Between 1900 and 2015, life expectancy in the United States increased from 51 to 81 years for women and from 48 to 76 years from men. As Americans life expectancy has increased, the prevalence of chronic conditions associated with age has also. Chronic conditions can cause limitations in daily activities, hospitalization, transition to a nursing home, and poor quality of life. However, many people who have chronic conditions lead active, productive lives and modern medicine now provides treatments or cures for many chronic conditions affecting seniors.
Heart disease is among the most common health problems for seniors. The American Heart Association estimates that more than 42 million American adults (37%) over age 60 suffer from cardiovascular disease; more than 70 percent of men and women ages 60 to 79 are living with it, and an even higher percentage of seniors over age 80 have it, too. Heart disease is not one specific illness, but rather refers to a group of conditions that affect the structure and function of the heart. These conditions include angina, cardiac arrest, heart attack, coronary artery disease and enlarged heart, to name a few. Seniors are particularly susceptible to heart conditions due to the natural course of aging. As you age, changes in the heart and blood vessels occur. The heart begins to pump slower and can grow bigger in size. The heart muscle cells degenerate slightly. So, more care needs to be taken to keep you healthy. Heart disease is a serious issue and as the population’s average age rises, so do incidences of heart disease. More seniors than ever are leading active lives with heart conditions. Medicine has made great strides in managing and even eliminating symptoms from this too often debilitating disease. New therapies include medications in combination with diet and exercise programs.
Perhaps the number one condition facing seniors today is pain caused by swelling in the joints, more commonly known as arthritis. Nearly fifty percent of seniors suffer from this potentially devastating disease for which there is no cure. The disease can vary from severe, causing seniors to be incapacitated, to the mild causing them loss of range or movement at certain times. Current treatments include traditional medications and personalized patient treatment plans, to physical therapy and even alternative medicines that fight inflammation and have shown great promise.
More than 55 million senior Americans suffer from Osteoporosis, a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps. When osteoporosis occurs, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much larger than in healthy bone. Osteoporotic bones have lost density or mass and contain abnormal tissue structure. As bones become less dense, they weaken and are more likely to break. Osteoporosis can contribute to becoming less mobile and potentially disabled should you fall and have a fracture or as the vertebral bodies collapse. Many different medical conditions and even medicines can cause bone loss. Current treatments include increased calcium intakes, changing medicines that cause bone loss and correcting any conditions contributing to the disease.
TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder)
A less discussed, but often painful chronic condition called TMJ can also develop in many seniors. TMJ occurs when there is dysfunction within the mass muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and supportive structures associated with the temporomandibular joint of the head. Of all TMJ has many symptoms that overlap each other and mimic other conditions like medical neurological dysfunction including headaches, tinnitus, ear pain and congestion.
TMJ is most often associated with young children or teens who get it as their teeth grow into their skulls. Often misalignment or even the shape of their skulls can cause TMJ. But TMJ is not only suffered by young people. Seniors can often get TMJ as their teeth wear down causing their healthy initial position to be altered to an unhealthy one and pain, headaches and other common symptoms of TMJ disorder develop. Also, restorations like dentures and dental crowns can contribute to TMJ if they’re placed improperly. It’s crucial that they are fitted not just to your mouth, but to your bite as well. Otherwise, jaw pain, headaches, and potentially, TMJ develop. There are a host of effective TMJ treatments that range from medications, oral splints, mouth guards, surgery and alternative therapies like acupuncture. They are proving very effective for seniors with TMJ.