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Senior Health Issues

What are some of the typical health issues facing aging and older individuals?

Aging is not so much a matter of the passage of time as of changes in fitness, in the way your body works and reacts. If your body changes enough that you look, feel, and function differently than when you were younger, age may be overtaking you. The earliest and most obvious signs include men losing their hair and men and women needing reading glasses because of presbyopia (inability to focus on near objects). But diseases have a greater impact on how your body functions than does aging alone. Therefore, staying fit and healthy is an important part of keeping your body operating as if it were still young.

If you are lucky enough never to get arthritis, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, cancer, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, cataracts, Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's, you'll feel younger, longer. This may sound like "if you don't get sick, you'll feel well." Yet the point is an important one that must be considered when we think about what aging really means. People may be more prone to such ailments as they get older, but just because you get older doesn't mean you will experience all the symptoms associated with these and other diseases. Although the disease process and the aging process may run concurrently, they are not the same thing. You can get sick and even die from many diseases common to old age, but you don't have to get old to have such diseases. And if you maintain an optimal level of wellness, you should be able to get older without automatically and inescapably being condemned to the pain, discomfort and disabilities associated with many disease states. Growing old and getting sick simply are not interchangeable or even inextricably linked processes.

It is true that older people are more likely than the young to get certain diseases, and older individuals may have several different health problems at the same time. But more and more people are living longer and staying healthier--and happier--as they get older. The key is to gain control over your health as early in your life as possible. Learning how to stay well will give you a better chance of feeling well, longer.

The increasing numbers of seniors is attributable, in part, to the growing reliance on health care that stresses lifelong wellness, proper diet and adequate exercise (which are all mainstays of chiropractic care). We all hope cures are found for such scourges as cancer, heart disease and AIDS. But for you, as an individual, such cures may have little direct impact on your quality of life as you live day by day through your seventies, eighties and nineties.

Living long and being vigorous and vital means maintaining overall physical and emotional wellness. It means functioning at as high a level as possible, with physical and mental functions diminished only moderately, if at all. Most older individuals are more concerned about their diet and digestion than about what disease may ultimately strike them down. They worry more about sleeping well, seeing and hearing adequately, looking good, having a reasonably active sex life, controlling their weight, experiencing as little pain as possible, maintaining their mental acuity, not being depressed, and remaining active and independent. These are all, to varying degrees, reliant on your musculoskeletal health.

It is imperative that you do all you can to protect yourself from degeneration, illness and accidents that can rob you of many additional years of healthy and happy living. If the joints, muscles and nerves that make up your musculoskeletal system aren't kept functioning properly, you may be jeopardizing your overall health and well-being. Chiropractic is designed to maximize musculoskeletal health so that you can feel better over the entire course of a long life.

What can chiropractic do?

Dynamic Chiropractic's gerontology columnist, Barbara Zapotocky, has confidently asserted that: "Chiropractors are the best suited and positioned health care professionals to care for an aging population." This isn't an overstatement, because chiropractic is a health care system that for more than a century has been devoted to conservative care that features minimal intervention and limits on costly hospitalization and potentially dangerous and disruptive medications. Most of all, doctors of chiropractic are trained in maintaining wellness by gentle, reassuring, safe and effective techniques and counseling that can play a role in suspending or reversing the aging process. Chiropractic is as committed to anti-aging as it is to pain relief.

Chiropractors realize that aging and older patients require special assessment of their problems, with support, treatment and management goals tailored to their unique health situation and needs. Moreover, chiropractic is especially useful in restoring and maintaining joint, muscle, nerve and soft tissue health, which is fundamental to keeping older people fit and flexible, feeling good and functioning at their highest potential.

Chiropractic clinicians regularly counsel their patients on how to employ flexibility and weight-bearing exercise for better health, They offer guidance on how diet and supplements combine to provide health-sustaining and life-prolonging nutrition. They can help you control your weight, your blood pressure and your cholesterol level, help you prevent or cope with osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

Chiropractic adjustments are well suited to safely and effectively addressing and preventing a wide range of problems encountered by the elderly. More and more aging men and women rely on doctors of chiropractic to remove some of the underlying skeletal and muscular causes of the distress, debilitation and depression that plagues so many older individuals. Chiropractors have the skills to reduce pain and infirmity, give even older patients greater mobility, more robust good health, and a more-confident expectation that the future can encompass many more fulfilling years of functioning better--and feeling younger.

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More Articles on Senior Health Issues


• Killinger LZ, Trauma in the geriatric patient: A chiropractic perspective with a focus on prevention. Topics in Clinical Chiropractic, 1998; vol. 5, no. 3, pp10-15.
• AGS Panel on Chronic Pain in Older Persons. The management of chronic pain in older persons. Journal of American Geriatric Society, 1998; vol. 46, pp635-51.
• Mazzeo RS, Cavanaugh P, et al. Exercise and physical activity for older adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, June 1998; vol. 30, no. 6, pp992-8.
• Hawk C, Killinger LZ, et al. Chiropractic training in care of the geriatric patient: An assessment. Journal of the Neuromusculoskeletal System, Spring 1997; vol. 5, no. 1, pp15-25.
• Klatz R, Goldman R. Stopping the Clock. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, 1996.
• Gottlieb MS. Conservative management of spinal osteoarthritis with glucosamine sulfate and chiropractic treatment. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 1997; vol.20, no. 6, pp400-14.
• Swezey R. Exercise for osteoporosis--Is walking enough?: The case for site-specific and resistive exercise. Spine, 1996; vol. 21, no. 23, pp2809-13.
• Fisher NM, Pendergast DR. Reduced muscle function in patients with osteoarthritis, Scandinavian Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 1997; vol.29, pp213-21.
• Perle SM, Mutell DB, Romanelli R. Age-related changes in skeletal muscle strength and modifications through exercise: A literature review. Journal of Sports Chiropractic, Sept. 1997; vol. 11, no. 3, pp97-103.
• Quinn K, Basu TK. Folate and vitamin B12 status of the elderly. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1996; vol. 50, pp340-42.


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