Common Health Concerns For Seniors

Before joining Brentwood Medical Clinic in 2011, Dr. Ali Ghahary worked with a large percentage of geriatric patients, including at the Louis Brier Home & Hospital in Vancouver – a long-term care facility funded by the Vancouver Coastal Health authority.

In 1914, Dr. Ignatz L. Nascher wrote the first book on geriatrics. The term “geriatrics” is derived from the Greek work “geras,” meaning old age, and “iatrikos,” meaning physician, and is the field of medicine that specializes in the healthcare of elderly patients.

In 2014, over 6 million Canadians consisted of geriatric patients aged 65 and up. That number is expected to rise by as much as 7 percent in the year 2030. According to the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy in Canada is 82.2 years of age. As seniors are now living healthier and longer lives, this is an umber that is also expected to rise over time. However, elderly patients often require more healthcare resources including assisted living and extended care facilities.

As soon as we are born the aging process begins, though it progresses at different rates in each individual. Certain factors such as genetics, nutrition, lifestyle changes, and occupational hazards as well as physical and social environments all play a part in how we age. It is important for elderly individuals to see their physician for regular check-ups to ensure optimal health. Below are some examples of common physical changes and diseases that elderly patients may experience:

• Bruising
• Signs of infection
• Hair thinning/loss of hair colour
• Dry skin/skin that loses its elasticity
• Development of wrinkes
• Age spots
• Increased sensitivity to cold
• Skin cancer

• Problems with balance
• Difficulty with body temperature regulation
Sleep problems

• Eyesight changes/cataracts
• Smell and taste receptors less sensitive
• Hearing diminishes

• Less muscle strength and flexibility
• Slow movements
• Osteoporosis

• A decrease in breathing capacity
• Lung infections

• Incontinence (lack of bladder control)
• Difficulty emptying bladder completely
• Decrease in kidney size

• Increased constipation
• Increased flatulence
• Slower digestion of food
• Other digestive problems such as GERD

• Narrowing of blood vessels
Heart problems

• Decrease in estrogen and progesterone
• Increased risk of diabetes
• Hot flashes
Weight gain

• Cease of menstruation/ovulation (females)
• Enlarged prostate gland (males)

How the Kidneys Function

The kidneys – two fist-sized, bean-shaped organs that are located just below the ribcage – are responsible for removing any excess fluid or waste from the body, in addition to keeping electrolyte levels stable and creating hormones that make red blood cells, regulate blood pressure, and even help make your bones strong.

First, we’ll take a look at how the kidneys function…

Each kidney is made up of filtering units known as nephrons that filter small amounts of blood. The nephrons include their own filter known as the glomerulus which allows waste to pass through it, with the final product turning into urine. Urine flows from the kidneys to the bladder through two thin tubes located on each side of the bladder known as ureters. The kidneys filter approximately 150 quarts of blood each day, producing 1 to 2 quarts of urine. When our kidneys don’t work properly, the production of urine can slow down and even stop completely, resulting in kidney failure and the need for kidney dialysis to help with the removal of leftover fluid from the body.

Kidney failure can occur from a number of acute or chronic situations. For example, if you have suffered direct damage to your kidneys, have been diagnosed with a condition that can significantly slow down blood flow to the kidneys, or blocked ureters where waste is unable to leave your body. Conditions that can slow blood flow and lead to kidney failure include blood loss, heart attack or heart disease, infections, liver failure and dehydration. Certain diseases, damage and other agents such as blood clots, lupus, and multiple myeloma can also lead to acute kidney failure, as well as toxins such as alcohol and drug use. You are at a greater risk of developing kidney failure if you are at an advanced age, have been diagnosed with heart failure, liver disease or peripheral artery disease. With acute kidney failure, the function of the kidneys is lost rapidly. However, for acute kidney failure to occur, both kidneys must be damaged. If only one kidney is damaged, it can be removed and you will still be able to have normal function with the remaining kidney. If both kidneys are damaged then a kidney transplant may be required.

It is important to note that acute kidney failure usually co-occurs with other medical conditions, both of which can rapidly worsen if not appropriately treated, hence why it is important to see your physician for annual checkups.

Dr. Ali Ghahary, who practices in the city of Vancouver, is available to see patients on a walk-in basis and is happy to answer any questions you may have about the kidneys and how they function. Dr. Ghahary currently practices at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia. For his complete schedule, visit the clinic website at Click here for directions to the clinic.

Understanding Inflammation

When Canadians think of inflammation, we often think of it as damage to the body that causes pain and swelling, and even infection. While this is true to a certain extent, inflammation is actually the body’s natural response to something it perceives to be harmful. So while infection is oftentimes easily associated with inflammation, inflammation does not necessarily mean an infection is present. Inflammation occurs by releasing chemicals from the white blood cells, which assists in protecting the body from and removing any damaged pathogens, cells or other irritants. A bacterium, fungus or virus causes infection, and inflammation is simply the body’s response to it. When inflammation is present, this means that the body is trying to heal itself. If inflammation did not occur, our bodies would never properly heal.

There are two types of inflammation that can occur. Acute and Chronic. Acute means the rapid onset of inflammation, which can become severe but has a short healing period. Acute inflammation can be the result of having a sore or scratch throat caused by the common cold or flu, bronchitis, skin wounds, dermatitis, appendicitis or sinusitis. Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation is long-term and can last from months to years. Chronic inflammation can be caused by the failure to eliminate acute inflammation as well as other persisting irritants. It can result in several diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, hay fever, and even certain cancers. Chronic sinusitis, asthma, and digestive orders such as Crohn’s disease are also linked to chronic inflammation. Signs and symptoms of inflammation can include pain to the affected areas (especially upon touch), redness, swelling, and the feeling of warmth.

Autoimmune diseases can also result in inflammation. An autoimmune disease is when the body’s immune system issues a response to otherwise healthy tissues and mistakes them for pathogens or irritants that are harmful. Examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus, psoriasis, and fibromyalgia.

In certain cases, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, Canada, will prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms associated with inflammation. These medications include anti-inflammatories known as NSAIDs – such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen, and are used to treat inflammation and pain. For more information on chronic pain management, visit Corticosteroids such as Prednisone are also commonly used to treat inflammation. As these drugs can result in serious side effects and other health conditions, it is not recommended that they are taken long-term unless otherwise noted by your physician.