Despite common misconceptions, sexuality is an important part of healthy aging for everyone. Older adults should be able to discuss their sexual health needs without shame or stigma.
Several medical and lifestyle factors can affect your sexual health in later life. However, you can improve your sexual function with safe sex practices, avoiding alcohol abuse, and seeking help from a doctor or therapist.
Heart disease is a group of conditions that can affect the structure and function of the heart. The root causes vary, but they often include a combination of factors such as age, genetics, and lifestyle habits.
Your heart is made up of a complex network of muscles, valves, and electrical systems. The problems that can cause heart disease involve these components and issues with the blood vessels in your heart (coronary artery disease).
Many types of heart disease include infection, enlarged heart muscle, and inherited disorders. Some can be cured with medication, while others may require surgery.
Some people with heart disease have other health problems that can make sex harder, such as a lack of energy or trouble squeezing and relaxing the heart. These problems can be a sign of heart failure, an abnormally weak heart that cannot pump enough blood to the body.
Medications used to treat cardiovascular disease can also affect sex, and some patients may need to try a different drug class or a lower dose. Regardless, sexually active people with heart disease should be encouraged to continue enjoying their love life.
Arthritis is a group of more than 100 diseases that involve inflammation (redness and swelling) in one or more joints. Symptoms vary with the type of arthritis but typically include joint pain and stiffness.
Most types of arthritis are caused by damage to cartilage, which is the white substance that lines the ends of bones. Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common.
If you suspect arthritis, talk to your doctor about the symptoms and ask for tests to see if you have it. These may include X-rays, blood tests, and joint fluid aspiration.
Getting the right treatment early is important. It can help slow or prevent joint damage, reduce pain, and improve function and quality of life.
Exercise has also been found to be helpful. It can release chemicals in the body called endorphins that can decrease pain and make you feel good. You can do low-impact exercises like swimming, cycling, or brisk walking.
Seniors can also get sexually active later in life, despite chronic illness. But arthritis can make it difficult for them to enjoy sex in its natural form.
Cancer develops when cells in the body start to change or grow abnormally. These changes are called mutations. When a mutation occurs, the instructions in the cell’s DNA no longer work properly. This results in uncontrolled growth and division of cells that are not needed. The extra cells form tumors, which can grow anywhere in the body.
Fortunately, most cancer patients are still alive thanks to improved screening and treatment. However, cancer is still the second most common cause of death in older adults.
There are many different kinds of cancers. They include breast, lung, colorectal, and sarcomas. Some of them are more common than others.
To diagnose cancer, doctors may have a biopsy, which removes tissue. They may also do a physical exam and talk with you about your health.
Getting a cancer diagnosis is a frightening experience. It can be accompanied by anxiety and depression, which are more likely in older patients. Older people with cancer are also more likely to have physical limitations that affect their ability to perform everyday tasks. This can make it more difficult to participate in treatments and improve health outcomes.
Health conditions, disabilities, and medications can cause sexual problems among older adults. Drugs such as antidepressants and sedatives can affect libido and make it difficult to feel aroused or ejaculate.
Patients may also have sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. HIV can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of other illnesses.
Some medications can also interfere with a person’s ability to have sex, including certain pain medicines. They can cause a burning sensation and itch in the genital area, a sign of an underlying yeast infection.
Other medications can affect a person’s sex, such as certain antipsychotic drugs or steroids. Medications that help treat heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses can affect a person’s sex, as can medications for diabetes or high blood pressure.
Some drugs can increase the likelihood of developing a sexually transmitted disease, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. Other medications can cause erectile dysfunction (ED), such as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors.
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Stress, major life changes, hormonal fluctuations, sleep issues, or other factors can cause mood swings. But they can also indicate mental health issues like depression or bipolar disorder.
The good news is that most people with mood shifts respond well to psychotherapy, medications, and lifestyle changes. But if the mood changes are frequent and severe, it may be time to see a doctor.
For example, a child with ADHD might appear “moody” and throw tantrums in response to a challenge or a difficult situation. But a misdiagnosis could result in inappropriate treatment for ADHD and make the child feel worse.
This is especially true for children who might be treated for a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder without understanding the real problem.
Frequent mood swings can be a sign of cyclothymia, an underdiagnosed mental health condition that causes extreme ups and downs in your mood. Men and women can get cyclothymia at any age, but it is more common in women. Cyclothymia can be serious and affect your relationships and work life.
Sexually transmitted diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs, are infections transferred by sexual contact. They include genital herpes, human papillomavirus, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
Though these STIs are very common, they can cause serious health problems if left untreated. That’s why it is important to ensure your sexual partners are also tested for STIs.
As a healthcare provider, you can help your senior patients understand how to protect themselves and their loved ones from these infections. You can encourage them to use condoms and talk to their healthcare providers about changes in their sex habits.
A recent report shows that there has been a big increase in STI diagnoses among adults aged 65 and older, especially for gonorrhea and chlamydia. The rate of syphilis diagnoses for this group more than doubled between 2014 and 2018.
These STIs can have severe side effects, so getting them treated as soon as possible is crucial. Antibiotics can cure most STIs, but HIV and other STIs that affect the immune system can have long-term effects on your health.
Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders and can be devastating to sufferers. It affects both the mind and the body and can cause problems with sleep, eating, mood, and energy levels.
Older adults are also at risk of developing depression, especially if they have health conditions like cancer, heart disease, or a serious head injury. These conditions can weaken the immune system, making depression easier to develop and worsen.
In a study, researchers found that older men with higher depressive symptom scores reported less sexual activity than their counterparts with lower symptoms. These results highlight the need to consider mental health assessment and sexual activity history in routine healthcare consultations for people 50 and older.
Depression is more common in older adults, and it can potentially seriously impact their quality of life. It is often underdiagnosed and undertreated, leading to a loss of self-esteem, social isolation, and an increased risk of suicide or other harmful behavior.