Seniors from Utah are among the healthiest in the nation. Mobility issues are rare, and most maintain their independence until the very end. However, even the healthiest seniors face risks and threats to their health and safety. Some of these threats are unavoidable due to age-related issues, but there are ways to delay their onset or limit their effects.
Seniors will inevitably have problems with their hearts. The heart and blood vessels change with age, increasing the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases. Obesity, smoking, stress, and a sedentary lifestyle also increases one’s risk. Packing extra weight can increase the fatty deposits in blood vessels and restrict blood flow.
Having a larger body also requires a bigger supply of oxygen. The heart pumps blood at increased rates leading to high blood pressure. Weight gain is also linked to diabetes. Individuals who have diabetes increase their risk of heart disease by up to four times. The chemicals and toxins in cigarette smoke also increase the amount of plaque in your blood vessels. They can also thicken the blood and sometimes form clots.
Stress produces high levels of cortisol in the body, increasing the levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar. Stress also promotes the formation of plaque deposits in the arteries. Staying on the couch all day hastens the deterioration of one’s heart. Like every muscle, the heart requires exercise to get stronger. Physical activity strengthens the heart while also increasing the levels of HDL or good cholesterol in your body.
Surprisingly, lung cancer is one of the foremost cancers in Utah, the other one being breast cancer. Utah has the lowest smoking rate in the US, with smokers accounting for less than 10 percent of the population.
While air pollution from winter inversions does increase the risk of lung cancer, the primary culprit is radon. One in three homes in the state has a high level of this colorless, odorless, yet radioactive gas. While radon is more common near mountain ranges, it can be found in almost every part of Utah. Radon usually seeps into a home through the foundation. Closed windows and doors trap the gas inside, accumulating over time.
Burning wood or coal also increases the risk of radon exposure as the gas can stick to particulates in the air and get lodged in the lungs. Proper ventilation should limit the effects of radon, and test kits can inform you if your house is at risk and the rooms with the most exposure. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the US, but it can be caught early with self-tests and regular trips to the doctor.
Most accidents involving seniors occur in their own homes. Slips and falls are the leading cause of accidental death and injury among Utah seniors. The bathroom is where most falls occur. Seniors make multiple trips to the bathroom each day, increasing their chances of suffering accidents. Grab bars and supports near the toilet can limit the risk of accidents. Sitting down and getting up can put significant strain on aging muscles and ligaments. Raised seats and supports can make trips safer and easier.
Losing one’s faculties can be one of the most frightening things to experience. Alzheimer’s disease destroys the brain’s neurological pathways. While losing memory is one of the most notable signs, it makes it progressively harder to perform mundane things like moving and eating. Most deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease involve pneumonia.
Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease often have difficulty swallowing food as the body struggles in performing the action. Bits of food and moisture find their way to the lungs, eventually causing damage or infection that leads to pneumonia. Staying active and social interactions have been found effective in delaying the onset or preventing Alzheimer’s. Keeping the brain active by learning new things (like a language or skill) can strengthen neurological pathways and build new ones.
Addiction and overdose are growing problems among Utah seniors. Most seniors use pain medication to treat their ailments, some of which can be addictive. Several studies have shown that most doctors overprescribe opioids. Switching pain medications is a good option. However, rehabilitation might be required if one is already hooked. Major cities have excellent rehabilitation centers that are experienced in treating people, including seniors.
Growing old comes with various risks and threats, even for the healthiest of seniors. Dealing with or mitigating these threats becomes paramount for living a healthy life and maintaining one’s independence. Don’t let aging stop you from maintaining your well-being.