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Ninety-two percent of US seniors have at least one chronic health condition according to the National Council On Aging. Most have two chronic conditions or more. But this doesn't mean that life isn't good: About 40% of American seniors in an NIH report reported their personal health as “very good” or “excellent.”
Effective management of chronic conditions helps explain how both of these statistics can be true. With lifestyle choices, prescription drugs and other therapies it's possible to boost memory, build stamina and otherwise combat symptoms of long-term health issues.
The National Center for Health Statistics defines chronic conditions as diseases or other health issues that last three months or longer. Some examples described below:
Causes of chronic conditions include genetics, communicable diseases, exposure to environmental toxins, and lifestyle decisions such as smoking tobacco.
Generally a chronic condition cannot be prevented with a vaccine, nor cured with prescription drugs alone. One exception is cervical cancer caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) which can now be prevented with a vaccine. Another exception is hepatitis C, which is now curable with drug therapy in about 90 percent of cases. And an increasing percentage of cancers can be overcome with combinations of drugs and other treatments such as ultraviolet light treatment (lasers) and surgery. Overall though, having a chronic disease involves managing symptoms rather than getting a cure.
The opposite of a chronic health condition is an acute condition. Acute health issues can be healed with short-term treatment. Examples are a broken arm, an ear infection that heals with penicillin, and a week-long bout with flu.
Many chronic senior health issues are preventable with lifestyle choices. Cardiovascular diseases are classic examples because usually they result from factors that are controllable at the individual or societal level, such as amount of physical exercise and the cleanliness of air.
Some chronic conditions can be stopped, reversed or even cured with lifestyle changes. Recovery is most likely if damage isn't extensive. Some examples:
Cataracts are clouded lenses. Cataract surgery is very common and has excellent success rates for restoring vision. To help ensure a smooth recovery, caregivers help patients follow post-surgery instructions. Examples of doctor’s recommendations for after cataract surgery include:
Shielding eyes from the Sun and computer screen radiation helps prevent new cataracts from forming.
Preventing cataracts, osteoporosis and other common senior health problems is the focus of our page on Healthy Aging.
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