At any age, it’s important to be aware of the common signs of health concerns. Everyone knows to keep an eye out for stomach pain, chest tightness, or fever and chills. What if you experience symptoms that seem irregular, though? Symptoms that don’t seem to be connected to any health concern that you’re aware of?
Whether you know it or not, many health conditions can start with unusual symptoms that you may not think of as problematic. The good news is that by being familiar with these warning signs, you can spot issues in their earliest stages when they may be easier to treat
At Senior Solutions Management Group, we take health very seriously. We also encourage a proactive lifestyle, so we’re sharing some symptoms and physical changes that could be indicators for underlying health conditions. As always, we encourage you to speak with your healthcare provider if you notice any unfamiliar symptoms or changes in health.
Loss of Hearing
Losing your sense of hearing can be so gradual that sometimes you don’t notice it. However, if you find yourself beginning to ask friends and family to repeat themselves more often, or having to turn up the volume on the TV constantly, you could be experiencing hearing loss.
While hearing loss is a common component of aging, sometimes it can mean something more serious. Studies have shown that hearing loss can be linked to diabetes, as high blood sugar levels can cause damage to blood vessels—including those in the ears. If you know that you are at higher risk for diabetes, pay attention to your sense of hearing, as it could be a warning sign.
NOTE: Of course, it’s important to know that age-related hearing loss affects over half of people older than 75. If you are not at high risk for diabetes and are otherwise healthy, a loss of hearing could simply be a normal sign of aging.
Loss of Smell
Whether we realize it or not, our sense of smell is something we use all the time. So when it starts to diminish, we notice right away. Suddenly, you may have a hard time smelling fresh flowers, or your nose is no longer aware of the harsh smell of gasoline while you’re filling up your car.
While losing your sense of smell can be alarming and somewhat strange, it can also be an indication of Alzheimer’s disease or another cognitive impairment. Studies have shown that losing the ability to identify recognizable smells—such as leather and peppermint—could be an early warning sign of dementia as “the sense of smell is closely connected with brain function and health (Jayant Pinto, MD).”
NOTE: The loss of smell isn’t always a warning sign for a serious health condition, though. Just like hearing or vision, the sense of smell decreases with age and can make it more challenging to identify potent or familiar scents.
Change in Handwriting
Have you noticed that your handwriting isn’t the same as it used to be? Maybe you find it harder to sign your name in a straight line, or when you write your grocery list the words come out small and cramped together. While it may seem minor, a dramatic change in handwriting could actually be a sign of an underlying health condition.
Micrographia, or “small handwriting,” is sometimes associated as an early characteristic of Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease causes tremors, muscle stiffness, and slow movements—which can result in handwriting that is tight and crowded together.
NOTE: However, everyone’s handwriting evolves with age, and it’s not always an indicator of Parkinson’s or another condition. Older adults may experience small or shaky handwriting due to arthritis, a slight tremor, or even reduced vision.
Swollen Feet or Ankles
Noticing that your feet, ankles, or even hands are swollen and puffy can be alarming, especially when you can’t remember doing something that would have caused an injury.
Excessive swelling in the extremities occurs when an excess of fluid builds up in your body and stores itself in the legs and feet. This condition is called edema and is relatively common in older adults. Usually, edema is nothing to worry about, but sometimes it can be a sign of an underlying health condition.
In some cases, edema can be the result of heart complications such as congestive heart failure; as the heart loses its ability to pump blood effectively, it builds up in the legs and ankles.
NOTE: Swollen ankles aren’t always a cause for concern, though. Inactivity or being immobile for long periods of time can also cause blood to build up in the feet and ankles. It’s always a good idea to speak with your physician about whether swollen ankles can be a result of lifestyle or an undetected condition.
Understanding Your Health
Typically, experiencing these unusual and seemingly unconnected symptoms is nothing to worry about and could simply be a normal result of aging. However, sometimes they could be a warning sign for something more serious like an underlying health condition. It’s important to be aware of these symptoms and communicate with your healthcare provider if you notice any new changes in your body or behavior.
Senior Solutions Management Group, with communities throughout Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana, values a healthy and self-aware lifestyle and encourages you to do the same!
For more information on senior health and wellness, visit our blog!