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Understanding the Aging Process and Your Health

Growing older can introduce a new set of health issues for many people. To face these challenges, it’s important to understand the most common health problems that may face you now and in the future.

Heart Disease

The greatest factor for increased heart disease is age. People older than 65 are much more likely to have a heart attack or stroke, which together account for 40 percent of all deaths ages 65 to 74 and 60 percent of all deaths after the age of 85.


  • Blood Pressure Check: A routine part of most medical appointments.
  • Cholesterol Test: A blood test that helps determine the risk of blocked or narrowed arteries.
  • EKG: This painless and non-invasive test checks for problems with the electrical activity of your heart.
  • Stress Test: Measures the fitness of your cardiovascular system by monitoring your heart during increasingly strenuous exercise, usually on a treadmill.
  • Coronary Calcium Scan: A non-invasive outpatient procedure that uses a specialized X-ray test to take pictures of the heart and measure the amount of calcium in the walls of the coronary arteries, a sign of heart disease.
  • Ultrasound of the Carotid Artery: A painless test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the carotid artery, the main blood vessel supplying oxygen to the brain.


  • Cardiac Catheterization: A long thin tube is inserted into one of the large arteries in the body and threaded through the blood vessels to the heart to diagnose or treat a multitude of cardiac conditions.
  • Coronary Angioplasty: Used to open a blocked coronary artery, this minimally invasive procedure is not considered major surgery. A thin, expandable balloon is inserted into the artery and then inflated, expanding the blood vessel. The balloon is then removed and sometimes replaced with a small wire mesh tube called a stent to help the artery remain open.
  • Peripheral Angioplasty: A minimally invasive procedure used to treat narrowed arteries that are reducing the flow of blood to the legs.


70 percent of cancer deaths occur in people older than 65, who are 10 times more likely to have cancer than those younger than 65.

A full range of diagnostic technology used to detect cancer includes:

  • Ultrasound
  • MRI
  • CT Scan
  • X-ray
  • (Digital) Mammography
  • Colonoscopy
  • Flexible Sigmoidscopy
  • Fecal Occult Blood Test
  • Pap Test

Most people with cancer will have some kind of surgery, which is usually followed by radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of the two. Laboratory services, cancer support groups and nutritional education are additional resources available for patients and their families.


More than 25 percent of Americans age 65 and older have diabetes, a medical condition where high levels of glucose are in the blood. Diabetes can cause many medical complications, including heart disease, blindness, amputation and kidney failure.

A simple blood test given by your doctor can determine if you have diabetes.

Maintaining a healthy diet can play a critical role in managing diabetes. Additionally, there are a variety of prescription medications now available to help monitor and maintain healthier glucose levels.

Ask your primary care provider for any educational or treatment support they may be able to offer. In many areas there are also diabetic support groups available.


Osteoporosis causes your bones to become weak and brittle—so fragile, in fact, that just bending down or coughing can cause a fracture. The risk of osteoporosis increases with age. Women are particularly vulnerable to the disease.

A bone density test is recommended at least once for all women ages 65 and older. Men age 70 and older should also have the test, as well as anyone who has suffered a bone fracture after age 50 or has high risk factors for the disease.

There is no known cure for osteoporosis, but you can take steps to help slow or even stop the disease from progressing. Strong bones need plenty of calcium and vitamin D so your diet needs to include both. Medications that help slow or stop bone loss or rebuild bone are also available. Weight-bearing exercises can help strengthen your bones, but be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.


Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis is the form of the disease most prevalent in people 60 and older. This degenerative joint disease occurs when there is a breakdown of cartilage, a rubbery material that reduces friction within the joint. The pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis can be severe, even debilitating.

In most cases, x-rays are used to diagnose osteoarthritis to determine if there is a loss of cartilage or the presence of bone spurs, projections of bone created by the body trying to repair the damaged area.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but maintaining a healthy weight, exercise, stretching, and the use of anti-inflammatory and pain medications can all be used to manage the symptoms of the disease. When these don’t work, joint replacement surgery, especially for hips and knees, can be considered.

Ask for Help

Take care of your body. If you are struggling with your health, talk to your primary care provider about appropriate testing and treatments that may be available based on your individual needs!

Source: American Heart Association, Mayo Clinic

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