"How To Prevent Age-Related Diseases"
List of Conditions
Preventing age-related diseases is an important factor in longevity. Gerontologists are now able to understand the factors which make us age prematurely and we can use this knowledge to delay the inevitable aging process. By making healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating healthily, exercising regularly and avoiding practices and habits which are detrimental to our well-being, we can live longer and stay healthy as we age.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of the major, preventable, age-related diseases, giving easy-to-understand definitions and information about how to prevent them.
ALCOHOLIC LIVER DISEASE
Alcoholic liver disease is a condition which occurs when prolonged drinking has damaged the liver and impaired its function. Symptoms differ based on the severity of the condition and usually increase after recent bouts of heavy drinking.More
ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE - See DEMENTIA
AMD or ARMD - See MACULAR DEGENERATiON
ARTERIOSCLEROSIS. This is a term which has become so imprecise that it is falling out of use. Literally, “hardening of the arteries,” it is being replaced by the term ATHEROSCLEROSIS. (It is doubtful whether Arteriosclerosis ever occurs without the associated features of Atherosclerosis). It is a degenerative disease of arteries in which “fatty” plaques (atheroma) develop on the inner lining of the arteries so that the normal flow of blood is impeded.Diet and exercise together with the elimination of alcohol and tobacco play a major role in preventing coronary thrombosis and stroke. More
AGE-RELATED CANCER. Cancer is not one single disease, but a multitude and can affect any age-group from infant to elderly. Some forms of cancer are so minor that they can be cured by a needle prick and ten minutes of painless surgery. All cancers are tumors, but not all tumors are cancers. The most common cancer sites in women are: breast, uterus and ovaries. In men, cancer often attacks the prostate gland, stomach and bronchial tubes. Regular screening has brought a significant reduction in mortality due to cancer.
CATARACTS. This condition is an opacification of the internal focusing lens of the eye. As the transparency of the lens diminishes, image clarity slowly declines and perception of detail becomes less until eventually it is lost, without resulting in blindness. Some degree of lens opacification is present in almost everyone over the age of about sixty. The process almost always progresses steadily with age and so the development of cataracts in the elderly should be considered almost normal. Cataract usually causes changes in the perception of colors. Reds, yellows and orange are accentuated at the expense of blue, but this may remain unnoticed due to the gradual nature of the change. The only remedy to restore transparency to a lens is by surgery. This is one of the most successful operations in all surgery, and the expectation of an excellent result, if the eye is otherwise healthy, is well over ninety percent. More
BRONCHITIS. This is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchi and can be the consequence of a cold, sore throat or influenza. Air pollution, as well as smoking (including passive), can also be the cause. Chronic bronchitis is one of the forms of obstructive lung disease and is liable to become permanent with age and lead to progressive disablement.
CHOLESTEROL is not really an age-related disease, but it is mentioned here because as we become more sedentary, and less active, we risk producing more of the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and less of the “good” cholesterol (HDL). Research has shown that high levels of LDL increase the risk of Atherosclerosis and heart disease while a high level of HDL reduces this risk. Although diet and exercise play an important role in maintaining a safe balance, there is also the “heredity” factor and specific medication may be the only feasible way to reduce the likelihood of exposure to Atherosclerosis or other heart conditions. More
CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE (COPD)
COPD is a combination of Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema. Both cause interference with the normal flow of air into and out of the lungs and, in consequence, with the efficient transfer of oxygen to the blood. In any particular case, the relative importance of each is hard to assess, so they now tend to be classed together as Chronic Obstructive Airway (Pulmonary) Disease. It has been proven that this condition is largely caused by cigarette smoking.More
Clinical Depression is a mixture of hopeless despondency, dejection, fear and irritability out of all proportion to any external cause. It is extremely important that the condition is recognized and treated as many of those who suffer depression can be restored to a normal emotional and social life through the appropriate medication or treatment. Very often there is no apparent cause for the state of depression, although it can appear to be triggered by a distressing major life-event such as a bereavement, retirement or loss of status. Depression is especially common in the elderly, and the highest incidence of first attacks occurs between 55-65 years of age in men and between 50-60 in women. Women are particularly vulnerable when they go through menopause and visibly see signs of decline in sexual attraction and energy.
DIABETES (Diabetes Mellitus)
The term “diabetes” means a “running through” and refers to the fact that the person affected passes large quantities of urine. “Mellitus” comes from the Latin word “mel” meaning “honey” and it is the sweetness of the urine which has provided the main diagnostic feature.
