Do you know the biggest health issue among the elderly?
No, it is not any of the non-communicable diseases common to the tribe, like arthritis, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol or heart disease, etc.
Yes, they are very debilitating, costly and stressful for both patient and those who look after them. But if a report by the University of Rochester is to be believed, and there is no reason not to, the number one issue among elderly people is lack of Physical Activity and Nutrition.
And these two act in a symbiotic relationship that can either make an elderly cool or cold as a puppy’s nose.
As people age, their metabolism slows down, making the food they eat, regardless of nutritional value, digest slowly. This rate slows down further if you practically spend the entire day on a couch watching TV or reading the papers.
To add spice to your comfortable, albeit lethargic lifestyle, you soon munch on Pringles, or potato chips, or corn flakes, or finish off that left-over pizza during commercials.
Meantime, while you are so engrossed with Oprah or the Desperate Housewives or watching The Grand Torino the nth time, your unconverted food will find its way (as fats), in your legs, thighs, hips, waist, belly, arms and face until you may qualify a contestant in the popular TV reality show, The Biggest Losers.
And the more you put in weight, the harder it is to get physically active. Not only because you find it so heavy to move, but you justify your excess weight as an inevitable consequence of growing old; that weight increase is in direct proportion to an increase in age.
Not so, according to experts.
Excess Weight is not bad, but Its Effects Are
As people age, some experience thinning hair, loss of some teeth, be hearing impaired, or have memory lapses. But gaining weight is not dictated by some biological clock, but by setting the alarm clock too long.
Lack of physical activity is not the real problem, per se. Like an iceberg whose threat lies beneath the surface, for an elderly, the real threat lies beneath the flab.
Some of these are:
Type 2 Diabetes
This occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain the body’s normal glucose level, or is unable to use the insulin that is produced (also known as insulin – resistance).
The risk for developing type 2 diabetes increases with age because people tend to gain weight and exercise less.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or managed (if you already have one), by maintaining a healthy weight, have a healthy nutrition and exercising regularly.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is caused by structural changes in the arteries, particularly the large arteries. Its cause is non-specific but it has always been taken as a natural consequence of aging.
It is a great concern among health practitioners (and you, too) because it can lead to kidney problems, heart disease, stroke and many other serious health problems.
Risk factors of high blood pressure are genetics, age, excess weight, no physical activity and poor diet.
Aging and many other factors common to aging cause some changes in the heart and blood vessels, which, if not treated can lead to heart disease.
Among other things, the risks for heart disease can be minimized by having a heart-healthy diet, and exercise to prevent of obesity, control blood sugar and reduce stress.
And unless you have become a celibate, your sex life takes a nose dive due to lack of physical activity and improper nutrition.
You may not be a raging bull anymore but it doesn’t mean your libido has flat-lined either. There are men in their 70s and 80s who are still very sexually active. But for most, it is like a blip in a heart monitor of a patient in ICU – now you see it, now you don’t.
It would be very downright embarrassing if you won’t have the stamina to reach a fulfilling climax – like you could never enjoy a full round of golf, if you are not physically fit to sink the 18th hole.