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7 Common Diseases in Seniors

Krista Giannak

Last updated: November 8, 2016 8:33 pm

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Did you know that 35 million seniors age 65 and older are alive today, and 4 million of those are age 85 or older? This is according to the National Institute on Aging. 1

Here are seven common senior health concerns and what you can do about them.

Heart Disease and Stroke Health Concerns of Senior Citizens

The leading cause of death for seniors is heart disease, according to Everyday Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2 Some treatable risk factors, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, also increase your risk of stroke, the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. 3 4 Another stroke risk factor is a type of irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation or AFib, according to the National Stroke Association. 5

You may be taking an anticoagulant medication in an attempt to lessen your chances of developing a blood clot that can lead to a stroke. Anticoagulants, such as Xarelto, can have serious side effects, including potential severe bleeding. Some studies have suggested higher rates of wound complications when taking Xarelto after total hip or knee replacement surgeries, as compared to other medications, including aspirin and herparin, or treatments such as compression pumps or stockings. 6

Cancer

As the second leading cause of death in the U.S. amongst common diseases in seniors, cancer often may be prevented or more easily treated if diagnosed early. 7 8 Regular screenings, including colonoscopies, mammograms and skin checks, are recommended. 9

Diabetes and Senior Health

Diabetes is a common chronic senior health concern, affecting about 18 percent of women and 24 percent of men in the U.S. 10 The CDC recommends losing weight, if necessary, through 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week, to delay or prevent type II diabetes. 11

SGLT2 inhibitors have recently been prescribed to lower glucose levels in patients with type II diabetes, when taken with diet and exercise. Serious side effects have been reported for these medications, including a medical condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and serious urinary tract infections that can be life-threatening, for which the FDA required warning language to be added to the labeling for all of the SGLT2 inhibitors. 12

Arthritis

Although not a significant cause of death, arthritis may be a number one condition among the daily health concerns of senior citizens, according to Everyday Health. 13 Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). 14 According to the Arthritis Foundation, losing excess body weight and protecting joints during sports can help prevent osteoarthritis. Diabetes may also be a risk factor for osteoarthritis. 15

Your doctor may recommend a hip replacement due to osteoarthritis if more conservative treatments fail to alleviate pain. Unfortunately, some metal-on-metal hip implants may release particles into the surrounding tissue and bloodstream. This can lead to damaged tissue, bone or both, according to the FDA, which may in turn lead to loosening or failure of the hip. 16 Some metal-on-metal hip implants have been recalled. Learn more about hip replacement recalls if you’ve had a hip replacement surgery.

Respiratory Diseases

Examples of respiratory diseases include COPD, asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis. Chronic low-respiratory disease is the third leading cause of death in seniors in the U.S., according to the CDC. 17

Alzheimer’s and Other Old Age Diseases

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, causing profound cognitive decline as time passes, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. 18 According to the National Institute on Aging, we do not have clear evidence about how to prevent Alzheimer’s or other declines in cognitive function as we age. However, the same healthy lifestyle changes recommended for other health concerns of senior citizens may also improve brain function or prevent decline. 19

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is most common in senior women. Osteoporosis can lead to bone fractures, pain and decreased quality of life as the disease progresses. NIAMS recommends some key osteoporosis prevention tips, including having adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, a healthy diet and regular physical activity. 20

  1. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/about/living-long-well-21st-century-strategic-directions-research-aging/introduction. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/leading_causes_of_death_by_age_group_2013-a.pdf. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  3. Everyday Health. http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/most-common-health-concerns-seniors. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/leading_causes_of_death_by_age_group_2013-a.pdf. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  5. National Stroke Association. http://www.stroke.org/understand-stroke/preventing-stroke/afib-stroke-connection. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/UCM280333.pdf. (Accessed May 23, 2016); Jensen CD et al, “Return to Theatre Following Total Hip and Knee Replacement, Before and After the Introduction of Rivaroxaban,” Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Vol. 93-B: 91-95, Jan., 2011; Jameson SS et al, “Wound Complications Following Rivaroxaban Administration,” Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Vol. 94:1554-8, Sept. 5, 2012; Brimmo, Olubusola, et al. Rivaroxaban Use for Thrombosis Prophylaxis is an Independent Risk Factor for Early Periprosthetic Joint Infections.  Paper no. 683. Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 2015. http://aaos2015.conferencespot.org/58906-aaos-1.1965581/t003-1.1971903/f003-1.1971904/a069-1.1972374/paper-683-1.1972389. (Accessed June 8, 2016); Barrack, Robert L., Symposium on Hot Topics and Controversies in Primary Total Hip Arthroplasty: Aspirin and Mechanical Compression Sleeves are Best for Most. Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 2015. http://aaos2015.conferencespot.org/58906-aaos-1.1965581/t005-1.1971392/f005-1.1971393/a122-1.1971442/w-1.1971457. (Accessed June 8, 2016); Brimmo, Olubusola, et al. Rivaroxaban use for Thrombosis Prophylaxis is Associated with Early Periprosthetic Joint Infection. Journal of Arthroplasty. http://www.arthroplastyjournal.org/article/S0883-5403(15)01108-0/abstract. (Accessed June 8, 2016). 

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/leading_causes_of_death_by_age_group_2013-a.pdf. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  8. Everyday Health. http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/most-common-health-concerns-seniors. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  9. Everyday Health. http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/most-common-health-concerns-seniors. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  10. Everyday Health. http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/most-common-health-concerns-seniors. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/prevention.html. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  12. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm475463.htm. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  13. Everyday Health. http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/most-common-health-concerns-seniors. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  14. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/osteoarthritis/osteoarthritis_ff.asp. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  15. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/osteoarthritis/articles/oa-prevention.php. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  16. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/MetalonMetalHipImplants/ucm241604.htm. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  17. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/pdf/leading_causes_of_death_by_age_group_2013-a.pdf. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  18. Alzheimer’s Association. https://www.alz.org/facts/downloads/facts_figures_2015.pdf. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  19. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/preventing-alzheimers-disease/introduction. (Accessed May 23, 2016). 

  20. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/osteoporosis/osteoporosis_ff.asp. (Accessed May 23, 2016).