10 Common Health Concerns for Seniors and When to See a Doctor

Age really is just a number. People who have adopted strong nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle habits over the years are far more likely to enjoy good health, no matter what the calendar says. Still, seniors must be proactive about their health. Here are some common health concerns for seniors, and when to see the doctor:

10 Common Health Concerns

1. Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is directly associated with obesity, high cholesterol and/or blood pressure, and a diet high in sugar. In the early stages, most people experience dry mouth along with increased thirst and urination.

When to see a doctor: If you have these symptoms, especially if they’re accompanied by blurred vision, excessive hunger, numbness in the extremities, or rapid weight gain or loss.

2. Pneumonia and Influenza

Seniors are highly susceptible to complications from the flu and pneumonia. Very often, older adults with the flu don’t get a high fever — instead, they can run a continual low-grade fever and suffer a loss of appetite and fatigue. Coughing and shortness of breath are also usually present.

When to see a doctor: If you are experiencing the above symptoms. Also, get flu shots annually and get vaccinated for pneumonia once you turn 65.

3. Obesity

A slower metabolism and decreased physical ability can cause weight gain as you age. Try to stay active as much as possible, even if that’s taking short walks throughout the day, and eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods to maintain a healthy weight.

When to see a doctor: Once a year for an annual wellness exam. But see a doctor immediately if you’re suddenly having trouble moving around or breathing, or if you have arrhythmia.

4. Depression

Your lifestyle changes significantly as you get older. Your spouse may have passed away, friends may have relocated, or you might feel less able to complete your daily routines and hobbies. This can lead to feeling sad and isolated.

When to see a doctor: A persistent lack of motivation, feeling unhappy or hopeless, or low interest in the people and activities you used to enjoy could indicate clinical depression.

5. Oral Health

As you age, your gums naturally recede, giving bacteria many more opportunities to infiltrate your teeth, gums, and roots.

When to see a doctor: Adults should see their dentist every six months for a regular check-up and cleaning. However, if you have inflamed or bleeding gums, pain in your mouth, or an extreme sensitivity to heat or cold, schedule an appointment right away.

6. Arthritis

By age 60, nearly half of adults have some form of arthritis — the normal wearing out of cartilage between the joints. It’s very common to experience a degree of stiffness in your joints.

When to see a doctor: Increased or debilitating joint swelling, pain, or tenderness; loss of range of motion; or overall body fatigue.

7. Alzheimer’s Disease

Those annoying “senior moments” are a natural part of aging. Misplacing things from time to time, forgetting names or appointments (but remembering them later), or making bad decisions once in a while is frustrating, but isn’t necessarily cause for alarm.

When to see a doctor: Confusion with the passage of time or locations, asking the same questions over and over, significant changes in the ability to solve problems, or acute trouble with following or finishing a conversation.

8. Osteoporosis

Men do get osteoporosis, but women are very susceptible to it — they can begin losing bone mass as early as age 35. Bone loss continues as you age, which can put you at high risk for broken bones or fractures in your older years.

When to see a doctor: Noticeable decrease in grip strength, weak or brittle fingernails, stooped posture, loss of height, a constant, dull ache in the bones, and increased cramps all over.

9. Heart Disease

Chest discomfort is the number one symptom of heart disease. This can be a heaviness, pinching, or burning sensation in the chest that lasts longer than a few minutes. It may be accompanied by nausea, dizziness, prolonged fatigue, sweating, or pain that spreads to the arm.

When to see a doctor: See a doctor immediately if you’re having periods of chest discomfort and/or related symptoms.

10. Cancer

Cancer is called “the silent killer” because people often don’t experience symptoms until the disease has progressed. The best way to detect the most common cancers in their early stages is by staying vigilant with regular screenings of the colon, lungs, cervix, breasts, and prostate.

When to see a doctor: There are hundreds of types of cancers and related symptoms. Stay aware of your body, and see your doctor if you have any noticeable changes in your overall health — particularly if it’s low energy levels, loss of appetite, a long-running fever, or respiratory issues.


Are you looking for ways to stay fit and feeling your best? Visit Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups’ excellent articles, resources, and tools crafted just for seniors.

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