Age-related diseases are a major concern for the world’s rapidly aging population.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 8.5 percent of the world’s current population are aged 65 and over (617 million people).
This statistic is expected to increase to 17% by 2050, reaching an estimated older population of 1.6 billion people.
This dramatic growth in the proportion of the older population has raised concerns about the possible increase in age-related disease cases.
The Process Of Aging
The normal aging process cannot be evaded.
Senescence, or biological aging, is the gradual decline of body and organ functions needed to sustain life.
Cell senescence is the irreversible cessation of cell growth and cell division.
Although the rate of aging process differs from person to person, it normally begins in early adulthood.
Normal age-related changes include loss of muscle mass, strength, and tone, stiffer joints, mild forgetfulness, change in sleeping patterns, diminished reflexes, decreased number of taste buds, stiffening of blood vessels, stiffening of the chest wall, loss of skin elasticity, and decreased production of male and female hormones among others.
What Is An Age-Related Disease?
An age-related disease is a disease that increases in frequency and incidence with increasing age. It usually refers to the diseases that elderly people develop.
Risk Factors For Age-Related Diseases
According to “An Aging World: 2015” census, the major risk factors for developing age-related diseases include alcohol drinking, cigarette smoking, lack of vegetable and fruit in the diet, and a sedentary lifestyle or physical inactivity.
These factors could affect the development of age-related diseases either directly or indirectly.
Common Age-Related Diseases
Due to the increasing population of older people, it is important to understand the common diseases that usually develop with increasing age.
According to research, the following diseases can be associated with aging
Atherosclerosis develops when damage to the inner lining of the arteries makes fat components deposit and accumulate in the damaged area.
Aging can aggravate this narrowing by making the inner layer of the blood vessels thicker, less elastic and stiffer.
A healthy diet and an active lifestyle can help decrease the chance of developing atherosclerosis.
2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Physical changes in the respiratory system can contribute to the development of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
COPD includes narrowing of the airway, destruction of lung tissue and inflammation of the lungs and respiratory tract.
Changes in the body’s immune response secondary to aging lead to white blood cell accumulation in the lungs of a smoker patient.
This triggers severe inflammation and lung damage.
3. Cardiovascular Disease.
Aging creates structural changes in the circulatory system components such as the heart and the blood vessels.
As you age, your natural pacemaker loses some of its cells, changing the electrical conduction of the heart.
This may lead to irregular heartbeat and inefficient pumping and delivery of blood to all parts of the body.
Stiffer and thicker arteries also increase your risk of developing a blockage in your coronary artery, leading to coronary heart disease.
4. Cognitive Impairment.
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by shrinking of some parts of the brain, leading alteration in its structures and functions.
Damage to the blood vessels of the brain is also seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Engaging in intellectual activities such as reading, puzzle solving, and playing board games can help improve your brain function.
Participating in social activities like traveling and socializing with family and friends can also reduce the risk of age-related cognitive impairment.
5. Degenerative Osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis has been largely related to aging.
It usually presents with joint pain and stiffness.
As you age, your joint tissues decrease in strength and flexibility.
This wear and tear can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis.
Maintaining a normal body weight can reduce the pain and stress on your joints and prevent further joint deterioration in osteoarthritis.
6. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
This eye condition is common in people aged 50 and older.
It causes damage to the macula, a very sensitive area at the center of the retina that’s needed for central vision.
The macula allows you to see objects clearly and sharply.
When the macula degenerates, you may lose your central vision and make daily activities more difficult.
Maintaining normal blood pressure can help decrease the likelihood of having AMD.
Also, it has been shown that smoking increases the risk of AMD so you have to do away with it as well.
7. Osteoporosis (Back Pain).
Osteoporosis is more common among women aged 60 and above.
Bone loss in women escalates with the drop of estrogen level following menopause, making them more prone to having osteoporosis.
Loss of muscle tone coupled with some bone loss can lead to signs and symptoms such as back pain, stooped posture, loss of height and increased risk of fracture.
It is important to observe safety measures to prevent falls, which may result in fracture.
Back pain can be managed by applying a cold and warm pack to the affected area as well and applying pain relief creams specifically formulated for back pain.
8. Type II Diabetes
The incidence of Type II diabetes increases with age.
This happens because the beta cells in your pancreas (the one responsible for the production of insulin) stop working correctly, leading to decreased insulin production.
This, along with increased insulin resistance in the cells can lead to accumulation of glucose in the blood and the development of Type II diabetes.
Incorporating lesser sugar in the diet and committing to routine exercise can decrease the risk of developing Type II diabetes.
How To Prevent The Development Of Age-Related Diseases
Leading a healthy and an active lifestyle such as eating a balanced diet and doing age-appropriate physical activities can help combat the risk of developing age-related diseases.
You should also stop smoking since it is a major risk factor for a majority of age-related diseases.
Being health-conscious enables you to recognize certain signs earlier and deal with the disease sooner, which can lead to better prognosis.
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