Mary Ann Evans, better known by her pen name, George Eliot, said, “Old men's eyes are like old men's memories; they are strongest for things a long way off.” Evens, a leading Victorian journalist and author, delivered a touching sentiment about old age with her statement; it is one that speaks to the changes that take place in one’s twilight years.
According to the National Institute of Health, there are eight areas of change associated with aging. And in an effort to disseminate the information surrounding these areas of change, we here at Freedom Home Care are delivering the message in four parts. For today’s installation, we will focus on the eyes and ears as well as digestive and metabolic issues.
3. Eyes and Ears
The NIH explains that at “about the age of 40, eyesight weakens, and at around 60, cataracts and macular degeneration may develop. Hearing also declines with age.”
Although Evans was writing long before modern medicine had identified presbyopia, it is that condition that she relayed in her quote. According to the NIH, “Presbyopia (prez-bee-OH-pee-uh) is a slow loss of ability to see close objects or small print. It is a normal process that happens as you get older. Holding the newspaper at arm's length is a sign of presbyopia. Reading glasses usually fix the problem.”
Further eyesight issues include cataracts and glaucoma. “Cataracts are cloudy areas in the eye's lens causing loss of eyesight,” the NIH describes. “Cataracts often form slowly without any symptoms. Some stay small and don't change eyesight very much. Others may become large or dense and harm vision. Cataract surgery can help. Cataract surgery is safe and is one of the most common surgeries done in the United States.
“Glaucoma comes from too much pressure from fluid inside the eye,” NIH continues. “Over time, the pressure can hurt the optic nerve. This leads to vision loss and blindness. Most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain from th
e extra pressure. You can protect yourself by having annual eye exams that include dilation of the pupils.”
The NIH goes on to explain multiple retinal disorders, including macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, which are leading causes of blindness that can be further understood by visiting the NIH website.
Takeaway: There are many measures that individuals can take to counter the effects of aging. The most effective one is making regular visits to one’s eye doctor.
As many as one-third of the American population between the ages of 65 and 74 are affected by hearing problems. At age 85, that amount jumps to one half.
Presbycusis (prez-bee-KYOO-sis) is the condition of age-related hearing loss, which can be combined with tinnitus (tih-NIE-tuhs), the sensation of hearing ringing or roaring noises from inside the ears. The NIH says that tinnitus “may be caused by loud noise, hearing loss, certain medicines, and other health problems, such as allergies and problems in the heart and blood vessels.”
Takeaway: Preventative action is the best way to combat future hearing problems. Be sure to wear earplugs when exposed to prolonged loud noises. Your ears will thank you later in life.
4. Digestive and Metabolic
“As we grow older, the prevalence of gastrointestinal problems increases,” says NIH. “Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly and stomach contents leak back, or reflux, into the esophagus. Heartburn that occurs more than twice a week may be considered GERD, and it can eventually lead to more serious health problems. About 40 percent of adults ages 40 to 74 — or 41 million people — have pre-diabetes, a condition that raises a person's risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.”
Takeaway: Staying active and eating a healthy diet can reduce the possibility for diabetes. Maintaining an active lifestyle can play a big part in decreasing the possibility for many gastrointestinal problems, as well.