Georgia Dixon

Caring

How to spot and prevent 4 age-related health conditions

How to spot and prevent 4 age-related health conditions

There’s nothing quite like that feeling of looking in the mirror only to see a much older face staring back at you and thinking, “where did all that time go?” And while you may still feel like a kid at heart (or, at the very least, a 30-something), the reality is that usually, our bodies age much faster than our minds. That’s why it’s so important to take care of yourself as you enter your 60s and beyond.

Here’s how you can spot five of the most common problems among ageing Kiwis, or perhaps prevent them altogether.

1. Bone health issues

Whether it’s osteoporosis or arthritis, age often brings with it increasingly brittle, stiff and painful bones or joints.

Osteoporosis often has no symptoms, but the condition can be a ticking time bomb, waiting to cause a fracture. While you can’t necessarily prevent it, you can ask your doctor for regular bone density scans to ensure your bones are healthy.

As for arthritis, it’s often just a by-product of decades of wear and tear, although there are forms that may affect you earlier in life. The tell-tale sign is painful, swollen and stiff joints, but thankfully there are plenty of ways your GP can help you manage the symptoms. When it comes to prevention, often there isn’t much to do – simply maintain a healthy weight to ensure less pressure on your joints, eat a diet rich in calcium and do plenty of strength exercises.

2. Vision loss

Macular degeneration is the bane of many over-60s’ lives, particularly those over the age of 75, when the risk of developing the condition grows to 30 per cent. The first noticeable sign of macular degeneration is generally a small, blurry spot at the centre of your vision which can become bigger (or darker) as the disease progresses. The condition can be hereditary, but those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight people, smokers, women, light-skinned people or those with light-coloured eyes are most at risk.

Glaucoma can also be particularly debilitating, as its first symptom is a loss of vision. Caused by a high fluid pressure in the eye, the disease unfortunately cannot be prevented. However, if you catch the vision loss early, it can be treated and managed.

3. Hearing loss

Just as you should get frequent eye tests, you should have your hearing checked on a regular basis. The best thing you can do to prevent losing your hearing is to avoid loud noises (e.g. concerts, noisy movies) and try not to use earphones – or, if you must, have the volume at as low a level as you can stand. Hearing loss is treatable, but hearing aids, implants and other treatments are expensive and due to their small size are often lost.

4. Incontinence

We know, it’s not the most glamorous topic of all time, but you’d be surprised to learn just how many over-60s suffer from bladder issues. But it’s nothing to be ashamed of – it’s simply the result of pelvic muscles losing their strength the older we get. Because it has a myriad of possible causes, treatment is different for everyone. Fortunately, because it is often caused by another underlying condition, once that condition is treated, your incontinence may also be cured. For those with incurable incontinence, there are still many ways your doctor can help you manage it and significantly reduce its severity.

As for prevention, all the usual health tips work here – drink lots of water, eat a wholefood diet and exercise regularly. Plus, pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen affected muscles and improve bladder (and bowel) control.

Related links:

This could be the first sign of Alzheimer’s disease

If you develop Alzheimer’s, will your children get it too?

5 myths about sleep and ageing debunked