Conditions and Treatments
While each person is unique, many health conditions become more common or more serious as we grow older. The more you know about these conditions, the more likely you can prevent or manage them effectively.
Featured Condition: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD)
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder is one of most common conditions among older adults and a major cause of death. In the U.S., the term COPD refers mainly to two conditions — emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which both affect the lungs. There’s currently no cure, but lifestyle changes and the right medical care can help reduce symptoms and slow the disease’s progress.
Symptoms of COPD can vary and may include:
- An ongoing cough or a cough that produces a lot of mucus (often called “smoker's cough”).
- Shortness of breath, especially when active.
- Wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe).
- Chest tightness.
The most important thing you can do to prevent COPD — and the first thing you should do if you diagnosed with COPD — is quit smoking. Smoking is the main cause of COPD and can speed up its progress.
El Camino Health provides advanced, evidence-based treatment for COPD. We can help educate you and your family about how to manage this chronic condition to help you stay active — and breathe easier.
Other Common Conditions
Many of the health conditions common among older adults, like COPD, can be prevented or managed by getting the right care and making some healthy lifestyle changes. The first step is learning as much as you can about your risk and how to take care of yourself.
El Camino Health offers a wide range of classes and programs to help you prevent disease and improve your health. Our Health Library & Resource Center also provides a wealth of information on specific conditions, prevention and treatment options.
Conditions common in older adults include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Memory loss
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and can be devastating to those who have it, as well as to family and friends. The condition leads to permanent memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment and thought processes, and often behavioral issues. El Camino Health works closely with families and caretakers to help streamline access to all the needed services and support, including an Alzheimer’s family support group. The support group offers a place where caretakers and loved ones can share experiences, advice and concerns.
Arthritis affects your joints, making them inflamed, painful and often swollen. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in older adults. More often, arthritis can be managed with medication, physical therapy and other outpatient treatments, though in some cases it can require surgery. El Camino Health offers the latest arthritis treatments to manage the condition, improve flexibility and relieve pain.
Although cancer is a leading cause of death in the U.S., many forms of cancer are highly treatable — especially if identified and treated during the early stages. Cancer can strike nearly any part of the body. It starts when cells begin to grow out of control. The cells form tumors that can spread to other parts of the body. Your risk of cancer increases with age, smoking, a family history of cancer and other factors.
At El Camino Health, we can assess your risk and let you know which screenings you may want to consider. We also offer some of the most advanced cancer treatment options available.
Diabetes is a condition in which your body can’t make insulin (type 1) or can’t use insulin properly to control blood sugar (type 2). Although there’s no cure for diabetes, the right treatment and preventive care can slow the disease’s progress and help prevent complications, including vision and circulatory problems. Primary care doctors at El Camino Health carefully monitor blood sugar and offer nutritional information and resources to help you prevent diabetes. We closely follow patients with diabetes or prediabetes, high blood sugar that’s not yet in the diabetic range. Additionally, we offer services and support to help you make healthy choices, such as nutrition counseling from a registered dietitian. Call 650-940-7207 for more information about nutrition counseling.
Aortic valve disease. This condition occurs when the valve between the main pumping chamber of your heart (left ventricle) and your main artery to your body (aorta) either doesn’t close completely or doesn’t open fully. Treatment can range from frequent monitoring and medications to surgery. El Camino Health offers some of the latest techniques and therapies to treat heart valve disease.
Heart failure. Heart failure occurs when the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. It can cause fluid to back up into the lungs and pool up in the feet, ankles and legs. Heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes can increase your risk for heart failure. Managing it usually involves medication and treating its underlying cause. El Camino Health’s specialists can help you take the right steps to prevent it. If you have heart failure, we offer advanced care to help you manage the condition effectively.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Blood pressure refers to the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. Hypertension occurs when the force is often high (120/80 or higher). As your blood pressure goes up, so does your risk for heart attack, stroke and many other serious illnesses.
Primary care doctors and heart specialists at El Camino Health can help you get your blood pressure within healthy levels and keep it there. Your treatment may involve lifestyle changes, weight loss and medication. It’s important to take your medication as prescribed. You may also need to monitor your blood pressure and report any changes to your doctor right away.
It’s normal to forget things now and then. However, severe memory loss — such as getting lost in a place you know well or becoming more confused about people, time and places — isn’t a normal part of aging. It could be caused by depression, a reaction to medicine, blood vessel disease, thyroid problems, or a lack of certain vitamins or minerals.
If memory loss is caused by Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, treatment could help fight symptoms and slow the disease’s progress. If you’re concerned about a memory problem, talk to your doctor. If you’re taking care of someone with memory loss, reach out for help if you need it. El Camino Health has services and resources that can help families dealing with memory loss. We can also help you find ways to preserve your brain’s health and fitness as you age.
Osteoporosis destroys bone tissue and reduces bone mass, making bones more likely to break. It’s more common in women than men, and while the bone loss may start earlier in life, the effects often don’t appear until after middle age. Identifying the disease early — through bone density screenings — can help prevent future fractures.
Treatment often involves lifestyle changes, such as keeping active and quitting smoking, as well as medication such as estrogen therapy for women who are in menopause. El Camino Health can work with you to assess your risk and develop a plan to protect your bones.
Pneumonia is a serious infection in one or both lungs caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and other germs and irritants. People with pneumonia usually get a bad cough, often with a stabbing chest pain. Other symptoms may include a high fever, sweating and a blue color in the nails and lips due to lack of oxygen. Pneumonia can be especially serious for older adults, who may develop it following another illness.
Treatment depends on the type of pneumonia you have. The condition usually requires medication — and in some cases, hospital care. El Camino Health works with older adults and families to prevent the condition. Many types of pneumonia can be prevented with a vaccine that’s recommended for those 65 and older. We also have the resources to treat even the most serious cases.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted by a blood clot or a bursting blood vessel in the brain. Even a brief disruption can lead to weakness or paralysis, which is why stroke is often referred to as a “brain attack.” El Camino Health offers a full range of services to prevent and treat stroke, as well advanced rehabilitation services to help you overcome the effects of a stroke.