Thanks to advancements in medicine and nutrition, people with adequate access to quality food and healthcare are living longer than ever. Singapore, for example, has one of the largest elderly populations in Asia alongside Japan, with residents aged 65 and up making up around 16% of the population as of 2021. Life expectancy for residents at 65 years of age was also recorded that year to be an average of 21.2 years, an increase of more than a decade since 1980. This significant increase in life expectancy logically aligns with the country’s rate of economic progress, which has enjoyed a consistent upward trajectory in recent years.
The above data makes it clear that Singapore seniors are living longer than ever before, and they also have a much-improved quality of life to look forward to than the elderly of prior generations. However, this doesn’t mean that today’s seniors no longer need to think about the many chronic health problems that occur with age. On the contrary, being familiar with age-related health risks and making healthy lifestyle choices to prevent them is necessary for maintaining optimal well-being later in life.
Here are 4 common age-related health conditions to watch out for:
All people experience a decline in reproductive functions with age, regardless of sex. For those with female reproductive systems, for instance, fertility declines over time until it completely disappears by the end of menopause. Menopausal people will cease to menstruate, and their bodies will produce significantly less estrogen and progesterone. Those with male reproductive systems experience a similar decline in testosterone and sperm count known as andropause.
Though these changes are normal products of ageing, they leave elderly people more vulnerable to a number of disorders and dysfunctions of the reproductive system. For instance, men and those assigned male at birth (AMAB) may find that their prostates enlarge with age, a condition known as benign prostate hyperplasia. An enlarged prostate may cause uncomfortable urinary symptoms, as well as more severe problems with the bladder, kidneys, and urinary tract. Women and those assigned female at birth, meanwhile, experience vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal walls after menopause. This degeneration of the vagina can lead to inflammation, which is known as atrophic vaginitis.
The above are just two common examples of reproductive dysfunctions that can occur as a person ages. It’s highly important for older adults to report reproductive changes and other unusual physical symptoms to their doctors immediately, so that any complications and underlying conditions can be identified and addressed.
Arthritis is a medical condition that occurs when the fluid and cartilage surrounding a person’s joints degenerate, causing the bones to scrape together painfully. It’s a common health problem and cause of disability globally, affecting more than 350 million people around the world as of 2021. A person’s risk of developing arthritis rises with age, and this risk is especially high in older adults.
Osteoarthritis, or the degeneration of the joints due to lifelong wear and tear, is the most common type of arthritis seniors have to contend with. Osteoarthritis symptoms typically manifest first in frequently used, highly mobile joints like those in the knees, wrists, hips, fingers and spine.
The good news is that many treatments are now available for osteoarthritis and other arthritic conditions. These treatments aim to ease joint pain and facilitate mobility for seniors and can improve quality of life for many years post-diagnosis.
While normal biological ageing does affect memory and cognition, this effect is generally mild. If a person experiences more severe age-related memory loss, this is usually medically identified as mild cognitive impairment. Seniors with mild cognitive impairment may be forgetful and find complex tasks like paying bills or following directions with multiple steps confusing and difficult.
It’s also possible for older people to develop more severe cognitive impairments, like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s is described as an irreversible, progressive brain disease that gradually erodes cognitive functioning over time. Memory lapses are an early symptom of Alzheimer’s, after which the disease may take a toll on concentration, learning, communication, and other cognitive abilities. Many people with severe cases of Alzheimer’s are unable to even perform basic tasks and require constant assistance and attention from caregivers.
A person’s risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks and strokes, increases with age. In fact, heart disease has been identified as one of the most common causes of death in people over 65.
Risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure drive up a person’s chances of developing heart disease or having a stroke. Seniors at high risk for heart disease can reduce this risk by pursuing a healthy lifestyle, which may include quitting smoking, eating a nutritious diet, getting more sleep, and exercising regularly. These lifestyle changes not only help mitigate the risk of developing cardiovascular problems but also improve senior health across the board.
Being vigilant about one’s health and making good lifestyle choices can help any person live a longer, healthier life. Even seniors managing chronic health conditions can live happily and comfortably for many more years with help from a dedicated healthcare team.