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Age-related Diseases

Which Conditions Are More Common As We Age?

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Updated April 15, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

11. Cataracts

A cataract is a progressive cloudiness in the lens of your eye, resulting from a number of factors, including exposure to ultraviolet light, smoking and diabetes. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, half of all people over the age of 65 have some kind of cataract. Initially, you may not notice a cataract, but over time vision can become blurred and much reduced. Cataract surgery may be recommended to remove and replace the lens. Years ago, such surgery required several days' recovery in the hospital; now, it can be performed as an outpatient procedure, often in about an hour.

12. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common condition in adults over the age of 50, is the most common cause of blindness in older people. As the macula of the eye progressively deteriorates, so does a person's ability to see objects clearly in the center of his field of vision, though peripheral vision is usually preserved. Age is one risk factor, but so is smoking, race (Caucasians are more susceptible than African-Americans), and family history. Though the role of certain lifestyle habits is not fully understood, researchers believe that limiting tobacco use, regular exercise, maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and eating an anti-aging diet rich in colorful vegetables and fish will all help prevent AMD.

13. Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is common with advancing age, thanks to the deterioration of tiny hairs within your ear that help process sound. It can mean simple changes in hearing, too, such as having difficulty following a conversation in a noisy area, having trouble distinguishing certain consonants (especially in higher-pitched voices), certain sounds seeming louder than usual, and voices seeming muffled. Several factors in addition to age, such as chronic exposure to loud noises, smoking, and genetics, can affect how well you hear as you get older. About half of all people over the age of 70 have some degree of age-related hearing loss.

How to think about Age-Related Diseases: While aging itself is not a disease, it is a risk factor for these different conditions. That doesn't mean you will have age-related disease, it just means you are more likely to experience these conditions as you get older.

Physiological processes like inflammation, environmental exposure to pollutants and radiation (like ultraviolet radiation from the sun), the effects of lifestyle factors like smoking, diet and fitness levels, as well as simple wear and tear, can all accelerate the rate of decline in different people.

Many research projects around the world are underway to determine the effect of age on the human body, to sort out which conditions are an inevitable result of getting older and which can be prevented.

Read More: How a Longitudinal Study Gets Launched

Sources:

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Age-related Hearing Loss. US National Institutes of Health Medline Public Information Sheet. Accessed October 16, 2012. Br> http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001045.htm

Cancer Facts and Figures 2012. American Cancer Society Public Information Sheet. Accessed October 15, 2012.
http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurveilance/documents/document/acspc-031941.pdf

Cataract. US National Institutes of Health Medline Public Information Sheet. Accessed October 18, 2012.
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/cataract.html

E Sikora, Giovanni Scapagnini, and Mario Barbagallo. "Curcumin, inflammation, ageing and age-related diseases." Immun Ageing. 2010; 7: 1.

Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration. US National Eye Institute Public Information Sheet. Accessed October 18, 2012.
http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts.asp

Giuseppina Campisi, Martina Chiappelli, Massimo De Martinis, et al. “Pathophysiology of age-related diseases.” Immun Ageing. 2009; 6: 12.

Heart Diseases. US National Institutes of Health Medline Public Information Sheet. Accessed September 28, 2012. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/heartdiseases.html

High Blood Pressure. US National Institutes of Health Medline Public Information Sheet. Accessed September 28, 2012. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/highbloodpressure.html

Osteoporosis. US National Institutes of Health Medline Public Information Sheet. Accessed October 18, 2012.
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/osteoporosis.html

Stroke. US National Institutes of Health Medline Public Information Sheet. Accessed September 28, 2012. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/stroke.html

What is High Blood Pressure? US National Institutes of Health Public Information Sheet. Accessed September 28, 2012. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp/

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