The age-related loss in muscle mass, known as sarcopenia, can lead to significant debilitation in older adults. Biological factors that contribute to this loss in muscle mass as a person grows older include hormones, protein levels, motor units, muscle fiber types, and satellite cells.
Problems with sleeping are prevalent among older adult patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and are a major cause of diminished quality of life. More than half of long-term care residents rely on prescription for at least one antihypnotic. Facility staff must help their residents improve or maintain good sleep hygiene, identify the issues causing lack of sleep, and prescribe the appropriate sleep medication to patients if needed.
Like most diseases, cancer risk increases with age. This is due to the fact that increasing time allows for cell mutations to accumulate and environmental factors to interact with genetics. Abnormal growth of cells results in a mass called a tumor. Benign tumors do not invade other tissues and are not truly cancerous. Malignant tumors spread to other tissues (metastasize). Cancerous cells impair function of tissue and thus can cause death. Abnormal growth of cells results from disruption of normal cell division, usually occurring due to a series of events over time that alter the cell division process. Typically, multiple mutations combine to affect cell growth. This can be a combination of inherited and acquired genetic effects, as well as environmental interaction.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. It is a slowly progressive disorder that diminishes the ability to move, control muscles, and balance. PD is also known as the most common movement disorder that affects an estimated 2% of the United States population age 65 years and older. The disease has an annual prevalence of 500,000, with 50,000 people newly diagnosed each year. In regards to gender, males are more prone to having the disease than females. In regards to race, Caucasians are the most at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a primary cause of death among the older adult population in the United States. It is a neurodegenerative disease of the brain that, alone, makes up 59% of all senile dementias. Today, over 5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease (AD), which includes 4.9 million people who are over the age of 65. Moreover, almost 500,000 people under the age of 65 have early onset Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. It is estimated that a person develops Alzheimer’s disease every 72 seconds. There is currently no cure or effective treatments to slow the onset or development of AD, resulting in a prevalence that could increase to 7.7 million people by the year 2030. It is expected that by mid-century, the population of people with AD will rise to as many as 16 million.
Many patients in nursing homes experience constipation, which is difficult to manage for both patients and nursing home staff. Constipation is not a clearly defined disease, but a general term describing the discomforts someone experiences due to their bowel movements. The prevalence of constipation is higher with age, with the greatest increase in prevalence after 70 years of age. Women are an estimated 2 to 3 times more likely to experience constipation than men. Up to 72% of nursing home patients suffer from constipation.
The proportion of older adults is continuously rising throughout the world due to great advances in medical and technological innovations. Unfortunately, many older adults lose their functional independence and are unable to reside in the community, leading to large numbers needing long-term care in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. This population of elderly people is increasingly frail and suffers from many illnesses. Consequently, acute healthcare is frequently utilized with high hospital admissions.
Like most common cancers, breast cancer is primarily a sickness of elderly people. The median age of Americans diagnosed with breast cancer is 61 years. 41% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are ages 65 or older. The median age a breast cancer patient dies is 68 years, and 57% of deaths from this disease occur in women aged 65 and older. The disease is often curable when in the early stages in both older and younger adults. An estimated 1.5 million American women over 65 years of age are breast cancer survivors, and more than 820,000 of these survivors are 75 years of age or older.
Due to age-related consequences alone, older adults have the greatest risk of suffering from diseases and illnesses. The number one cause of death in the United States is coronary artery disease, which is a consequence of hypertension. This disease occurs when the arteries that provide blood to the heart muscle become stiff and narrowed. This results from the gradual accumulation of cholesterol and plaque along the artery’s inner walls. The plaque buildup is known as atherosclerosis. As the plaque within the artery grows, blood flow decreases to the heart and the heart is not able to get enough oxygen. This is why coronary artery disease is also called ischemic heart disease, due to the lack of oxygen to the heart. The result is chest pain, known as angina, and gradual death of the heart muscle’s cells, called myocardial infarcation.
There are many health issues that affect the older adult population in the United States. Cardiovascular diseases are the primary causes of death among the elderly—especially, hypertension. Hypertension is essentially high blood pressure and it is currently one of the most important public health problems in developed countries. Not only is it extremely common, normotensive people at age 55 have a 90% lifetime risk of hypertension. There are many effective treatment options. However, if an older adult with hypertension is left untreated, this can significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular events such as strokes and ischemic heart disease.