Type I, or Insulin-Dependency diabetes, in which the sufferer produces little or no insulin requires life-long treatment, constant monitoring of the sugar level in the blood and a regular watch for complications.
Type II or Maturity-Onset diabetes, is usually associated with obesity as the insulin produced by the pancreas may be insufficient to provide entry ports due to the excessive tissue bulk. Many cases of Type II diabetes can be cured by diet and weight loss. Other cases require drugs to stimulate the pancreas into producing more insulin. Poorly controlled diabetics eventually suffer damage to the blood vessels. This damage affects especially the eyes, kidneys, circulation in the legs and the nervous system. More
DEMENTIA is the name given to a number of illnesses which have similar manifestations but different origins. At least 50 per cent of cases diagnosed as Dementia are due to the brain shrinkage (atrophy) of Alzheimer’s disease. Other causes can be linked to Schizophrenia, brain tumors, liver failure, pernicious anemia, Creutzfield-Jakob disease but in some cases the origin of the illness is unknown. The early signs of Dementia are subtle and quite gradual. The main defect is in memory and the use of language, In the end, the demented person stays in bed, inaccessible to stimuli, incontinent but indifferent to discomfort or pain, mute and mindless.
DRY-EYE. The tear film covering the front surface of the eye consists of three layers: an inner wetting layer of mucin, an intermediate layer of salt water, and an outer oily layer which slows evaporation and helps to maintain the continuity of the film. Inadequacy in any one or more of these components can cause the condition of dry-eye. One of the features of this condition is the shortening of the interval between each blink. Tear film deficiency is treated with artificial tears or sometimes by deliberately blocking the drainage channels. A dry-eye sensation is often produced by a low-grade inflammation of the conjunctiva from environmental irritation including the ultraviolet component in sunlight. More
ENLARGED PROSTATE is the result of a reduction in the secretion of the male sex hormone and is common in males from age sixty and upwards. The prostate gland surrounds the urine tube, immediately under the bladder. An enlargement of the glad can seriously obstruct the outflow of urine, and can even act as a valve preventing emptying of the bladder. Enlargement of the prostate often has to be treated by removal of part or all of the gland. More
FIBROMYALGIA is one of the most common diseases affecting the muscles, leading to chronic pain and disability, but its cause is currently unknown. It affects predominantly women between the ages of 35 to 55 and the onset of the condition has been associated with psychological distress, trauma and infection. It is characterized by restless sleep, awakening feeling tired, fatigue, anxiety and disturbances in bowel function. Local injections of analgesics/cortisone and anti-depressants are used to relieve the pain and allow sufferers to benefit from restorative sleep. More
GLAUCOMA is one of a group of eye diseases in which the pressure of the fluid within the eyeball is too high. Chronic simple glaucoma has a familial pattern and is more likely to occur in relatives of people with the disease. If Glaucoma is to be detected before severe damage is done, it must be looked for. The most important test is to measure the internal pressure by a technique known as tonometry. If Glaucoma is diagnosed, eye drops are given to keep the pressures within normal limits. Occasionally, medical treatment fails and an operation may be needed. More
HAIR LOSS of the hereditary male-pattern type is common, often beginning in the third decade. The medical title ‘Alopecia’ is the correct term. While the condition is prevalently genetic in origin, there are other causes including drug treatment for cancer, severe skin damage from infection or endocrinal disorders. Hair loss in women rarely follows the male-pattern loss. Researchers have not yet found a remedy to make new hair follicles grow. For some years, though, a drug called Minoxidil was widely used but the effect was limited to encouraging a fuzzy growth in those with surviving hair follicles. More
HEART ATTACK, or Myocardial Infarction, is the result of an obstruction to blood flow in one of the branches of the two coronary arteries through which the heart muscle is supplied with blood. When total blockage occurs, part of the heart muscle loses its blood supply and dies. As severe pain is not always a feature of this condition, mild heart attacks may go unrecognized and consequently expose the person to higher and perhaps fatal vulnerability. Unless genetically predisposed, prevention is the advised treatment with eradication of smoking and reduced cholesterol intake together with an intensification of daily exercise. More
HERNIATED DISK, or Slipped Disk, is the rupturing of the tissue that separates the vertebral bones of the spinal column. When the disk has ‘herniated,’ or ruptured, it may create pressure against one or more of the spinal nerves which then causes pain, weakness or numbness in the neck and arms. The rupture can be caused due to any direct, forceful and vertical pressure applied on the lumbar disks. Radio-graphic tests and CAT scans are useful in locating the exact location of the rupture and assessing eventual surgical intervention. Anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxers normally give relief, but physical therapy or surgery may be necessary in more serious cases. More
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (Hypertension)
