Health Concerns for Seniors and When to Consult a Doctor…

Health Concerns for Seniors and When to Consult a Doctor…
October 04 04:49 2023 by admin Print This Article


Age-related decline in health parameters is natural in seniors, or those above 60 years of age. As a result, seniors are prone to several common health concerns. While most of them can be reversed with early diagnosis and proper lifestyle, some of the concerns can only be managed well so as to minimize the symptoms. That is why, it’s important for seniors to get regular health checkups (annual and otherwise) so that ailments or conditions if any can be detected early and addressed immediately. In addition to regular health-checkups, seniors should be aware of when to meet a doctor, by recognizing early symptoms of these ailments. In this article, we will learn more.

Introduction to Geriatric Health (seniors’ health)

Ageing brings many changes in the body. The body is made up of several body-systems with their own set of organs, each organ having multiple tissues in them, and each tissue containing thousands of cells. The cells, in each of our body tissues, have a specific lifespan that is hard-coded in the DNA. Old cells die, and are replaced by new cells, at a specific rate that can vary from tissue to tissue.

In the younger years, this replacement of cells is very timely and efficient. However, as one ages, this pace slows down. While cells in some tissues are replaced on time, some take longer. In some tissues, and in some people specifically, the cells may not even get replaced. Over several years, over even a a couple of decades (seniors are living up to the 90s today), this delayed growth, replacement, division or multiplication of cells results in reduced functionality of organs or tissues, and their gradual shrinkage. The body is also not able to retain fluid as efficiently as it did in younger years, so spinal disks shrink or become stiff (lose elasticity over time).

That was the bad news. The good news is that by ensuring a proper diet, adequate sleep, regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle, this age-related decline can be slowed down as much as possible. Have we not heard of our grandparents and great-grandparents being fit and healthy up to the late 90s? So, it is possible! One must just have the awareness and discipline to do what this requires.

The right lifestyle, diet, sleep and exercise-regimen for seniors, is a topic for another article altogether. In this article, we will stay focused on common health concerns in seniors and recognizing when to consult a doctor.

12 most Common Health Concerns

Heart disease

With time, the muscles and blood-vessels of the heart go through a lot of change. A diet high in salt can cause  hypertension( high blood pressure) which tires out the muscles of the heart. So also, a diet high in fat and cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis or plaque deposition in the walls of the coronary arteries. Alcohol abuse and lack of exercise can add to the damage. All these factors raise the risk of heart attack and heart failure.

When to see a doctor: If you, the senior, is frequently suffering from dyspnoea (shortness of breath) even with a little exertion, or if you have suffered a bout of chest pain (angina) in the recent past, do not ignore and consult a cardiologist immediately.


Seniors are at higher risk of contracting Type-2 diabetes than younger people due to age-related decline in the pancreatic function. On top of that, a sedentary lifestyle and/or a diet high in white sugar and refined flour increases the risk significantly.

When to see a doctor: If you are not a diabetic currently, you must consult a doctor if you experience any of these: sores that are not healing quickly, feeling weak, tired, irritable and thirsty often, urinating frequently, weak eyesight and unexplained weight-loss.

Digestion issues

Subtle changes to the gut microbiome and stomach-acid generation can cause constipation in seniors, once in a while. A low-fibre diet and lack of exercise can increase the frequency. So also, changes to gut microbiome and a weakened immune system can cause diarrhoea in seniors when eating outside the home.

When to see a doctor: If you have not had bowel movement for more than 2 days, or if you are having frequent bouts of diarrhoea, it’s time to consult a  family physician who would advise you whether  you need to see a gastroenterologist.

Bone and Joint issues

There are various conditions that weaken bones and bone-joints with age. This includes Arthritis and Osteoarthritis in both genders, and Osteoporosis, which is more common in post-menopausal women. The weak and porous bones can increase the risk of fall and losing balance while walking, sitting or standing. Stiffness and constant pain in the joints can also affect your peace of mind, and overall quality of life.

When to see a doctor: If you have had a fall recently, or more than 1 fall in the last 1 year, its time to see a family physician who may refer you to an orthopaedic doctor. He/she may adviser  a bone density test, and based on the results, would advise the right exercise and lifestyle for you.


The body’s ability to retain fluid reduces with age. On top of that, seniors avoid drinking more water with the fear of frequent urination. Both these factors increase the risk of dehydration. But dehydration is serious as it can lead to urinary tract infections, and electrolyte imbalance.

When to see a doctor: You must consult a doctor when you see one or more of these signs: feeling unquenchable thirst, feeling dizzy, confused or lightheaded, not urinating frequently, dark-coloured urine, dry mouth, sticky mouth, constant fatigue and dry eyes.


