Preventing age-​related disease and disabilities

May 28, 2012 by Francis Turgeon

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“The Canadian population is aging. People over 65 are part of the most rapidly growing age demographic. In 2010, it was estimated there were 4.8 million Canadians age 65 and over, and this number is expected to double over the next -25 years, reaching 10.4 million by 2036. By 2051, about one in four Canadians will fall into this age category.”

As the body ages, it becomes more prone to the effects of illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, the loss of sensory perception, dementia and osteoporosis. However, it is possible to maximize healthy aging by adopting behaviours that help prevent and control disease.

Age-related health problems are the result of major physiological changes that come with aging. The heart weakens, joints wear down, neurons grow less efficient at transmitting information and bones become brittle. But it is a known fact that a healthy lifestyle can help prevent or reverse age-related diseases. Physical exercise will help maintain a healthy heart, strong bones and a proper weight. And you don’t need to be a marathon runner to enjoy the benefits of an active lifestyle. Simple things like choosing a parking spot further away from the store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator are excellent habits that can help you stay fit.

Quitting smoking will keep your lungs in good shape. A healthy diet will not only help you control your weight, it will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly (for more help, consult the Canada Food Guide). In addition, certain medications can decrease the risk of falls and help prevent injury.

“Gradual hearing loss often goes unnoticed. Yet it is the most common sensory disability among seniors, affecting more than 30% of people age 65 and over. It is a serious problem—not only does it affect the elderly’s ability to hear, it also impacts their overall well-being. Hearing loss creates difficulties in communication and can lead a person to isolate themselves from family and friends and avoid social activities.”

There is a clear link between cardiovascular problems and hearing loss. Hearing problems can be caused by insufficient blood flow to the hearing organ, which is yet another excellent reason to maintain good cardiovascular health. Other causes of deafness in the elderly include noise exposure, heredity, middle ear problems, certain medications, neurological disease or stroke, head injury and inner-ear infection.

It is never too late to adopt habits that promote healthy aging, and you will reap the benefits at any age. Visit your pharmacist for tips on how to lead a healthier lifestyle.

References:
– Web site: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Government of Canada www.hrsdc.gc.ca, consulted on April 3, 2012.
– Web site: Public Health Agency of Canada, Government of Canada www.publichealth.gc.ca, consulted on April 3, 2012.
– HULL, Raymond H., and Stacy R. KERSCHEN. “The Influence of Cardiovascular Health on Peripheral and Central Auditory Function in Adults: A Research Review,” American Journal of Audiology, 2010, 19: 9-16.
– CROTEAU, François, Annabelle DUMAIS and Guy THIBAULT. “Lutter contre le cancer par l’exercice physique,” continuing education article from L’actualité pharmaceutique, September 2011.