High Blood Pressure is evidenced by monitoring the distance between the systolic and the diastolic pressures. A ‘silent killer,’ its complications cause more deaths and disabilities than any other group of diseases. To avoid risk, every adult should undergo regular checks. Treatment involves a change of life-style and, if necessary, the prescription of drugs. A change in eating habits, no smoking or alcohol, reduction in salt intake and regular exercise is often sufficient to get the blood pressure levels back to normal. More
INCONTINENCE (Urinary) is very common. There are various forms but the most frequent is called “stress incontinence” in which a small quantity of urine is passed when the pressure within the abdomen is suddenly increased, as in coughing or laughing. This form commonly follows injury or strain to the muscles forming the floor of the pelvis. Incontinence may be due to damage of the nerve control of the bladder or to outflow obstruction with overflow in men with prostate enlargement. About 5 per cent of people over 65 are incontinent, and of those in institutional care, the figure is said to be about 50 per cent. Incontinence can also affect the bowels which is more difficult to manage and treat. Whether it affects the bladder or the bowel, incontinence is far more prevalent than most people think. More
INFLUENZA, commonly knows as “flu,” is a viral disease and is highly contagious. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, dry unproductive cough, headache, back-ache and general muscle pains. Acute symptoms usually take four to five days to subside. Antibiotics have no effect on the viruses but may be necessary to control secondary respiratory infection, especially pneumonia. Anti-influenza vaccinations are available, but are not wholly effective. The injection must be given each year before the start of the “flu” season and it is highly recommended for the elderly who would be more at risk in the case of complications.
LOWER BACK PAIN
LOWER BACK PAIN, or Lumbago, is a very common complaint and the probability of having the condition increases with age. A probable cause is the assumption of a defective, slouching posture associated with poor development in the large group of muscles surrounding the spine. In these cases, the pain can usually be relieved by exercises to strengthen the muscles and by the adoption of a proper, upright posture both in standing and sitting. This kind of backache is common in pregnancy and is brought on, or made worse, by obesity of weight-bearing. More
MACULAR DEGENERATION is a painless medical condition affecting mainly older adults, resulting in a loss of vision in the centre of the visual field. It is the result of damage, or degeneration, to the macula, a part of the retina that facilitates clear, sharp vision and it is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 60. Although both eyes can be affected simultaneously, usually one eye is affected weeks or months before the other. Anyone noticing a central gap in the field of vision in one eye should consult a specialist immediately. More
MENOPAUSE is the natural end of a woman’s fertile years. It normally occurs between 47 to 52 years of age but occurrences outside this range are quite common. As a general rule, periods gradually become less intense and frequent until they disappear totally. In Menopause the ovaries cease to produce oestrogen and this can cause problems both from a physical and a psychological standpoint. The most common physical disturbances include night sweats, insomnia, headaches and general irritability. Hormone Replacement Therapy (oestrogen treatment) is often prescribed to alleviate these symptoms but there is no certainty that it is the treatment, rather than a “placebo” effect, which produces results. More
OSTEOARTHRITIS is a degenerative joint disorder involving damage to the cartilaginous bearing surfaces and it is a closely age-related condition. By age 65, about 80 percent of people have objective evidence of the disorder. The symptoms are painful and come on gradually, and joint movement becomes more limited. Short of surgery for joint replacement, there is no specific remedy. In some cases, injection of corticosteroids into the affected joint can markedly reduce the pain and disability. More
OSTEOPOROSIS is caused by a loss of calcium and collagen (protein scaffolding) in which the minerals are deposited. The result is a severe weakening of the bone and a tendency to fracture on minimal stress. The ordinary process of aging, with associated loss of activity and reduced hormone levels, can lead to osteoporosis. The oestrogen shut-down in menopause makes women more vulnerable to the condition.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological condition which develops in one person in every 500, mainly after the age of 50. Parkinson's destroys nerve cells in the brain causing a host of symptoms, including tremors. The death of brain cells also causes low levels of a chemical called dopamine. The lack of this chemical can mean that movements become slower so it takes longer to do things. Because the cause of the condition has yet to be discovered, there is no known cure, but several therapies can alleviate the symptoms. More
PERI-MENOPAUSE is the term used to describe the menopause transition years and is technically defined as the span of time from which monthly menstruation becomes irregular until a twelve-month period has gone by with no menstrual flow. Signs and effects of the menopause transition can begin as early as age 36, although most women become aware of the transition in their mid to late 40’s. Many women suffer, in varying degrees, from ‘hot flushes,’ mood swings, insomnia, fatigue and memory problems. Peri-menopause is a natural stage of life and does not, therefore, call for any required treatment. However some palliative medical therapy may sometimes be appropriate to alleviate some of the more fastidious symptoms.
