Common aging health concerns and what to do


Aging health

Not all people struggle with the health concerns shown below, but many older people do. Always talk to your doctor about symptoms that bother or concern you.

Otherwise, the common aging health concerns include:


Arthritis:

Age-related arthritis, called osteoarthritis, occurs when the tissue that cushions the ends of the bones within joints wears away.

What you can do:

»» Get plenty of rest.
»» Get physical activity to reduce stiffness.
»» Wear supportive shoes.
»» Use gadgets to help you do things such as open jars and turn doorknobs.
»» Try medicines to reduce pain and swelling.

Call your doctor if one or more of these symptoms last more than 2 weeks:

• Lasting joint pain.
• Joint swelling.
• Joint stiffness.
• Tenderness or pain when touching a joint.
• Problems using or moving a joint normally.
• Warmth or redness in a joint.

Balance problems

Disturbances in the inner ear, other health problems, and some medicines can cause a balance problem—a reason many older people fall.

What you can do:

»» Eat a low-salt.
»» Heart-healthy diet.
»» Get physical activity to improve strength and balance.
»» Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
»» Don’t stand up too quickly or change direction suddenly.
»» Ask your doctor to review the medicines you are using.

Call your doctor if you:

• Feel unsteady.
• Feel like you or your surroundings are spinning or moving.
• Feel like you are falling.
• Lose your balance and fall.
• Ever feel disoriented.
• Feel like you might faint.
• Have blurred vision.

Dry skin and itching:

Dry skin and itching— mainly on lower legs, elbows, and forearms—is a common complaint of older people.

What you can do:

»» Use moisturizers—mainly creams and ointments.
»» Bathe less often and use mild soaps and warm—not hot—water.
»» Drink plenty of water.
»» Stay out of the sun, and protect your skin with sunscreen.
»» Don’t smoke, it dries out skin.

See your doctor if:

• Your dry skin does not improve with self-care
• Your dry skin affects your sleep
• You have sores that do not heal
• You notice a change in the skin, such as a new growth or a mole that looks different.

Eye problems:

Many people notice changes in vision as they age. Other common eye complaints include having too many tears, dry eyes, or eyelid problems.

What you can do:

»» Have your eyes checked every 1 to 2 years by an eye-care professional.
»» An eye exam is the only way to find out about some eye diseases.
»» Ask your doctor if you are at high risk of eye disease.
»» Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.

Call your doctor if you have:

• Eye pain.
• Fluid coming out of your eye.
• Double vision.
• Redness.
• Swelling of your eye or eyelid
Call your doctor right away if:
• You suddenly cannot see or everything looks dim
• You see flashes of light.

Flu and pneumonia:

The flu—short for “influenza”—can make you very sick, especially if you have health problems like heart disease or diabetes. Older people who get the flu are more likely to also get another infection, such as pneumonia.

What you can do:

»» People age 50 and older should get a flu vaccine every year.
»» All people 65 and older should get a one-time-only pneumonia vaccine.
»» Clean your hands often.
»» Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
»» Stay away from people who are sick.

Call your doctor if you have these symptoms, even if you got the flu shot:

• Fever.
• A headache.
• Aches and pains.
• Extreme tiredness and weakness.
• Chest discomfort or a cough.
• Stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat (less common).

Hearing loss:

Hearing problems come in many forms and have many causes. Ignoring a hearing problem can lead to depression.

What you can do:

»» Have your hearing checked every 3 years.
»» Review the medicines you are using with your doctor.
»» Wear earplugs or earmuffs to protect your hearing from loud noise.

See your doctor if:

• People you talk to seem to mumble.
• You have to strain to understand what others are saying.
• Others say you play the TV or radio too loudly.
• You cannot hear the doorbell or phone ring.
• You have trouble hearing in crowded or noisy rooms.
• You have dizziness, pain, or ringing in your ears.

Shingles:

Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the chicken pox virus. As you get older, the virus may come back as shingles.

What you can do:

»» Most people 60 and older should get the one-time-only herpes zoster vaccine, which can prevent shingles.  Some people with specific health conditions should not get it. Your doctor can tell you if it’s okay for you.

Call your doctor right away if:

• You feel burning or shooting pain and tingling or itching, usually on one side of the body or face.
• You have a rash or blisters appear on the side of the trunk or face.

Sexual problems:

Many women remain sexually active in older age. But about one-half of them report at least one bothersome sexual problem.

What you can do:

»» Try over-the-counter lubricants to relieve vaginal dryness.
»» If you have more than one partner or are divorced or widowed and have started a new sexual relationship have your partner wear a  condom to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

See your doctors if:

• You have problems that make it hard for you to enjoy active sex life.
• have pain during sex.

Sleep problems:

Older women still need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night to stay healthy and alert. But sleep problem is more common with age.

What you can do:

»» Try to avoid daytime napping which can keep you from getting a restful night’s sleep.
»» Practice good sleep habits.
»» Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bedtime.

Talk to your doctor if: 

• You have trouble falling and staying.
• You wake up many times during the night.
• You don’t feel well-rested on wakening or feel sleepy during the day.
• You feel tingling or crawling in your legs that disrupts your sleep.

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