The 10 Most Common Diseases and Illnesses in Arkansas Affecting Seniors

As we get older, certain diseases and illnesses are more likely to affect us, especially after the age of 65 (senior citizen age). In the United States, three of the most common diseases include heart disease, cancer, and more recently, COVID-19. Here’s a look at the 10 most common diseases and illnesses affecting the senior population in Arkansas.

#1: Heart Disease

As mentioned above, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and it’s also the leading cause of death in Arkansas. It’s an umbrella term for various types of heart conditions, with coronary artery disease being the most common. Heart disease increases your risk of a heart attack, and your risk of developing heart disease more than doubles after age 60.

#2: Cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in both Arkansas and the entire U.S. The most common types of cancers are lung cancer, colorectal cancer, skin cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney cancer, leukemia, and pancreatic cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, while prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. The risk of cancer also increases with age, with family history and genetics playing a major role as well.

#3: COVID-19

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic made the virus the third leading cause of death in the U.S. pushing accidents into fourth place. It’s also the third leading cause of death (as of 2021) in Arkansas. This is another disease that disproportionately affected senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems, compared to the rest of the population.

#4: Respiratory Diseases

More specifically, chronic lower respiratory diseases, respiratory diseases are defined as four major diseases: COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. While the risk for respiratory diseases also increases with age, smoking and air pollution are greater risk factors.

#5: Accidents

Accidents rank as number five, with the most common accidents in this age group being falls. More than 25% of those over the age of 65 experience a fall, which can lead to serious injury or death. The most common causes of elder falls include muscle weakness, poor eyesight, and poor hearing.

#6: Alzheimer’s Disease 

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that causes issues with memory, thinking, and judgment. It’s the sixth most common disease that leads to death in the senior citizen population, especially in those over the age of 75. This debilitating disease often requires sufferers to move into an assisted living facility for their safety and care. However, some Arkansas residents are victims of abuse in these facilities because they’re viewed as defenseless.

#7: Stroke

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain gets interrupted. The three major signs of a stroke are weakness in the face or limbs on one side of the body, difficulty speaking/understanding, and vision problems. The risk of stroke increases over the age of 65, but it is possible to have a stroke before then.

#8: Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. It’s when the body can’t properly use insulin, often requiring medication to live with diabetes. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age, as well as having a family history of type 2 diabetes and certain lifestyle factors.

#9: Chronic Kidney Disease

The kidneys are two vital organs that filter waste from the blood. The long-term disease of the kidneys can lead to kidney failure. Diabetes can lead to kidney disease, as well as high blood pressure— both of which are also contributors to heart disease. Family history and age (being older) can also lead to kidney disease.

#10: Influenza

The “flu” is a common respiratory illness that is more serious than the common cold, but not as serious as COVID-19 can be. Influenza affects the nose and throat, but can also affect the lungs, leading to pneumonia. This risk of developing pneumonia and other complications from the flu is influenced by age (being older than 65 and younger than 5) and by having certain medical conditions, such as the ones mentioned in this list.

All of these diseases and illnesses can significantly impact a senior’s quality of life, meaning that they’re more than likely living in one of Arkansas’s 190+ assisted living facilities. The key to a better quality of life (and better health in general) is to cut out bad habits, eat healthier, and exercise regularly.

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