It seems like as we age, we experience more illnesses. This is true, but not necessarily due to the aging process. Many “age-related” diseases, illnesses, and other conditions can be prevented by taking the proper precautions and making certain lifestyle changes.
Here are five examples of age-related conditions that can be prevented if the proper precautions are taken.
1. Cancer (Certain Types)
Unfortunately, not all cancers can be prevented, but there are things that you can do to reduce your risk of developing cancer.
Age, family history, and sex are some of the risk factors that can’t be helped, but here’s a list of some other risk factors that can be eliminated to lower your chances of developing cancer:
- Excessive alcohol drinking (liver cancer)
- Exposure to sunlight/UV radiation (skin cancer)
- Smoking tobacco (lung cancer)
Excessive body weight is also linked to developing cancer, so regular physical activity and eating nutritiously can help lower your risk as well. Also, be mindful that exposure to certain toxins (such as asbestos) can also lead to cancer.
2. Dementia (Certain Types)
Dementia refers to a group of different neurological disorders that affect various parts of the brain, including memory and problem-solving skills.
It’s one of the most well-known age-related diseases, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common type of dementia, but other common types include:
- Huntington’s disease
- Lewy body dementia
- Parkinson’s disease
- Vascular dementia
Currently, research suggests that only Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia may be able to be prevented, especially vascular dementia.
Vascular dementia is usually caused by a stroke— which is caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even type 2 diabetes— meaning that it can be prevented. Alzheimer’s can also be caused by these conditions.
So eating healthy and exercising regularly can help prevent these two types of dementia.
3. Heart Disease
Heart disease (and other cardiovascular disorders) is also very common in older age.
Heart disease is any disorder that affects the heart, while cardiovascular diseases affect the heart and the blood vessels. Examples of heart/cardiovascular diseases include:
- Congenital heart disease
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart arrhythmias
- Heart failure
- Heart muscle disease
- Pericardial disease
The three main risk factors for developing heart disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure (hypertension), and high blood sugar (diabetes). The key to lowering your numbers associated with these conditions is to eat healthy and exercise regularly.
Being sedentary (living a predominantly inactive lifestyle) and eating foods high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats raises these numbers.
This is a condition in which bones become weak and brittle. Our bodies constantly absorb and replace bone tissue, but we reach our peak bone mass at age 30, so our bone tissues aren’t replaced as quickly.
Not everyone develops osteoporosis, but those that do typically have these risk factors:
- Being a woman over the age of 55
- Being sedentary
- Certain medications
- Low calcium intake
- Reduced estrogen levels
- Smaller body frame
- Thyroid issues
The key to preventing osteoporosis is improving your bone health. Again, a healthy diet and exercise are two ways to prevent this type of disease.
5. Senior Falls
Senior falls are when senior citizens (those over the age of 64) fall and become severely injured, and possibly die.
Osteoporosis is one of the reasons that senior falls are much more dangerous for people in this age group— but seniors without osteoporosis can still become seriously injured from a fall.
Seniors are most likely to experience a fall in their own homes and also in assisted living centers. Seniors living at home alone are at a greater risk of falls, while seniors who experience falls in nursing homes are often victims of neglect and abuse.
Falls in both places can be prevented by making sure tripping hazards are eliminated, there’s proper lighting, and there are grab bars installed in slippery areas, such as the bathroom.
The bottom line is that eating healthy and exercising regularly can help prevent or lower your risk of developing many age-related illnesses. It’s important to incorporate whole grains/seeds/nuts, leafy green vegetables, fruit, and oily fish into your diet, and limit the amount of fried, processed, salty, and sugary foods you eat.
You should also strive to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity (which can be walking, swimming, fishing, etc.) per week. Even if you’re already experiencing any of these conditions, switching to a healthier lifestyle can help you better manage your condition.
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