With age, appetite, and the ability to digest a wide variety of foods easily, reduces. On top of that, some seniors may be experiencing frequent constipation. As a result of these factors, seniors may cut down on regular meals or eating a sufficient quantity of food. This can cause malnutrition in them as they are not getting the right quantum of nutrients. They may even take to unhealthy snacking to make up for the situation.

When to see a doctor: You must consult a doctor when you see one or more of these signs: unexplained and significant weight-loss, poor appetite, no interest in food, feeling weak all the time, feeling cold most of the time, being irritable often.

 Mental Health

Mental health can be divided into cognitive health (intelligence or intellect related), and emotional health. Both of these can be affected by age. With brain-cells decaying or not being replaced on time, seniors can experience both cognitive decline and depression. Some of them may even hide this from family members which makes them more anxious, upset and even depressed. Changes to the gut microbiome with age can also increase the risk of depression in seniors. Cognitive decline that is not attended to can even lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease eventually.

When to see a doctor: If you are finding it difficult to remember names and tasks, if you are finding it difficult to complete the tasks which was so easy till recently, and if you are feeling sad and upset all the time, it’s time to consult a geriatric health specialist.


Age-related decline in physical health can increase the risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer and endometrial cancer in women over 60 years, and prostate cancer in men over 60 years of age.

When to see a doctor: If you are post-menopausal woman over 60 years of age, consult a doctor when you notice any of these: a new lump in the breast or armpit, pulling-in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area, thickening or swelling of a part of the breast, red or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast, and irritation or dimpling of breast skin.

If you are a man over 60 years of age, consult a doctor if you notice: trouble urinating, weak stream of urine, blood in the urine or semen, unexplained weight-loss, bone pain and unexplained fevers.

Oral Health

Even if the senior has most of his/her teeth intact, he/she is still at risk of oral health conditions such as gingivitis and periodontitis which affects both teeth and gums. This is because of a dryer mouth, poor oral hygiene and other age-related changes.

When to see a doctor: See a dentist if you notice any of these changes in you: using only one side of the mouth to chew, shaky or lost teeth, persistent bad breath, suddenly refusing food that you were used to eating, bright red gums, bleeding gums after brushing teeth, longer or lengthening teeth, and broken teeth.


Compared to the west, obesity is less of an issue in seniors in India. Nevertheless, some seniors have this problem. Hormonal changes in seniors can make it difficult to lose weight. On top of that, an unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle can add to weight-gain.

When to see a doctor: In addition to constant weight-gain, you must consult a doctor if you notice: shortness of breath (dyspnoea), skin problems and trouble sleeping.

Substance Abuse

Although drug-abuse among elders is very rare in India unlike the west, seniors in India may have other indulgences such as cigarette smoking and frequent alcohol consumption. If they have had a long history of the same, then, in old age, a weakened immune system combined with age-related decline can worsen the symptoms of tobacco abuse or alcohol abuse leading to lung cancer and cirrhosis of the liver respectively. Not just the smoker, even the spouse of a long-term smoker is at high risk of lung-cancer, from secondary smoke.

When to see a doctor: Meet a doctor when you notice any of these changes in you: racking cough that gets worse or doesn’t go away, being short of breath all the time, chest pain, unexplained weight-loss, wheezing, constant fatigue, coughing up blood and thick sputum.

Vision and Hearing loss

Both the eyes and ears go through a lot of change and age-related decline after 60 years, and usually after 70 years of age. Macular degeneration, cataract, and glaucoma are common vision problems in elders, with diabetics being at higher risk than non-diabetics.

When to see an ophthalmologist: Short and/or long sight, inability to distinguish between different dark shades of colour, requiring more time to adjust to more light or less light.

When to see an ENT specialist: The other person’s speech sounds slurred or mumbled, conversations cannot be understood easily (especially when there is background noise) and high-pitched sounds are difficult to distinguish.

Kauvery Hospital is globally known for its multidisciplinary services at all its Centers of Excellence, and for its comprehensive, Avant-Grade technology, especially in diagnostics and remedial care in heart diseases, transplantation, vascular and neurosciences medicine. Located in the heart of Trichy (Tennur, Royal Road and Alexandria Road (Cantonment), Chennai, Hosur, Salem, Tirunelveli and Bengaluru, the hospital also renders adult and pediatric trauma care.

Chennai – Alwarpet/Vadapalani 044 4000 6000 • Trichy – Cantonment – 0431 4077777 • Trichy – Heartcity – 0431 4003500 • Trichy – Tennur – 0431 4022555 • Hosur – 04344 272727 • Salem – 0427 2677777 • Tirunelveli – 0462 4006000 • Bengaluru – 080 6801 6801

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