October 2, 2015

The Health Concerns That Keep Us Awake at Night

I wrote this post almost four years ago. Being more attuned to my health and how I am going to navigate the waters ahead for me and Betty, these thoughts and clicks to web pages seemed worth a repeat. I have updated a few of the links.

As you are well aware, right behind financial concerns and questions, health is something that all of us think about as we attempt to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of a satisfying journey. 

While a cliché, the statement, "if you don't have your health you don't have anything," is absolutely true. By health I'm not talking about maintaining the energy and flexibility, eye sight and strength that you had at 30 or 40. Rather, in our context being healthy means being able to care for ourselves, enjoy friends and family, engage in physical activities appropriate to our age, and learn to manage the pains and limitations that are part of aging.

Because I am not a doctor (if I were I would have better health care!)  I am not prepared to suggest how you can live well as long as possible. What I am good at is locating web sites that will give you additional information or ways to learn more, if that disease and infirmity is one you want to know more about.

I have found lists of the major health concerns of older folks. They are remarkably similar so I trust they have captured the top-of-mind topics that might be important to you. After each, I will provide some links to web sites that can give more more information. At the end, I will provide some links to previous articles I have written that you may have missed.

I wish God had decided to design our bodies so we stay fit and healthy until the second we drop dead. But, that isn't how it works, so here are our top health worries:

#1 on all lists is heart health. The most common condition for those over 65 is some type of heart problem. We know about the negative effects of smoking, lack of exercise, or being over weight. But, what are some of the signals of problems and what can we do? (You can bet I rechecked all of these resources)

Next on the list of concerns is a stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, "A stroke or "brain attack" occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery (a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body) or a blood vessel (a tube through which the blood moves through the body) breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. There are different severities of strokes, some leaving no permanent damage, others just some weakness, while major strokes affect one's ability to speak or move.

Cancer is a disease virtually all of us have some personal contact with, either because of family or friends. In particular, female breast cancer is a high profile concern, while males die way too often from prostate cancer. The number of sites that deal with cancer in all its various forms number in the millions. Here are just a few to help you get started in your own investigation.

Pneumonia and Flu are certainly not restricted to older folks. But, the consequences tend to be  more severe. In fact, pneumonia is the fifth highest killer of those over 65. Since seniors tend to have more lung problems it is often hard to diagnose pneumonia until it is advanced.

Falls and accidents around the home. Simple falls or accidents that would have no long term effect on a younger person can prove fatal to someone older. Not only does it take longer for an injury to heal, but too often other complications like pneumonia occur because of the extended time spent lying in a bed. Osteoporosis creates brittle bones that may never heal properly.

Eye issues, like macular degeneration and cataracts. This is an area of health concerns that strikes a real chord with me. My mom began to lose her sight to wet MD about 3 years before her death. Aggressive treatments with shots did not help. Within 18 months she could only tell light from dark.  As a life-long teacher and reader, losing her sight was very difficult for her. It directly contributed to her falling, breaking her leg, and forcing her to spend the last year and a half of her life in a hospital and nursing care center. Personally, I believe Macular Degeneration shortened her life by several years and destroyed the quality of the time she had left.

Unfortunately, I have only begun to scratch the surface of  health issues that affect us. These are not cherry subjects nor ones that most of us want to spend much time with. That is part of the problem. Education and awareness helps both the senior having issues and the caregivers trying to protect that person's quality of life as much as possible.

Borrowing a phrase from Star Trek, may you live long and prosper.


  1. I'll bet the importance of this post resounded with you, especially following your recent health concerns. One thing I'd love to encourage your readers to consider is getting flu shots within the next month or so. Inoculations for pneumonia and shingles can be incredibly protective for us as we get older, also. In the past, I questioned whether these shots were safe and if they were really necessary, but now I am a believer of their worth.

    1. I got my first ever pneumonia shot a month or so ago, and the 65+ extra strength flu shot is next on my list. I received one last year and had no reactions and no flu.

      I hadn't thought much about shingles but I know people who have had it and the condition is miserable. I will check it out. Thanks, Pam.

  2. I have seen cases of ocular shingles and in other "sensitive" areas of the body. The vaccine reduces your risk of developing; if one does get shingles, it is a much milder case if you have had the vaccine.

    Another area of concern is dementia. The likelihood that this will affect us in some way, either ourself, loved one, friend or family, is pretty high. It robs us of our independence and greatly impacts the quality of life for the individual and for those who are part of his or her life. Unfortunately, no cures. Some types ( like vascular dementia) can be prevented by a healthy life style that must start early in life. Others, like Lewy Body Dementia are not preventable. A tragic disease that impacts on so many.

    1. I will look into the shingles shot when i get my flu shot in the next week or two. And, you are definitely right about the impact of dementia on virtually all of us, one way or another.

  3. Great, useful post, as always! Paying attention to health has been a big deal this last year for our household & watching a friend of mine (NOT a member of our household) struggle with multiple issues has reinforced that.

    I'd be one more person highly recommending the shingles vaccine. I got it as soon as possible; anecdotally (because I didn't hear it myself) I was told that a doctor informed my uncle that a very bad case of shingles my aunt suffered in her early '70's settled in her brain & was a contributor to her dementia. I haven't seen any other references to this, but I took no chances!

    Sadly, I am between physicians right now, so I don't yet have a flu shot, but I try to pay attention to medical issues; my other "horror" story was my mom who didn't go to doctors ("they always have bad news.") By the time she actually did go, her macular degeneration was much more advanced than if she'd gone yearly -- & yup, she was right; they had bad news.

    This truly strikes me as one area where if you don't catch problems while they are small and in the early stages, so many things start going wrong that fixing it in a later stage is nearly impossible.

    Thanks for a timely, useful reminder!