Elderly Health Issues and Management (Part 2/2)

common medical conditions in the elderly

In Part 1, we talked about elderly health issues, such as confusion, memory loss, urinary incontinence, difficulty sleeping and hearing problems. However, there are many other health conditions that can be found in older adults. This article will provide more information about these common medical conditions in the elderly.

 

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis weakens the bones and makes them brittle, or fracture more easily. It is common in women after menopause and men older than 70. 

Prevention and Management:

  • Women older than 55 and men older than 70 should undergo bone mineral density (BMD) testing to determine bone mass and identify any problems.
  • Blood tests should be performed to test Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is important because it helps calcium absorption. If it is too low, vitamin D supplements should be taken.
  • It is recommended that elderly people consume at least 1,000 mg/day of calcium from their food intake or supplements.
  • Physical exercise that improves bone strength, such as walking, jogging and light weight lifting, is also recommended.
  • If osteoporosis is detected, treatment is necessary to prevent further bone loss and reduce the risk of bone fractures. 

 

Dizziness and Imbalance

Dizziness and imbalance are common in older people and can lead to falls. The symptoms are caused by several conditions, such as low blood pressure, side effects of taking medications (some pain relievers, anxiety relievers and anti-seizure medication), Meniere’s disease, arrhythmias, anemia and stress.

Prevention and Management:

  • Consult your doctor to be assessed and treated for any correctable causes of dizziness.
  • Take care when getting up from sitting or lying down, by steadying your balance before moving and changing positions more slowly. Use equipment that helps maintain balance, such as walking sticks or frames, and grab rails.

 

Balance Problems and Falls

Balance problems and falls in older people can be caused by several factors, such as osteoarthritis, decreased muscle mass, muscle weakness, brain disorders, a sharp drop in blood pressure when getting up from bed or from a chair, arrhythmias, medications that affect blood pressure or cause drowsiness, inadequate lighting, and uneven or slippery floors. Fall prevention is very important because older people are more likely to break or fracture a bone, as well as to experience complications after surgery and hospitalization. 

Prevention and Management:

  • Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or low blood pressure.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain muscle strength and balance.
  • Create a safe environment, such as with adequate lighting, anti-slippery floors and grab rails.
  • Undergo bone mineral density testing so as to detect osteoporosis and receive the appropriate treatment.

 

Undernutrition and Reduced Appetite

Undernutrition and appetite loss can be caused by several factors, such as dental problems, difficulty swallowing, poor appetite, weight loss, side effects of taking certain medications, depression, forgetfulness and certain chronic diseases that cause a loss of appetite. These factors lead to poor nutrition and subsequent complications in the elderly, such as infection, osteoporosis, decreased muscle mass, and weakness in the arms and legs.

 Prevention and Management:

  • Consult a doctor to determine if any of the above causes of appetite and weight loss are present. .
  • Have a regular oral health check.
  • Eating with family and friends, rather than eating alone has been shown to improve food intake in older persons
  • Try to ensure a variety of foods that are easy to digest, and lessen dietary restrictions
  • Consult a doctor to change any medications that may cause appetite loss.
  • Consult a doctor or nutritionist about nutritional supplements.

 

Vision Problems

In addition to aging, some conditions including diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration can cause decreased vision and affect the life quality of older adults.

Prevention and Management: Older adults should have their eyes checked at least once a year. The most effective treatment is linked to early detection.

By Dr. Lily Chaisompong, Geriatrician, NewLife the Healthy Aging Clinic, Bumrungrad Hospital

 

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Posted by Bumrungrad International