Getting older brings many changes – some we can control, some we cannot. But it’s important to know that chronic disease doesn’t have to be part of getting older. Staying active, healthy and socially connected into older age are among the best things you can do to help prevent conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, osteoporosis and diabetes.
As you get older, your bones naturally become weaker and less dense and after menopause, lower levels of oestrogen further affect your bone health. Sometimes your bones can become too fragile, and they may get damaged or break even from small injuries, such as a minor fall. The foods you eat, medicines you take and medical conditions you have can all influence the health of your bones. You can keep your bones heathy by:
- Making sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D,
- Exercising regularly with weight-bearing activities,
- Stopping smoking,
- And drinking in moderation.
It’s important to have regular bone health checks which includes checking your medical history and risk factors for osteoporosis. Bone health checks are recommended for women aged 65 and older or if you are under the age of 65 and have risk factors (such as breaking a bone after the age of 50, low hormone levels from early menopause, have coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or any other malabsorption disorders, diabetes, or have undergone certain breast cancer treatments). Visit your doctor to find out more information and access bone health checks.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is when a person’s blood pressure is persistently higher than it should be. High blood pressure raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease. High blood pressure doesn’t usually have symptoms, so regular blood pressure checks are important. High blood pressure can be treated with lifestyle changes and medicines. Lifestyle measures alone can be enough for some people to lower their blood pressure. This includes doing regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, following a healthy diet, and quitting smoking and limiting your alcohol intake. It is recommended that adults have their blood pressure checked by their doctor at least every two years. All Australians aged 45 and over — and 30 and over for those of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders — are eligible for a regular, 20-minute heart health check with their GP or nurse.
For more information, resources and support, try these organisations:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- St Vincent’s Hospital Heart Health
- Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service
Dementia is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, their behaviour and their ability to perform everyday tasks. There are more than 100 different causes of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies. Dementia is more common in older people, although people under 65 can develop so called younger onset dementia.
While dementia is more common in older Australians, it is not a normal part of ageing. See a doctor for a full assessment if you or a loved one experiences memory loss, difficulty with familiar tasks, language problems or changes in mood or personality. There is no cure for most kinds of dementia, but empathy and trust, communication approaches and some medications can help slow deterioration and improve quality of life.
Some things that can help after a dementia diagnosis include staying active and doing the things you love, being aware of the signs of depression, and joining an in-person or online support group.
Call a dementia helpline to discuss your situation.
Incontinence ranges from having just a small leak of urine to completely losing control of your bladder or bowel. More than 5 million Australians have some form of incontinence, from young children to older people living in care. In women, incontinence is more common as they get older. Incontinence can often be cured, or at least treated and managed. The first step is to talk to your doctor.
Many eye conditions are more common in older people. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you keep good vision into older age. Regular visits to your optometrist are important to help identify and treat problems before they cause permanent vision loss. Eye conditions that are detected early may be easier to treat.
Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury in older Australians. Falls usually happen because gradual changes to our bodies make walking difficult, or they can be caused by hazards in and around the home. Falls can cause hip fractures and other injuries that require lengthy hospital care and long-term effects. See your doctor for a check-up if you have ever fallen before, even if you weren’t injured as a result.
Hearing loss is usually permanent. Treatment involves improving the hearing you have. Exposure to loud noise can cause hearing loss. Most people experience some degree of hearing loss as they get older. Protecting your hearing is vital to prevent any hearing loss from getting worse. If you are concerned about your hearing, see an audiologist for a hearing test.
Arthritis is an umbrella term for a wide range of inflammatory conditions which affect the bones, muscles and joints. This often results in pain, stiffness, swelling and redness in affected joints. Age, overweight and obesity, injury and genetic factors increase the risk of developing arthritis. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout are common types of arthritis. Unfortunately there is no cure for arthritis, but treatment can help to manage symptoms and improve your quality of life. Treatment involves a combination of self-management (such as diet and exercise), education on living with the condition, physiotherapy, medication (for pain and inflammation), and referral to specialist care where necessary.
Visit Arthritis Australia for more resources
Support at home
If you need help around the home you may be eligible for government subsidised support. You can access long term or short term help. This support could look like someone coming to help with:
- cleaning or laundry
- gardening or home maintenance
- shopping or meal preparation
- transport or support to attend social activities
- personal care such as bathing, dressing or hygiene
- healthcare support such as nursing, physiotherapy or podiatry.