While living a healthy lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and taking care of your mental health are sure to make your golden years easier to deal with, unfortunately, there are many diseases that are unavoidable, even for the healthiest person. That is why regular checkups with your general practitioner, or GP, are essential for your continued good health. Staying in tune with your body will help your GP in their task of keeping you in tip-top condition. Here are some of the most common diseases Americans suffer from, and the symptoms that you should be on the lookout for as you get older, so you know when it’s time to speak about them to your doctor.
1. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a group of diseases that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema and affects around 14% of Americans. It frequently makes the list of top ten causes of death in the country. Symptoms of COPD include a persistent chesty cough, breathlessness regardless of activity, wheezing, and frequently occurring chest infections. Early detection of COPD is essential as symptoms are progressive and often flare up sporadically.
Another common risk factor associated with COPD that is not often discussed is dysphagia. This disorder makes it difficult for patients to swallow foods or liquids, which can result in numerous other complications. Companies like Simply Thick have created special thickening agents designed to help patients overcome this particular obstacle, making mealtimes more manageable and less stressful overall. All of these symptoms can be managed if caught early, making detection important for a person’s continued good health.
2. Heart Disease
According to the CDC, heart attacks affect over 800 thousand people every year, meaning that there is a heart attack happening every 40 seconds. While these numbers may be scary, the good news is there are ways that people can reduce their chances of being affected by heart disease. Experts like Slash and Scroll recommend a healthy, balanced diet, regular physical activity, and reducing alcohol and tobacco consumption as some of the key ways to prevent this dreaded disease. Monitoring and keeping on top of your blood pressure is also vital, which is why most physical examinations start with a blood pressure cuff and a pulse rate check. Symptoms to look out for and report back to your GP include shortness of breath, tightness and pain in the chest, as well as pain, numbness, coldness, and weakness in the arms and limbs.
A blanket term for diseases that cause the uncontrollable multiplication of unhealthy cells, cancer is one of the top causes of death in the US, and the American Cancer Society estimated that there were over 1.9 million new cancer diagnoses and over 600 thousand deaths in 2024 alone. Unfortunately, it would be impossible to test for all types of cancers, as there are already more than 100 types of identifiable cancers affecting people globally. There are, however, a few common types of cancer that should always be tested for. These include breast cancer, the most common type of cancer in the US, lung cancer, bronchus cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer. Collectively, it is thought that these five types account for around 50% of new cases in the US. Screening for these types of cancer should be undertaken regularly, as early detection is key to their successful treatment.
4. Alzheimer’s Disease
A progressive disease that affects millions of people in the US alone, Alzheimer’s Disease is often seen as an old person’s disease thanks to its prevalence in older populations. However, while the majority of people who suffer from this neurological disorder are over 65, early-onset Alzheimer’s is responsible for around 6% of cases in the US. That is why it is important that all adult men and women are on the lookout for signs of the disease so that it can be detected early.
Some common symptoms to be on the lookout for include disruptive memory loss, disorientation and confusion regarding time and place, and the development of problems with writing or speaking. There is even a test that people can take themselves should they be concerned but not sure enough to speak to their GP. The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam, or SAGE, is a pen-and-paper test designed to detect memory, thinking, or cognitive impairments.
Another disease that is becoming more and more prevalent in the US thanks to rising numbers of people being affected by obesity is diabetes. According to experts at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, almost 11% of the American population, around 34 million people, have either diabetes, prediabetes, or gestational diabetes. It is for this reason that people should be on the lookout for the warning signs of this disease.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes that you should watch out for include blurred vision, extremely dry skin, tingling or numbness in the feet and hands, unexpected weight loss, and an increased need to urinate more often than normal or regardless of fluid intake. While there is no cure for diabetes, there is mounting evidence that suggests diabetes may be reversible if diagnosed early enough, making screening that much more important.
While all of the diseases on this list should be concerning for all adults living in the US, this article is not meant to scare anyone. Rather, it is meant to help motivate people to be on the lookout for some of the common symptoms of dread diseases that affect millions of lives every year so that diseases that can be minimized or limited through early diagnosis and treatment are identified. Regular visits to your GP are vital for your continued good health and keeping notes on your general health and any irregularities can only help your doctor in the long run. By knowing what things to look out for, especially if you are genetically disposed to any of these dreaded diseases, you can play a major role in keeping your body and mind healthy for years to come.