There comes a time in all our lives when we realise our bodies weren’t what they once used to be.
While we could have quite easily played competitive sport or danced all night in the club back in our 20s – without too many issues – once you’re past 55, it’s a different story.
Ageing is something that affects all of us, and our bodies. And the older you get, the more susceptible you can be to certain afflictions and ailments.
From arthritis to urinary tract infections, here are 10 health condition symptoms to watch out for as you age.
Osteoporosis is something which is widespread among the over 50s.
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), some 33% of females over the age of 50, around the world, will suffer from osteoporotic fractures. While the figure for men is 20%. So, it is a significant ailment to be aware of.
Indeed, osteoporosis causes more days of hospitalisation for women aged 45+ than many other diseases including the likes of breast cancer, diabetes and myocardial infarction.
Osteoporosis is a condition whereby the body is unable to use the glucose from carbohydrates as energy. Which in turn leads to bones becoming more brittle and weaker, and therefore more susceptible to falls, fractures and other debilitating injuries.
This condition actually does not have any bona fide symptoms as such. So it is important to periodically schedule a bone density test with your doctor to check their current health status.
Some of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis include adopting a Mediterranean-style diet, limiting alcohol consumption and ceasing smoking. Also maintaining a decent level of vitamin D and calcium intake and partaking in weight-bearing activities, can be effective too.
Heartburn is a common problem that many people experience as they age. Heartburn is caused by the reflux of stomach acid into the oesophagus. This can happen when the lower esophageal sphincter (LOS) relaxes too frequently or does not close properly, allowing stomach acid to reflux back up into the oesophagus. Consequently, this can cause a discomfort or burning sensation in your throat which can be particularly aggressive at night, according to the Centre for Gastrointestinal Health.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to heartburn becoming worse with age. One of the most common is obesity. Obesity increases pressure on the stomach, which can lead to more frequent episodes of heartburn. Certain medications can also contribute to heartburn becoming worse with age. Medications such as anticholinergics, calcium channel blockers, and nitrates can all relax the LOS and allow stomach acid to reflux back up into the oesophagus.
Another factor that can contribute to heartburn becoming worse with age is a decrease in saliva production. Saliva helps to neutralise stomach acid and can help wash it back down into the stomach. A decrease in saliva production can leave the oesophagus more vulnerable to the damaging effects of stomach acid.
Heartburn can also be made worse by certain lifestyle choices. Drinking alcohol, smoking, and eating spicy or fatty foods can all increase the risk of heartburn.
If you are experiencing heartburn, there are a number of things you can do to help ease your symptoms. Avoiding trigger foods and beverages, eating smaller meals, and avoiding lying down immediately after eating can all help. Over-the-counter antacids can also be helpful in relieving heartburn symptoms. If heartburn is severe or frequent, you should see your doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Urinary Tract Infections
Do you find yourself wanting to pee desperately, only for a few drops to come out? Or perhaps you feel a burning sensation during micturition?
Well, both could be indications of urinary tract infections.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) happen when germs infiltrate, and infect, the tract that transports urine around the body. This includes the bladder, ureters, urethra and kidneys.
When bacteria infiltrate the urinary system and make its way up the urethra into the bladder, it can cause infection to occur.
UTIs are very commonly diagnosed infections in older adults and are linked to several factors including muscle loss and weakening, a compromised immune system, menopause and the increased use of a catheter.
Regularly affecting the bladder and kidneys, it is vital you consult your doctor immediately if you are suffering from these symptoms, as untreated UTIs can turn out to be life-threatening.
Presbyopia, or vision loss as it is more commonly known, is the affliction of not being able to focus on nearby objects.
Experts in ophthalmology believe it results from a steady thickening and overall loss of flexibility of the natural lens that resides within your eye. This serves to make the lens harder and much less elasticky over a prolonged period of time, and therefore results in compromised vision.
The effects of presbyopia tend to kick in after the age of 40 and can be recognised by a failure to see small print in books, magazines or electronic devices.
Other eye conditions to look out for as you get older include cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is another condition that can occur when your body is unable to use the glucose from carbohydrates for energy.
Typically, Type 2 Diabetes is linked to insulin resistance. The most common form of diabetes, this is a condition in which cells are unable to effectively use insulin.
It tends to occur most in adults over the age of 45 and one’s propensity to it can be related to being overweight or obese, not exercising regularly or being physically active, eating a very unhealthy diet and of course, coming from a family that has a history of diabetes.
As with many serious conditions and diseases, early detection, and therefore treatment is crucial. It can significantly reduce the onset of serious complications that can affect the kidneys, nerves, eyes, heart and skin.
According to the ABS, around 1.2 million Australians have heart disease, with a whopping 27% of all deaths in Australia being directly linked to circulatory system diseases.
Indeed, heart disease – which includes stroke, heart and vascular disease – remains the world’s leading cause of death. So, this is something to definitely stay on top of.
There are several risk factors that can be linked to heart disease. However, if you eat plenty of heart-healthy foods, engage in regular exercise, manage stress well and get lots of sleep, this can reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Research from Beyond Blue suggests that at least one in every 16 people in Australia are depressed. For seniors over the age of 65 it is believed this figure could be more like one in every 10. So clearly, this is something to look out for as you age.
Depression is a mental health disorder. It is characterised by a loss of interest in most activities and by being in a constantly depressed mood. Both of which tend to result in a significant impairment in one’s daily life.
There are several risk factors when it comes to depression, which include everything from trauma, death or abuse, to losing your job, transitioning to retirement or conflict.
The best course of treatment is to seek professional guidance immediately.
Flu and Pneumonia
Anyone can get the flu, of course. But as you get older, you become at greater risk of doing so as a result of a naturally weakening immune system.
It is important to get a yearly flu shot, as this can help prevent symptoms like cough, fever, sore throat, headache, body aches, fatigue, chills, diarrhoea and vomiting, which you will be more prone to without it.
It is also worth having your most up to date Covid-19 shot too, as well as taking various cold supplements.
Aside from that, wearing a mask, regularly washing your hands with sanitiser and eating a healthy diet that builds up your immune system, is a good thing to do as well.
Arthritis is an affliction which has long been synonymous with growing old.
Something which affects over 3.5 million Aussies, it refers to the condition of one or more joints becoming inflamed. This in turn causes swelling, pain and stiffness and results in limited mobility.
It is quite a debilitating condition, which sees adults with arthritis as being around 2.5 times more likely to have a fall, than those who don’t have it. As well as enduring an overall lower quality of life.
If you find yourself suffering from these issues you should seek medical help immediately. Treatments will work towards reducing the inflammation and pain and generally enhancing your ability to function.
You may even have to use a brace or splint, get prescribed some medication or even have to undergo surgery.
Cancer, the dreaded ‘C’ word, is a generic term to describe a range of diseases which relate to the body’s cells becoming damaged.
Overall, there are more than 100 different types of cancer, many of which like prostrate, breast, lung, stomach, pancreas, colon, rectum and uterus, tend to occur more in people over the age of 55.
There is a myriad of factors which could contribute to you contracting cancer, including obesity, alcohol, smoking, various viral infections and even radiation.
As you get older you would be well advised to get regular screenings for cancer. Also try and maintain a healthy weight, eat healthily and be sure to get plenty of exercise.
You would be well advised to give up smoking and avoid, or at least limit, your alcohol consumption too.