As we get older our bodies change. Age related illnesses become more prevalent and it can sometimes feel as though each new decade brings new and ever more serious health concerns. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to ensure you’re maximising your health and well-being no matter how old you are. Things like knowing what to look out for, getting regular checks and making positive lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.
We asked a group of health experts for advice on what to look out for and what we can do to maintain our health in each decade.
In your 50s
A series of health screenings are recommended when people turn 50. These preventive measures can help with the early detection of serious conditions, optimising your treatment choices and possible outcomes.
In the UK, if you are registered with a GP, you will be invited for a free NHS Health Check every 5 years between the ages of 40 and 74 even if you do not have any pre-existing conditions. The Health Check will include tests for common conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and kidney disease.
The NHS Health Check has proven extremely effective in the early detection of potentially life threatening illnesses. In its first 5 years, it is estimated to have prevented 2,500 heart attacks or strokes as a result of people receiving treatment after their Health Check. If you have not received your free Health Check contact your GP.
As the likelihood of getting breast cancer increases with age, all women aged from 50 to their 71st birthday who are registered with a GP are automatically invited for breast cancer screening every 3 years.
In your 50s, age-related major eye diseases become more common. Comprehensive eye assessments are recommended every one to two years to ensure warning signs are detected and vision can be saved.
In your 60s
The build-up of fats, cholesterol and other substances in the artery walls (known as atherosclerosis) can begin at any age. But the hardening of these substances and narrowing of arteries, which greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, is most likely to occur from age 65 and above. Exercise protects against atherosclerosis and research consistently shows any physical activity is better than nothing when it comes to heart health. If you’re not currently active, gradually build up to the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most, preferably all, days.
Other manageable risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, a high-fat diet, alcohol consumption, and smoking.
If you’re a smoker, quitting is the best way to improve both your lung and heart health. If you are thinking of quitting then seeking advice from a health professional or support service will greatly improve your chances of success.
Your 60s is also a common decade for surgeries, including joint replacements and cataract surgery. Joint replacements are typically very successful, but are not an appropriate solution for everyone and are not without risks. After a joint replacement, you’ll benefit from physiotherapy, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.
The treatment for cataracts is to surgically remove the cloudy lens. Cataract surgery is the most common elective surgery worldwide, with very low complication rates, and provides immediate restoration of lost vision.
In your 70s
Many of the conditions mentioned above are still common in this decade. It’s also a good time to consider your risk of falls. Four in ten people in their 70s will have a fall and it can lead to a cascade of fractures, hospitalisations, disability and injury.
Osteoporosis is one cause of falls. It occurs most commonly in post-menopausal women but almost one-quarter of people with osteoporosis are men. Osteoporosis is often known as a silent disease because there are usually no symptoms until a fracture occurs. Exercise and diet, including calcium and vitamin D, are important for bone health.
Older people are also vulnerable to mental health conditions because of a combination of reduced cognitive function, limitations in physical health, social isolation, loneliness, reduced independence, frailty, reduced mobility, disability, and living conditions. If you are experience any issues with your mental health speak to your GP who can direct you to a range of local support services.
In your 80s and beyond
Dementia is a common condition in later life and affects 1 in 6 people over 80. There are several different forms of dementia but Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are the most common in the UK.
Many people think dementia is a normal part of the ageing process, but around one-third of cases of dementia could be prevented by reducing risk factors such as high blood pressure and obesity at mid-life.
Early diagnosis is important to effectively plan and initiate appropriate treatment options which help people live well with dementia. But dementia remains underdiagnosed.
Around 60% of people aged 85 and above have two or more chronic diseases and take multiple medications to manage these conditions. Effective medication management is critical for people living with multiple conditions because medications for one condition may exacerbate the symptoms of a different coexisting condition.
Further Reading: How to Stay Fit In Your 60’s and Beyond
Written by Stephanie Harrison, Azmeraw T. Amare, Jyoti Khadka, Maria Carolina Inacio, Sarah Bray and Tiffany Gill. Edited for the UK by Greysnet. This article is republished from The Conversation.