The “golden years” can be some of the best years of a person’s life—you have the freedom to relax, explore new hobbies, and spend more time with the ones you love. Unfortunately, common elderly health issues like osteoporosis and diabetes can sometimes get in the way of enjoying these years to the fullest.
The good news is that it is possible to lower your risk of developing some of the most common elderly health issues. And if you’ve already been diagnosed, there are ways to manage your symptoms so that you can focus on living your best life.
In the sixth and final part of Florida Medical Clinic’s holistic health series, internal medicine specialist Dr. Lakshmi Menezes explains how holistic medicine can help patients prevent or manage four of the most common elderly health issues.
Read the previous entries in our holistic health series using the links below:
Understanding Holistic Medicine
Holistic health care is about treating the whole of the patient and addressing all aspects of their physical, mental, and emotional health. By combining traditional medicine with alternative and complementary medicine (CAM), doctors and patients can work together to address all factors impacting health and wellness.
Holistic practitioners take an individualized approach towards medicine and recognize that one-size-fits-all treatment plans aren’t enough for most senior patients.
Note: Talk to a board-certified physician if you want to learn more about holistic care or want to start or stop a treatment. You should never stop or start a treatment, medication, or supplement without consulting a doctor.
How does age affect health?
As we get older, we tend to develop more health problems. Why is that?
Truthfully, the answer is complicated. As we get older, we experience more “wear and tear” on our cells, joints, bones, cardiovascular system, and other parts of our bodies. This wear and tear gets harder to recover from over time and makes us more susceptible to developing certain diseases and disorders.
The aging process can’t be slowed or reversed, but we can take active steps towards:
- Reducing the risk of developing severe health issues
- Preventing chronic health conditions from getting worse
Let’s look at a few of the most common elderly health issues and how holistic medicine can address them.
1. Type 2 Diabetes
More than 25% of Americans over the age of 65 have type 2 diabetes. When left untreated, diabetes can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, and loss of vision. Diabetes is associated with a lower life expectancy.
Diabetes has a genetic component, meaning it may be impossible for some to avoid this disease. However, with the right measures, seniors can reduce their likelihood of developing diabetes or stop it from getting worse as they age.
With the help of a holistic health care provider, seniors concerned about diabetes can:
- Create a diet that fits your lifestyle. Getting proper nutrition and reducing the glycemic load are key for managing diabetes. Your doctor can help you understand what healthy eating looks like for you.
- Find ways to get in physical exercise. Regular exercise is also important for managing diabetes, but it can be difficult for seniors with mobility issues. Your doctor can recommend easy ways to incorporate movement into your life, like yoga.
- Find ways to de-stress. Emotional stress can make diabetes worse. There are many sources of stress in seniors’ lives, and your doctor can help brainstorms ways to reduce stress—whether that’s through medication, therapies, relaxation techniques, or joining a support group.
As seniors lose bone density with age, osteoporosis can increase the risk of serious complications from falls and other accidents. Osteoporosis occurs in over 5% of men over the age of 65 and in almost 25% of women over 65. This disease is a leading cause of fractures and hospitalizations in older adults.
Osteoporosis is the gradual loss of bone density and strength over time. It can often occur in conjunction with osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease that can cause chronic pain.
Fortunately, osteoporosis can be slowed and even improved through the right lifestyle modifications. If you’re concerned about bone density, your doctor can help you:
- Find ways to get in essential nutrients. A bone-healthy diet includes plenty of vitamin D and calcium. Your doctor can help you find ways to incorporate more of these vitamins into your diet, whether that’s through eating changes or supplements.
- Plan a safe exercise routine. Weight-bearing exercises like jogging and stair-climbing can help combat bone loss. Your health care provider can help you find exercises that are safe and effective for your level of physical ability.
3. Cognitive Decline & Alzheimer’s
Many seniors worry about keeping their minds and memories sharp. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US and affects more than 5 million people nationwide.
Alzheimer’s cannot be cured or stopped, but it and other causes of cognitive decline can be treated through medications and alternative therapies.
Through a holistic approach, your doctor can help you:
- Manage mental health. Seniors developing issues with cognition may feel depressed, anxious, or struggle with other mood changes. A doctor can point patients toward mental health resources, as well as suggest complementary and alternative medicine treatments.
- Develop a sleep plan. Alzheimer’s may disrupt sleep, so a doctor can help you find better ways to fall and stay asleep through methods like meditation, sunlight exposure therapy, and more.
As we age, our risks of developing cancer increases. This is due to a variety of reasons, including genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle habits catching up with us.
Healthy lifestyle practices can reduce the risk of developing cancer, and regular cancer screenings can detect cancer in its earliest stages. Complementary and alternative medicine practices can’t cure cancer, but they can help patients deal with the pain and stress caused by their disease.
Holistic medicine practitioners can help patients with cancer:
- Find pain management alternatives. Your doctor can help you find different ways to cope with the physical pain caused by cancer. Alternative treatments may include acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, and more.
- Create a nutrition plan. Often, patients with cancer lose their appetite, which puts them at danger of becoming malnourished. You and your doctor can brainstorm ways to get the right vitamins and minerals, whether it’s through trying new foods or taking supplements.
- Manage stress. Your doctor can refer you to mental health specialists, support groups, and even help you find ways to manage stress at home through techniques like yoga, aromatherapy, and more.
Holistic medicine should only be used in conjunction with traditional cancer health care—not in place of it. Talk to your oncologist before starting or stopping any treatment, medication, or supplement.
Talk to a Doctor About Managing Elderly Health Issues
If you or a loved one are struggling with age-related diseases or want to learn more about how to prevent them, a holistic medicine physician may be able to help you find more robust treatment and management options. Make an appointment with internal medicine specialist Dr. Lakshmi Menenzes at our Lutz or Wesley Chapel locations. Virtual appointments are also available.
As we conclude our holistic health blog series, we want to know your thoughts! Reach out to Florida Medical Clinic on Facebook or Twitter to let us know what you found helpful, or what you’d like to read from us in the future.
Missed a blog? Use the links below to go back and read the previous entries in our holistic health series:
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always talk with your doctor before starting or stopping medications or therapies.