Experiencing A Higher Quality of Life Will Require Managing Chronic Conditions
How long do you want to live? Many people are living to 100 years old. What are the characteristics of those individuals who live longer?
1. They are often creative individuals who stay engaged in their craft and their life.
2. They are not loners; they stay socially connected and active.
3. They handle stress differently and are less likely to let every day stress affect them.
4. Research shows that the older you are, the healthier you have been.
Four out of 5 older persons have at least one chronic disease. One in three have physical limitations. This can increase pressure on families where individuals are still working and are raising children and have to manage care for ailing elder parents. Multiple chronic diseases create a financial burden too in paying for medical care.
Dr. Kenneth Cooper of the Cooper Institute advises patients to delay disability by:
• Not smoking
• Eating good nutrition
According to Dr. Cooper, this can delay disability by 10 years and reduce the financial cost of healthcare for multiple chronic illnesses.
Pain and chronic illness is often under treated and has an impact on overall mobility as well as psychological implications. Fear of addiction is one of the reasons individuals are often under treated for pain. Medical professionals will ask on a scale of 1-10 what the level of pain the patient is experiencing. With a terminal illness, pain is never an addiction. It must be managed.
Polypharmacy is a term relating to taking multiple medications. Any time 5 or more medications are prescribed, side effects are expected. They may appear as visual, cognitive or dexterity changes. Doctors will often prescribe more medications to cover the effects of side effects. Older adults do not process medications the way they once did when they were younger. As a result, dosages should start low and work up while monitoring the effects of the medication. Be sure to keep a record of any changes you notice and report back to the doctor. Everyone is not the same and react to medications differently.
Even health supplements can have an impact so be sure to report everything you are taking to the doctor. Research all your medications so you will know how they are to be taken and what the impacts may be. You cannot count on your doctor to educate you. If you are seeing many different doctors, make sure they are aware of all the medications you are taking. If you are concerned about interactions, take a list of your drugs to the pharmacist and ask them to tell you if there are any duplications or drugs that could be taken off the list. Vitamin D can interact with heart medications causing reduced ability to process the medications.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death. From 65-74, 29% will die of the disease. After 85, it jumps to 39%. Hypertension and high blood pressure are the leading cause of heart problems. Blood pressure from 120/80 to 140/90 is considered pre-hypertensive. To decrease your odds of a heart attack:
- Lose weight
- Eat with less salt
- Get more exercise
- Take medications to control symptoms
Angina is chest pain that changes in pattern when not getting enough blood. Unstable angina is a heart attack waiting to happen. Symptoms include new angina, a change in the normal pattern; or pain at rest. In a heart attack, a piece of the heart muscle dies. It requires immediate medical attention. Those individuals who are seen within an hour of having an attack are often able to survive. Men often experience crushing pain in the chest, heaviness, profuse sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, weakness and loss of consciousness. Women experience breathlessness, unexplained fatigue and anxiety. Women often mistake their heart symptoms as indigestion and are more likely not to be taken seriously. Consequently, women die more often from their heart attacks. Treatment may consist of angioplasty, coronary by-pass surgery and drugs to dissolve the clots. Your doctor will advise a change of lifestyle to reduce chances of another heart attack.
The second leading cause of death is Cancer. Early detection is important. Prostate is the number one cancer among men. Support and information are important in treatment. Many cancers today are considered a chronic disease. Proper monitoring help to keep it under control with treatment. Lung cancer is critical and can affect all organs of the body. It is critical that individuals with lung cancer not break the connection with other people. They may feel isolated and not feel like getting out.
Those with vascular issues may suffer a stroke which results in lack of oxygen in the brain causing the tissue to die. A TIA is caused by a reduction of blood supply to the tissue. Anyone experiencing a TIA should be seen by a doctor because a stroke is eminent. Stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death. The conditions causing stroke can be modified: heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. Smoking is particularly hard on brain arteries. If you are experiencing weakness on one side of the body, trouble seeing, walking or speaking, call 911. Treatment involves medications and rehabilitation depending on what part of the brain is affected. It can affect muscle weakness, pain and sensory responses, speaking ability, thinking, memory and emotional responses.
Diabetes results because the body has fewer insulin receptors. In Type I diabetes, individuals are dependent on taking insulin. In Type II diabetes, insulin is not operating as effectively and lifestyle changes are needed to reverse the situation. Individuals are advised to lose weight, control glucose levels through the foods they choose; exercise daily, and take medications that support their health. Some complications that occur with diabetes are heart attacks, strokes, disabling vision changes, kidney failure, poor healing (amputations result), neuropathy and chronic pain. Anyone with diabetes needs to pay close attention to their feet as neuropathy will cause them to not know when they have injured their feet and they are at increased risk for falls.
Arthritis causes inflammation of joints and is most frequently experienced by women. People with arthritis are also likely to experience lupus and gout. Rheumatoid arthritis leaves joints severely misshapen and painful. Osteoarthritis results from wear and tear on the cartilage. Treatment involves aspirin or Tylenol; maintaining joint mobility; weight loss and muscle strengthening and exercise. Gentle exercise is most effective and less likely to aggravate pain levels. Osteoporosis is a disease of the structure of the bone and is referred to as “the silent thief” because the bone becomes porous and breaks more easily causing hip fractures and more. Osteopenia is the precursor to Osteoporosis. Treatment involves taking increased doses of Vitamin D, calcium, participation in weight bearing exercise and avoiding smoking and alcohol.
To learn more about living healthy longer, read Live Long, Die Short by Roger Landry, MD. With 10,000 Boomers turning 65 every day for the next 15 years, we all bear a responsibility to make sure we do our part in taking care of ourselves and not being a burden on the healthcare system and our families. There are fewer people available to take care of individuals who need a lot of care than there were at the beginning of the 1900s. More people are working and fewer care workers are available. This will result in a lower quality of care for many individuals.