression, such as fatigue, sadness, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances, and dietary changes.
Stroke is the third most prevalent cause of death in the United States. Stroke can also lead to significant disability due to the brain damage that typically occurs. Although stroke can happen at any age, elderly people are more likely to experience this serious health event. A stroke may occur from a blood clot obstructing blood flow to the brain. Stroke may also happen from the rupture of a blood vessel, disrupting blood flow. Without blood flow, the brain does not receive the blood and oxygen it needs, and major damage or death can result. Warning signs of a stroke include the sudden onset of weakness or numbness, confusion, trouble walking, vision problems, and severe headache.