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Ailments as You Age: A Guide to Geriatric Syndromes

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Did you know, the average life expectancy in the United States keeps rising? It’s now grown to 79.11 years for both sexes, which is an increase over 76.4 years—the figure back in 2021. Due to the improvements in medicine over the years and healthcare, Americans are living longer and healthier lives.

Everyone is aware of the effects of aging on skin wrinkling and hair turning gray, but there are other health signs to look out for, too. If you’re looking for tips to age healthily, or studying online AGNP programs specializing in geriatric care—here’s a guide to some of the common ailments and syndromes as you age.

Our following guide covers the ways aging can impact your physical and mental health, down to your mind, body, muscles, and bones. We have also listed tips for preventative measures and advice for managing symptoms.

The cardiovascular system

One of the most common changes when you age happens to the cardiovascular system. This refers to the system of organs which includes the heart, arteries, veins, and blood. It’s important to understand the changes and the impact they can have on your physical health.

As you grow older, it’s common for most people’s blood vessels and arteries to stiffen, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood through them. This could lead to stress on the heart, as well as hypertension—high blood pressure—and other heart conditions.

High blood pressure can be dangerous, as it can damage your arteries and decrease the flow of blood and oxygen back to your heart. Aside from medication to control hypertension, there are a few other measures you can take to manage or prevent high blood pressure.

Great ways to promote better heart health include:

  • Stay active—walking, swimming, and other physical activities can help you maintain a healthy weight and decrease the risk of heart disease.
  • Don’t smoke—research has shown cigarettes as well as other tobacco and nicotine products can lead to an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and hardening of your arteries.
  • Quality sleep—studies have shown that getting quality sleep (7 to 9 hours) on a routine schedule is important for the health of your cardiovascular system. Sleep plays a massive role in healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels.
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Bones and joints

Bones are an essential part of the body, playing multiple roles. They provide structure, protect your organs, anchor muscles, and act as storage for calcium. However, as you age—bones tend to shrink in size and become more brittle.

Bones will continuously change as you age, from childhood until your later years. Most people reach their ‘peak’ for bone mass at age 30. After 30, most people start to lose more bone mass than they gain.

While it’s not possible to stop the effect aging has on bones, there are ways to prevent and minimize it. One of the biggest risks of bone health with aging is developing osteoporosis, a condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle. The more bone mass you attain by the age of 30 lowers the chance of you developing osteoporosis as you age.

Factors that can affect bone health:

  • Diet—your diet can contribute to your bone health. If your diet is lacking in calcium, it can lead to lower bone density, early bone loss, and an increased risk of broken bones.
  • Hormone levels—Studies have shown that decreased hormone levels can cause a dramatic increase in bone loss. This is why it’s common for women going through menopause when their estrogen levels drop to have an increased risk for conditions such as osteoporosis. Low testosterone levels in men can also cause loss of bone mass.

There are a variety of other factors that can impact your bone health, including certain medications, your age, race, and conditions like eating disorders. If you’re worried or want to get a better idea of your bone health, you can speak to your doctor to run tests.

Keeping your bones healthy

  • Include plenty of calcium in your diet. Good sources of calcium include almonds, kale, canned salmon with bones, soy products, and dairy.
  • Pay attention to your vitamin D. Your body needs a healthy level of vitamin D to absorb calcium.
  • Avoid substance use, including alcohol and smoking.
  • Physical activity, such as walking, running, or climbing, can help you build your bone strength and slow down bone loss.

Skin and aging

Keeping out of the sun, wearing sunscreen and moisturizing isn’t just a myth—it’s a fact if you want to maintain your skin health. As you age, your skin starts thinning and the amount of fatty tissue begins to decrease, and you might even bruise easily.

The process can’t completely be stopped, but if you want to maintain healthier skin and a youthful look for longer—there are a few steps to take. What you can do:

  • Don’t smoke or vape. Nicotine and tobacco products can cause premature aging and skin damage.
  • If you’re going outdoors, always apply sunscreen and wear protective clothing. Even if it isn’t a sunny day, the UV rays can still damage your skin.
  • Monitor your skin for any changes, including any new moles or damage and report it to your doctor.
  • Invest in a good skincare routine. 
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Mind and cognitive health

Your brain is always undergoing changes, and as you age this might impact your memory and cognitive abilities. It’s common for older adults to forget words, mix up memories, or struggle with learning new skills.

It’s also important to remember that while forgetfulness is normal, dementia is not a normal part of the aging process. If you or an older person in your life is showing signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s, consult your doctor or a specialist.

If you’re worried about your cognitive health, there are a few steps you can implement in your everyday life to improve it. Start adding physical activity to your everyday routine, whether it’s a walk in the morning or an afternoon jog.

Socialization is also important for your mental health and cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that social interaction can help with stress and depression, which are both contributing factors to memory loss.

Staying on top of your health

If you want aging to be something you can look forward to, the best tip we can give is to stay on top of your health. This includes regular checkups with your doctor. It’s important to book appointments for preventative care, not only for just when you’re sick.

Regular checkups with your doctor are crucial for maintaining your health, and to catch any diseases early. Prevention is always better than the cure, and treatments work better the earlier the disease or illness is diagnosed.

If possible, researching your family medical history and sharing it with your doctor is helpful too. If there’s a history of illness or genetic disorders in your family, your medical team can help with preventative measures or management strategies.

Ailments as You Age: A Guide to Geriatric Syndromes
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