There are a variety of ailments unique to men, foremost diseases of the prostate. But understanding risk factors like age and family history can offer a guide to making healthy choices.
The idea is to push back the effects of aging with greater knowledge and awareness of some of the principle diseases impacting men as they age. For instance, arthritis comes in many forms, including degenerative osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease), and psoriatic arthritis. A number of medications are available to treat arthritis pain and inflammation.
Colon cancer primarily affects people over age 50. This type of cancer forms growths called polyps, which can be identified on a screening colonoscopy. Colon cancer symptoms include blood in the stool, stomach cramps, diarrhea or constipation, and unintended weight loss.
Lung cancer is not the most common cancer, but it’s the leading cause of cancer-related death. Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (or COPD, for short) is a lung condition that makes it harder to breathe. COPD is not one, but two conditions: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Typical COPD signs and symptoms are a cough that produces a lot of phlegm, shortness of breath, chest pain and tightness, and wheezing.
Depression symptoms include: feeling sad, anxious, hopeless, guilty, or anxious; fatigue or decreased energy; loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed; trouble concentrating or remembering; trouble sleeping or sleeping too much; loss of appetite, or eating too much; irritability; vague physical symptoms, such as a headache or stomachache; and thoughts of death, or wanting to end your life.
Diabetes is a disease that affects blood glucose (sugar) levels. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. When sugar enters your bloodstream, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin, which moves that sugar into the cells to be used for energy, or stored. In diabetes, the body either doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use it effectively. The blood sugar level rises as a result.
Everyone experiences digestive woes from time to time—an upset stomach, gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. These symptoms can simply be mild annoyances, or they can warn of more serious conditions affecting the digestive system, which is made up of the stomach, esophagus, intestines, and gallbladder.
Our eyes, ears, and nose are our connection to the world around us. If we were to lose any one of these senses, we would have trouble getting around and functioning. A number of health conditions can compromise our ability to see, hear, and smell if they aren’t properly treated. Hearing loss is a common affliction with age. Yet ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, can affect people of all ages. Damage to the inner ear produces the sound, which can range from ringing to buzzing or hissing. Treating the underlying medical condition that’s causing the sound can often make it go away.
Dementia symptoms vary by type, but can include difficulty remembering names and events, trouble communicating, depression, poor judgment, confusion, behavior changes, and sleep disturbances. People who are suspected of having dementia will undergo a series of dementia tests, or Alzheimer’s tests, to determine whether they have lost memory and cognitive function.
Having strong core muscles—the muscles of the abdomen, back, and pelvis—help you stay upright and make it easier for you to be physically active. Core exercises for seniors strengthen these muscles without causing excess stress on them. Programs such as Pilates, tai chi, and stability ball training work core muscles in a safe, effective way. Specific abdominal exercises such as crunches and planks create a flatter, more toned stomach.
Good nutrition is essential to maintaining health, especially as you get older. The food pyramid is a guide, created by the USDA, to help Americans choose the right combination of foods each day for optimum nutrition. It divides foods into groups—bread, cereal, rice, and pasta; fruit; vegetables; milk, yogurt, and cheese; meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts; fats, oils, and sweets—and describes how much of each food group people should eat. In recent years, MyPlate, also from the USDA, has replaced the food pyramid. MyPlate features a divided plate graphic representing the major food groups—fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy.
Back problems are another source of chronic pain. Sciatica affects the lower back and legs. It starts in the sciatic nerve, which runs down the lower back, hips, buttocks, and legs. A herniated disk that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve often triggers sciatica. Spinal stenosis—a narrowing of the spine—can also put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can be very painful, but medicines, physical therapy, and other treatments usually improve the pain within a few weeks.
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland that sits underneath a man’s bladder and wraps around the urethra—the tube through which urine travels from the bladder to the outside of the body. The prostate gland’s main function is to add fluid to sperm to form semen. Although the prostate starts out small, it typically grows as a man ages. Prostate growth is known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. Over time, BPH puts pressure on the urethra, leading to urinary problems. Prostatitis is swelling of the prostate gland that is often caused by bacteria. The condition can come on quickly (acute prostatitis) and usually clears up with antibiotics. However, it can sometimes continue long term, in which case it’s called chronic prostatitis.
