Ageing is a universal phenomenon, generally accompanied with strong emotional and physical changes. This is a time when you become physically and socially less active and become more prone to health problems. Perhaps the reason why it is called the sunset of life, although now a days, it is probably more like the afternoon, with increasing life spans and 80 is the new 60. Nevertheless, it is very important to take good care of yourself and make certain lifestyle changes that can help you age with health and grace.
High Blood Pressure
After crossing the age of 60, a higher blood pressure (BP) level up to 140/90 mm Hg is considered an acceptable target level at this age as opposed to the usual 120/80 mm Hg that is normal in a younger population. However, it is important to be up-to-date with blood pressure medications and lifestyle modifications that your doctor has recommended. Regular visits to the family doctor and medical check-ups are also very important.
High Blood Cholesterol levels
With age, it is important the cholesterol levels are checked, kept in control and monitored with appropriate steps like diet control and regular physical activity. The American Heart Association (AHA) – recommends the below mentioned blood cholesterol levels as desirable.
- Total blood cholesterol level: less than 200 mg/dL
- LDL (Bad cholesterol) level: less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL (Good cholesterol) level: greater than 40 mg/dL for men, 50 mg/dL for women
Risky Blood sugar levels
If you are a diabetic, it is very important to keep a track on your blood sugar levels and also take appropriate steps to monitor and self-manage them. It is important to be aware of the average blood glucose levels over the past 2-3 months (indicated by HbA1C levels), since medications are prescribed with these levels in mind. Recommended target HbA1C level for older adults (65+) is between 7.5 to 8%.
Be careful of your bones
Have you had a fracture after a relatively minor fall, or notice frequent back pains, change in posture (bending of spine), or any height loss recently? All elderly people, especially women, are at a high-risk of developing bone fractures (due to osteoporosis) and should always watch out for warning signs which can indicate trouble.
It is important to undergo a complete evaluation to diagnose the presence of bone-loss disorders like osteoporosis and osteopenia. Again, your family doctor is the best person to guide you.
Bleeding after menopause
Bleeding after menopause is a cause of serious concern in post-menopausal women, with even “mild spotting” having serious health implications. There could be a number of reasons like uterine polyps, atrophy/hyperplasia of the uterine lining or cancer which could be a cause of the bleeding. It is very important for to get yourself checked immediately and begin timely treatment for the same.
Recognise Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is a very common problem in older men and can be a cause of great inconvenience and social embarrassment. There could be a number of medical reasons causing this. It is important to get checked by your family doctor to identify the underlying cause and seek treatment for the same.
Cataract is a common problem in the elderly that can be easily treated. As “gradual vision loss” is the only symptom, it is generally overlooked by adults and they tend to consider it a normal part of ageing. If you have been experiencing problems with your vision like blurring, night blindness, double vision, distorted vision or difficulty with glare, it is high time to get your eyes checked and undergo a complete assessment for the same. Your family doctor can refer you to an eye specialist who can then treat your condition.
For elderly men, any or all of these symptoms are indicative of a trip to the doctor:
- Frequent urination
- Painful urination
- Burning urination
- Blood in urine
- Difficulty in passing urine
All men above 50 years are at risk for prostrate problems like prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer. It is important that you learn to recognise the above warning signs of these problems and get checked for the same.
A very common problem in the elderly is insomnia, manifested as difficulty in going to sleep or staying asleep or both. People with this problem often wake up in the middle of the night and find it difficult to go back to sleep, and wake up feeling un-refreshed and tired in the mornings. You may be suffering from insomnia if you find it hard to go to sleep in spite of being exhausted and tired, depend on sleeping pills to fall asleep and find it difficult to concentrate on work during the day. There is a long list of medical conditions that can cause insomnia and hence it makes sense to consult your doctor to rule out the more sinister ones like Sleep Apnoea Syndrome, side-effects of prescribed medications, and depression.
Modest memory loss is considered a normal part of the ageing process. However, if you feel you are frequently forgetting more than you should be at this age, it could be a sign of an underlying problem. Alzheimer’s and other kinds of dementia are associated with a definite pattern of memory loss that is different from the memory loss that occurs due to ageing and warrants a visit to your doctor for an evaluation.