Common age-related clinical conditions
This fact sheet aims to provide information oncommon age-related clinical conditions. Physiological, psychological and lifestyle changes associated with ageing can cause several clinical conditions. These conditions can have multiple causes.
Hypertension is characterised by a blood pressure above 140/90mmHg. People with hypertension are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases e.g. coronary heart diseases and stroke.
Coronary heart disease and stroke
Coronary heart disease and stroke are caused by the blockage of the vessels supplying the heart and brain, respectively. They are often linked to the build-up of fats in these vessels; people with higher cholesterol levels or high blood pressure are more at risk.
Heart disease factors:
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by cognitive decline: a gradual loss of memory, reasoning, ability to communicate, and physical capability. Parkinson’s disease is characterised by motor decline: tremors,
slowed movements, rigid muscles, impaired posture and balance, loss of automatic movement, speech and writing changes. Oxidative stress and inflammation are implicated in both conditions, and
individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity are at higher risk of developing these conditions.
Anaemia is characterised by lower levels of red blood cells or haemoglobin in blood. This can be caused by iron deficiency, but also folate or vitamin B12 deficiency, which becomes more common as we become older (due to changes in food intake, metabolism, and gastro-intestinal function).
Cancer can develop at any age; however, cancer is much more common in older adults. Almost 90% of cancer cases, for most cancers, in the UK are in people 50+. It is thought that around 40% of cancer cases in the UK could
be prevented by living and eating more healthily. There is comprehensive information about cancer available from Cancer Research UK and the World Cancer Research Fund.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is characterised by hyperglycaemia (an excess of glucose in the blood), due to an inability of the body to respond to insulin (insulin resistance). It is associated with obesity, and people with type 2 diabetes are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Arthritis is characterised by the inflammation of joints. It comprises of osteoarthritis (associated with obesity, affecting weight bearing joints), rheumatoid arthritis (affecting multiple joints) and gout (uric crystals accumulate in the joints).
Cataract & macular degeneration
Cataract and macular degeneration are characterised by impaired vision, potentially leading to blindness. Inflammation and oxidative stress contribute to both conditions.
Osteoporosis is an advanced stage of osteopenia (reduced bone density), characterised by porous and fragile bones, leading to a higher risk of fractures.
Pneumonia is associated with ageing, as the risk of bacterial or viral infection increases while chronic low-grade inflammation develops.
Urinary tract infections (UTI)
UTIs become more frequent in older men due to changes in body composition, which alters the emptying of the bladder. In older women, UTI becomes more likely because of lower vaginal oestrogens.
Diverticulosis is common in older adults and is characterised by small pouches (diverticula) in the lining of the colon which bulge out along weak spots in the intestinal wall Many people have no symptoms however, when inflammation or infection of the pouches occurs, diverticulitis can develop causing acute pain, nausea and vomiting, fever, abdominal tenderness, constipation or diarrhoea.
Obesity & undernourishment
Obesity is characterised by an excess of body fat and is defined as a body mass index (BMI) over 30 kg/m2. People with obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, are at higher risk of developing cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, as well as pressure ulcers, or certain gastro-intestinal disorders such as reflux. Undernourishment can also occur, due to reduced appetite, reduced food intake, and the alteration of nutrient metabolism leading to nutrient deficiencies. It is particularly prevalent in the institutionalised elderly.