Senior man with cane at home

Be Proactive: Learn More About Your Health As You Age

As we get older, our bodies and minds begin to change. We might notice a new wrinkle or a gray hair one day and a loud creak when we get out of bed the next. These are noticeable signs that we’re getting older.

Taking good care of yourself, getting regular checkups and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent or slow the progression of many age-related health conditions.

We all age at different paces and in different ways, but there are certain health complications that are more common as we get older that go beyond gray hair and wrinkles. If we learn more about these health issues, we can be proactive and take steps to reduce our risks.

What Health Issues Are Commonly Associated With Aging?

  • Arthritis – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), arthritis affects about 1 in 4 adults in the United States and is even more common among Veterans. As we age, arthritis can become a source of acute pain, impacting your quality of life and mobility. Fortunately, there are several programs and treatment options to help Veterans and older adults with arthritis become healthier and live with less pain, including medications, physical therapy, exercise, a healthy diet and more.
  • Heart disease – Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and refers to several types of heart conditions, including the most common in seniors, which is the buildup of fatty deposits and plaque in the walls of the arteries. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best prevention against heart disease and includes keeping a healthy weight, avoiding bad habits like smoking, staying active even at an older age and eating a well-balanced diet. The CDC offers a great “Know your risk” tool to check your own risk for heart disease.
  • Senior women exercising at homeOsteoporosis – Osteoporosis is an age-related condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle as you age. This makes fractures and broken bones more common and recovering from them harder. Post-menopausal women and older men are at the highest risk, but it’s a “silent disease,” and you may need to be screened to know if you have it. Luckily, you can improve your bone health and strengthen weak bones by eating a healthy diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D, performing weight-bearing exercises, taking medications and more.
  • Alzheimer’s disease – According to the CDC, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s in 2020, and your risk doubles every five years beyond age 65. It is a progressive disease, beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to the loss of the ability to carry on a conversation or respond to your environment properly. There’s growing evidence that healthy lifestyle habits, like regular exercise and blood pressure management, can lower your risk for dementia. Learn more about the warning signs, early treatment options and resources available for Veterans and their caregivers here.
  • Flu and Pneumonia – Because our immune defenses weaken with age, people 65 years and older are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications, pneumonia and other pneumococcal infections. In addition to the basics, such as hand-washing, covering up your cough and avoiding sick people, the CDC offers detailed information on flu vaccines, including high-dose vaccines for seniors, as well as pneumococcal vaccines.
  • Fall injuries and balance issues – A fall injury can be extremely harmful for an older person because it can result in broken bones, head trauma and even death. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. In many cases, falls can be prevented through increased physical activity, modifications to the home such as removing tripping hazards and slippery floor surfaces, and coordination and balance practice. Learn more about specific ways to prevent falls through the Veterans Health Library.

Senior women taking off glasses to read

  • Hearing and vision loss – Sensory impairments, such as vision and hearing, are extremely common as we age. As these senses become impaired, we are at higher risk for things like fall injuries, car accidents and a poorer quality of life. However, both hearing and vision issues are often easily treatable with aids such as glasses, contacts or hearing aids. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is aware of the connection between Veterans, their service and these impairments as well. You can learn more about both vision and hearing loss in Veterans on their site.
  • Oral health – Oral health issues associated with aging include dry mouth, gum disease, mouth cancer, cavities and tooth decay. These conditions can lead to malnutrition, weight loss, dehydration and more. Oral health issues can be managed or prevented by making regular dental checkups and continuing proper dental hygiene as we age. Learn more about your VA dental benefits and eligibility here.
  • Mental health conditions – According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 15% of adults over the age of 60 suffer from a mental disorder. A common one among seniors is depression, but seniors are less likely to show obvious symptoms or share their feelings. A loss of independence, isolation, a change in living condition or status, a chronic health condition and many other factors can contribute to feelings of despair in older people. VA offers several mental health resources designed for older adults. Social support from family and friends, counseling, therapy, medication or some combination or these things may help.


Check out these resources to ensure you have all the information you need to stay healthy as you age:

Your family history and your lifestyle play a large role in your risk for many medical conditions, but your age plays an important role too. Taking good care of yourself, getting regular checkups and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent or slow the progression of many of these age-related health conditions.

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