June 11, 2012

Retirement Health Concerns..Part 2

A few months ago I had a post that listed some of the top health concerns of retirees. Along with each of the problems we may encounter, there were links to web sites that provided more information. That post took a look at heart health, strokes, cancer, pneumonia and flu, falls and accidents, macular degeneration, and cataracts...potentially all part of our retirement.

The response was positive. Knowing more about what may affect our satisfying retirement is important. Ignoring warning signs or lifestyle matters that affect the quality of our life is not a particularly good way to approach the problems. I did promise to provide similar links to five more important health concerns: diabetes, osteoporosis, dementia, Alzheimer's, and depression. So, here is the follow up:

Diabetes: insulin is the hormone that your body needs to convert sugars, starches, and other foods into energy. Diabetics' bodies do not produce enough insulin (Type 2 diabetes) or any insulin (Type 1 diabetes). Nearly 26 million Americans suffer from some form of diabetes, most often Type 2. Estimate range as high as another 7 million have undiagnosed diabetes, and most of them are likely to be in the 65+ age group.

Untreated diabetes can cause serious health problems for your eyes, joints, skin, hearing, nerves, and kidneys. The good news is that in many cases, lifestyle and diet changes can control diabetes well enough to prevent most of the damage to your body. Insulin injections for Type 1 diabetics can help manage the total absence of insulin in the body.

Osteoporosis: This is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density. Estimates are that 1 in 5 American women over 50 suffer from osteoporosis and fully half will suffer a fracture of the hip, wrist, or vertebrae. The leading causes of osteoporosis are a drop in estrogen in women at the time of menopause and a drop in testosterone in men, usually after the age of 70. Unfortunately, in its early stages there may be no symptoms. For many usually a broken bone is the first indication of the disease.

Dementia & Alzheimer's: This is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. It affects one's memory, thinking, judgment, and even behavior. Most types are non-reversible, though if caused by a stroke, a brain tumor, alcohol abuse, or certain medications there is a possibly of dementia reversal. Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. It is a progressive disease and the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Recent studies suggest that 50% of those over 85 have Alzheimer's disease.

Depression affects at least 7 million Americans over the age of 65. It is often untreated due to the assumption it is a normal part of aging. Depression can be described as feeling unhappy, miserable, sad or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods and will find the feelings pass over time.

Major depression is a mood disorder with long-term consequences. Those feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration will last for weeks, months, or longer and interfere with daily living. If left untreated, there can be serious consequences of major depression: communication with friends and family is harmed or even totally eliminated. Physical health goes downhill due to stress and anxiety. Depression frequently co-exists with a medical illness, like heart disease, stroke, cancer, or diabetes. People with depression are at a higher risk of alcohol or drug abuse. Ultimately, suicide is a continuing risk.

As I was finishing this post I was contacted by a lady who asked me to pass along her particular health concern and passion. She suffered from a form of cancer that is relatively unknown. It doesn't get the publicity or support of breast, lung, or prostate cancer. But, the effects can be just as devastating. It has a mortality rate of 90%.  At the time it was diagnosed she had a 3/12 month old baby. Now, some 7 years later she is cancer free and fighting to make people more aware of this form of cancer.

I usually don't add specific pleas like this, but the subject matter fit. It may not be a disease that primarily affects seniors, but it could affect your children or grandkids. So briefly here is the story and link if you'd like more information. I have been to her site and am impressed with what she is doing:

"Heather Von St. James is a mother, wife, and cancer survivor. Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer when she was 36 years old-only 3 1/2 months after her only child, Lily, was born. Mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, and kills 90-95% of those who are diagnosed. With courage, strength, and support from others, Heather managed to defy the odds and is cancer free almost 7 years later. Heather has a blog where she details her journey with mesothelioma and how she overcame such a grim prognosis.

Her objective in reaching out to others is to share her story as a source of guidance, hope, and inspiration to anyone who is going through something similar to what she went though. You can check out Heather's story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog."

As was the case with the first post in this series, these topics are not very pleasant. They deal with some of the issues most of us will face in one form or another as we age. But, to deny they may happen to you or loved ones, to not learn the warning signs and preventive measure, and to turn a blind eye toward them if they do strike, certainly is the worst course of action.

A satisfying retirement is not one lived by ignoring what we must know and do. It is one that requires knowledge and acceptance of the way things really are. That being said, I sincerely hope that we will only need to learn more about these health concerns, but never experience their effects.


  1. A lot of times you see articles that express retirement concerns, but they all seem to be about the financial aspect of it. Nice to see a fresh perspective and look at the health concerns as well.

    1. This blog began almost 2 years ago with the express purpose of not being like most other retirement blogs that seem to think financial concerns are all that matter. While money is crucial, frankly it doesn't directly relate to a satisfying retirement.

    2. Steve in Los AngelesMon Jun 11, 07:09:00 PM MST

      In my opinion, as important as financial concerns are, health concerns are of far greater importance. Doing one's best to stay healthy and avoiding destructive habits, such as smoking and overeating, that lead to illnesses and diseases are extremely important. A person could be financially very well off. Yet, if that person has poor health, what good is all off that money (except paying hospital and doctor bills)????? Even the best hospitals and doctors cannot save a person who has poor health. A person with poor health really cannot have a satisfying retirement.

    3. You certainly can't take the money with you. yes, Steve, if I had the choice between a more comfortable lifestyle and good health there is no doubt which I'd pick. Life is much more difficult to enjoy if your health is poor.

  2. I liked this, Bob, thanks so much. My wife is very ill with a chronic diseaase and it definitely affects the quality of both our lives. I don't think the choice between wealth and health is a close call: Go for health!

    But, of course, at some point in retirement our choices may only be mitigation and not avoidance as far as the unwanted things. Finding Satisfaction, then, comes with one part hope and faith, one part mitigation, and one part acceptance.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Nik. The 3 part division is an excellent way to look at what we face.