3 Surprising Health Risks Faced by the Elderly

Life beyond age 50 comes with significant physical changes – many of which aren’t pleasant. From slowed metabolism, to increased fatigue, and a weaker immune system, these changes can catch you off guard and slow down your pace. A host of risks also awaits seniors, posing further problems in addition to the regular effects of aging.

You’re not alone. Aging has been such a life-altering issue for seniors and caregivers alike that it has been the focus of much research, advocacy, and planning. Resources are available to help you mitigate the risks of aging, and bring awareness to the surprises posed by your golden years.

Here are three health risks to look out for so you can live a safe and healthy life over age 50.

1. Falls

Falls are one of the top risks facing seniors. At least 30 percent of seniors over 65 suffer a fall each year, costing an estimated $50 billion in medical treatment. With reduced strength and weaker bones, seniors are prone to accidental falls – and the subsequent injuries that may arise. Simply walking in your home could result in a trip or stumble. Stepping onto a stool or stair could cause you to lose your footing or balance.

A fall itself can be life-threatening, even though it may not sound so serious on its own. The concussion of a fall is enough to cause serious injury, and additional injury is possible depending on the timeliness of treatment. One in five fall victims suffers a head injury or broken bones. Additionally, traumatic brain injuries and hip fractures are most commonly caused by falls. If a fall victim doesn’t receive assistance in the first hour after they fall, injuries can worsen, ultimately reducing the senior’s likelihood of living independently for the rest of their years.

Caregivers can help reduce the likelihood of falls by reducing possible tripping hazards around the senior’s home and providing extra lighting in dim areas. Since falls are not always preventable, however, a medical alert system is a good safety option. These systems provide a wearable device that allows the senior to manually or automatically request emergency help in the event of a fall.

2. Drug Interactions

Most seniors take at least one prescription drug each day, but some take between five and 13 drugs. The usual cognitive decline associated with aging can make it difficult to manage just one daily prescription drug, let alone multiple drugs. Prescription drug interactions are another serious risk for seniors over 50 who may be taking multiple drugs.

You should maintain an updated list of your prescription drugs with your primary care doctor, so any interactions should be flagged and discussed by the doctor. Pharmacists are also alerted to drug interactions and are prompted to counsel you if your drugs are found to have an unsafe interaction. Also, keeping an updated list in your possession helps you remember the drugs you take and learn more about them so you can be aware of the interactions.

3. Poor Nutrition

Nutritional deficiencies are common among seniors. The effects of insufficient nutrition are risky enough on their own, but combined with the effects of aging raises additional challenges. Without adequate nutrition, the body does not have sufficient resources to maintain optimal health. Poor nutrition can lead to a weaker immune system, impaired cognitive function, and can heighten your risk of Alzheimer’s.

Markers of Alzheimer’s are present in the brain as soon as 30-years-old due to poor nutrition, according to Dr. Mosconi, a leading researcher and author on Alzheimer’s. Diet is the most important factor in acquiring the disorder. A diet high in saturated fats and sugar can promote inflammation and increase your risk of getting Alzheimer’s.

Many seniors make poor nutritional choices when they eat alone, as 76 percent of seniors do. A meal-planning service is a good option to keep you eating a healthy diet, even if you have trouble cooking or getting to the store.

Aging comes with many risks, but being aware of the risks and how to mitigate them is the best way to deal with unexpected health issues. Learning and planning for these risks help ensure you live safely and independently for as long as you can. Doing so helps make golden years much more enjoyable and freer.