Although men and women share symptoms and treatment of myriad diseases, there are some ailments unique to the female gender, chiefly cancers of the reproductive system and breasts.
It's acknowledged, however, that the primary task of successful aging for women entails pushing back other conditions and concerns that also affect them most intimately. Some of those conditions include:
Osteopenia and osteoporosis: With time, the bones become weaker, more brittle, and likely to fracture. Doctors can determine the amount of bone lost with a bone mineral density (BMD) test. Results are expressed as a T-score, which is based on a comparison to the bones of a healthy 30 year old. People with normal bone density have a T-score that is within 1 standard deviation (SD) of a 30 year old’s score. A score 1 to 2.5 SD below a young adult’s (-1 to -2.5 SD) is considered low bone mass, or osteopenia. Osteoporosis is diagnosed in anyone with a score of -2.5 SD or lower. People with osteoporosis need to take medicines such as bisphosphonates to strengthen their bones and prevent fractures.
Ovarian cancer is the most deadly reproductive cancer in women. Often, it’s caught at a late stage because no screening tests exist. Ovarian cancer symptoms include abdominal bloating, pain in the abdomen or pelvis, and a rapid feeling of fullness while eating.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (or COPD, for short) is a lung condition that makes it harder to breathe. COPD is not one, but two conditions: emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Depression goes far beyond the occasional feelings of sadness. The depression definition that mental health experts use is a persistently down mood and loss of interest that affects a person’s day-to-day life, and can even lead to thoughts of suicide. The condition is also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, and it affects nearly 15 million Americans. Although depression typically starts in the 20s or 30s, it can affect people of all ages. Older adults are particularly vulnerable to depression because of illness and the loss of loved ones.
With diabetes, both genes and environmental factors play a role. Being overweight can also increase the risk of getting type 2 diabetes, because excess fat increases the body’s resistance to insulin.How do you know you have this condition? Increased thirst, frequent urination, and hunger are all signs of diabetes. Other diabetes symptoms include unexplained weight loss, fatigue, frequent infections, and blurred vision.
Along with a lack of sleep and overwork, fatigue causes range from illnesses to medications. Anemia, thyroid disease, and heart failure are all common conditions linked to fatigue. Taking certain medicines—including antidepressants, blood pressure medicines, and anti-anxiety drugs—can also contribute to fatigue.
Chronic fatigue syndrome causes consistent fatigue that doesn’t go away, along with vague complaints such as muscle aches, headaches, memory loss, disrupted sleep, a sore throat, and joint or muscle pain.
Glaucoma is another common vision problem that affects older adults. In glaucoma, a buildup of pressure inside the eye damages the optic nerve and can eventually cause blindness. Looking for glaucoma symptoms alone won’t always catch the disease in time, because the condition often causes no pain or vision loss until the damage is already significant.
Dementia symptoms vary by type, but can include difficulty remembering names and events, trouble communicating, depression, poor judgment, confusion, behavior changes, and sleep disturbances. People who are suspected of having dementia will undergo a series of dementia tests, or Alzheimer’s tests, to determine whether they have lost memory and cognitive function. Doctors will ask the person and his or her family member about any memory problems and trouble completing daily activities. Other tests will be done to evaluate memory, attention, problem-solving, and language skills. During these tests, the health care provider will ask the person a series of questions and assign tasks, such as remembering the names of common objects or drawing a face of a clock. Brain scans such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET) may also be done to assess brain structure and function.
Migraine headaches are a common source of chronic pain, affecting 1 in 10 Americans, most of them women. These are not just everyday headaches. Migraine symptoms also include nausea, vomiting, light and sound sensitivity, auras, and other visual disturbances. Because doctors still don’t fully understand what causes migraines, they haven’t been able to develop a cure for this condition. Treatments aim to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks and relieve symptoms when they start.
Fibromyalgia is another poorly understood condition. The estimated 5 million Americans who have this condition experience fatigue and pain in particular spots around their body. Other fibromyalgia symptoms include sleep problems, headaches, sensitivity to heat and cold, bowel issues, and memory problems.
Everyone feels stressed out from time to time. The leading causes of Americans’ stress include finances, work, family responsibilities, and health issues. Constant stress can lead to worry or anxiety. In people with anxiety disorders, the worry is constant, and detrimental.
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