PRE-DIABETES is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as full-blown diabetes. Among those who should be screened are those aged 45 and over with an overweight problem, those with family history of diabetes or vascular disease, high blood pressure and who are habitually physically inactive. Attention to diet and moderate physical activity such as walking 30 minutes each day can significantly reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. More
PRESBYCUSIS is another name for Age-related hearing loss and is a condition which develops over time starting with a difficulty in hearing high pitched sounds, often female voices. It is not a necessary symptom of old age and much can be done to avoid it. More
PRESBYOPIA is a condition also known as aging eyes that affects people as they age. The effect, usually noticed around the age of 45, is the progressive loss of the ability to focus the eyes for near vision. With age, the nearest point at which clear vision is possible gradually moves away. Simple lenses of low magnification, prescribed as reading glasses, are used to compensate for Presbyopia. It should seldom be necessary to change reading glasses more than about once every four five years. More
SARCOPENIA is a loss of skeletal muscle mass that may accompany aging. At the onset it may go undiagnosed as the loss of muscle is sometimes replaced by fat. Muscle strengthening or muscle-building may prevent or reverse much of this problem. It is estimated that there is a 0.5 – 1 percent loss per year after the age of 25. Even in the very old, exercise and increased activity are beneficial.
STROKE. This is the result of acute deprivation of blood in a part of the brain due to narrowing or thrombosis in an artery, or due to physical damage to part of the brain by internal or external bleeding. Cerebral haemorrhage is the cause of the most serious kind of stroke and is often fatal. The first indication of a cerebral haemorrhage is usually a sudden, severe headache quickly followed by paralysis on one side of the body, loss of vision to one side, fixed turning of the eyes to one side and perhaps a major epileptic-type fit. Recovery is slow and some degree of permanent disability is usual, but sustained efforts should be made to regain mobility. More
SHINGLES , or Herpes-Zoster, is a painful and sometime debilitating disease caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Reactivation occurs when there is a drop in the immune system which had been keeping the virus in check. The first syndrome is usually a tingling sensation in the area to be affected followed by pain and fever. After several days, blisters appear. When these dry out they leave small pitted scars. Shingles can hardly be avoided but recent medical research has produced an effective anti-herpes drug. However, it is essential to start drug treatment immediately after diagnosis for the medication to be fully effective. More
Swineflu is the popular name given to a new strain of influenza virus, officially named A(H1N1) by the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus has been named “swine flu” by the media and the general population, because it is believed that this virus strain resulted from the combination of different virus strains (from humans, birds and pigs), and the subsequent swapping of genetic material, whilst being hosted in pigs. Although the 2009 Pandemic of H1N1 was officially declared over in October 2010 and internationally countries are considering new flu outbreaks as seasonal flu, there have been reports of a new outbreak in the UK in December 2010. More
(Information Source: Royal Society of Medicine Encyclopedia of Family Health by Dr. Robert Youngson, MedicineNet.com, RSA, RSM, Free Directory)
Smart Habits for Healthy Aging
Adopt these Healthy Habits in order to Age Well
Although aging is inevitable, you can slow down and delay the aging process by adopting healthy habits and dropping practices which are bad for your health and which promote age-related diseases and conditions:-
Lose Excess Weight
Lose Belly Fat
Quit Smoking Now
Cut Down Your Alcohol Intake
Get Enough Sleep
Cut Down on Salt
Cut Down on Sugar to avoid age-related diseases
Follow the DASH Meal Plan
Drink Plenty of Water
Get Enough Sleep
Manage Your Stress
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