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Illnesses to Watch for When Aging

Common Illnesses in Elderly

There are some things that get better with age and our health is not one of them. Certain illnesses and conditions become more prominent as we age. However, they do not have to be inevitable. Although, it is still good to know about common illnesses in elderly.

Here are some common illnesses in elederly associated with aging and what we can do to either delay or prevent them.

Influenza and Pneumonia

The one year I did not get the flu shot, I got the flu. I can tell you it is not fun. One minute I felt fine, the next I felt like I had been run over by a truck. I have been a strong believer in the flu shot ever since, even if it does make me feel kind of achy for a day or two.

People who get the flu shot are at less risk of contracting both flu and pneumonia. Studies have shown most people admitted to the hospital for flu-related pneumonia had not received a flu shot. So, the best way of preventing flu and pneumonia is getting an annual flu shot, which is readily available at most pharmacies and doctor’s offices.

Even though flu and pneumonia are not considered illnesses of aging, they are in the top seven causes of death in people 65 and older.

What else can you do to ward it off? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding close contact with people who are sick, washing your hands often and disinfecting surfaces you touch frequently like computer keyboards, doorknobs, remote controls and telephones.


Arthritis cannot always be prevented. Some of the root causes are increasing age, genetics, and even gender, with arthritis being more common in women than men. If you have arthritis, and statistics suggest almost 50% of all adults over 65 do, it is not only painful, but it can lead to a poorer quality of life.

The most important thing you can do to stave off its effects is talk with your doctor and together develop an activity and eating plan that can help reduce the risk of developing arthritic pain as you age.


Here is a frightening statistic: cancer is the second leading cause of death among adults over 65.

The CDC stated that 21% of women over 65 and 28% of men in the same age category are living with some type of cancer. With many cancers being caught and successfully treated early, the first recommendation is to get screened early for breast, colon and skin cancers.

Here are some strategies you can try to lower your risk of getting cancer:

  • Filter your tap water
  • Do not top off your gas tank
  • Marinate meat before cooking
  • Get some caffeine each day
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat lots of green greens
  • Walk briskly
  • Use your cell phone judiciously
  • Increase your intake of calcium
  • Eat a lot of whole grains
  • If you are overweight, lose some excess pounds

Alzheimer’s Disease

The Alzheimer’s Association states, “The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will grow each year as the size and proportion of the U.S. population age 65 and older continues to increase. The number will escalate rapidly in coming years as the baby boom generation ages.”

Their statistics reveal that an estimated 5.1 million Americans over 65, about 11% of people in that category, suffer from Alzheimer’s.

There is research showing a person can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by keeping their body and mind healthy.

Heart Disease

The CDC’s statistics state that heart disease remains the number one killer of people over 65, with 610,000 deaths annually. It goes on to state that “heart disease affects 37 percent of men and 26 percent of women 65 and older…and as people age, they're increasingly living with risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”

Striking the same theme, a bad diet and not exercising, as well as other unhealthy habits, can take their toll over the years. So, what do we do as we get older in addition to changing diets and exercising?

Get a Physical Exam

Beginning in your 60s, as part of your annual physical exam, ask your physician to perform an ankle-brachial index test. This test measures the pulses in the feet to help diagnose peripheral artery disease.

As we age, our bodies do not need to consume as many calories since we are not generally as active as we were when we were younger. If you are overweight, your heart has to work harder putting you at increased risk not only for heart disease, but also high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Most importantly, learn the warning signs of a heart attack. The symptoms are different in men and women. I have got a list posted on the side of my refrigerator just in case. For a comprehensive list, go to Heart Attack Warning Signs.

Some of the other common diseases associated with aging include diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), osteoporosis, falls, shingles, oral health and depression.

All of these common illnesses in elderly have something in common: what we can do to forestall them. So, to reiterate the theme throughout this article, eat a healthy diet, get a lot of exercise (which does not mean lifting 100 pounds or running 5m everyday), and exercise your brain (read, do crossword puzzles, watch the news, join a study group, or take a class at a university or college).

I, for one, am starting on a new path tomorrow, one that I hope will lead to a very productive, long, healthy life and I hope you will join me on the journey.