The second half of your life might be one of the most fulfilling periods of your life. You may be more self-assured than you were when you were younger. You learn patience and wisdom, and of course, your hair is greying, and your face is becoming more wrinkled.
That’s what ageing looks like.
People all around the planet are living a longer life, and most people nowadays can expect to live well into their sixties and beyond. All countries around the globe are seeing population growth and an increase in the number of older people.
As people age, they experience several health conditions such as hearing loss, cataracts and refractive errors, and back and neck pain. Apart from these, chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s also increase in old age.
The list of age-related diseases is very long; however, some of them are briefly discussed in this article.
Diabetes is a chronic condition of high blood sugar levels that can be classified as type 1 (juvenile) or type 2 (adult).
Type I diabetes accounts for roughly 10% of all diabetes cases. It’s an autoimmune condition in which the body assaults insulin-producing cells.
Type 2 diabetes is observed to be more common as people get older, and it most likely begins before the age of 65 and does not go away as people become older. It’s critical to keep the disease under control because it’s a harbinger of several chronic illnesses, the most dangerous of which are heart disease and stroke.
Diabetes in older adults is also frequently related to the decreased cognitive function or accelerated mental impairment.
Neurological illness such as Alzheimer’s disease is fairly common among the elderly. However, the early onset of the disease is known to strike people before they reach the age of 60.
Mutations in several genes such as PSEN1 and PSEN2 that code for ‘presenilins’ proteins cause the early-onset disease. However, the apo E gene mutation, also involved in heart diseases, is found in late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Cognitive performance deteriorates in older people, especially in those who smoke and drink alcohol.
As people get older, the risk of having a stroke also increases. A stroke can drastically alter the life of both the person and those who care for them.
As people get older, their chances of having cancer grow. Although cancer affects both young and old people, it is largely a disease of the elderly because half of those diagnosed with cancer are above the age of 65.
The human body is equipped with a vigilance mechanism that detects and corrects these errors in the DNA. However, as people age, their vigilance system becomes less effective, and they are more likely to get cancer.
Another factor of cancer in the elderly population is the accumulation of senescent cells, which causes inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
Screening is critical in cancer detection because cancer survival is directly connected to how early it is diagnosed.
Cancer treatment in the elderly is focused on curing the disease if it is found early. If a cure is not possible, the sole choice is to manage the disease by treating the symptoms.
In India and many other nations, heart disease is among the top causes of death.
Ageing alters the structure and arrangement of blood vessels through cell growth, cell death, and cell migration; this process is known as vascular remodelling.
Ageing also causes vascular stiffness in which the blood vessel walls become stiffer and harder, due to which the pulse pressure is increased, which means the heart has to work more to pump blood into the arteries.
Both vascular remodelling and stiffness lead to the increased risk of cardiac failure causing death.
Coronary artery disease is the most prevalent type of heart disease, which involves a narrowing or blockage of the main arteries that provide blood to the heart. Obstructions can form over time or emerge suddenly, as in an abrupt rupture, resulting in potentially fatal heart attacks.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, worsens with age and can lead to heart disease and stroke if left untreated. Because there are minimal symptoms, it is known as the “silent killer.”
It is quite widespread, affecting around half of the population over the age of 65, and it affects women slightly more than males.
Hypertension should be actively treated by a physician to prevent other illnesses such as heart disease and stroke, which it is known to cause.
Chronic Illness Management
While ageing is not a sickness itself, it is a risk factor for several diseases. Chronic diseases are persistent and hence require continuous care. This is especially correct for older people who are dealing with multiple chronic illnesses at the same time.
Therefore for the purpose of healthy ageing, healthy eating, a healthy lifestyle along with geriatric medicine and regular contact with reliable health professionals is important.