People today are living longer than ever before. This means there’s an increasing number of senior citizens in Canada. Today, seniors make up 15 percent of the Canadian population, and their numbers are expected to keep rising, reaching 25 percent by 2036.
As people age, they also tend to develop more health problems. In some cases, people develop terminal or acute illnesses. In other cases, people develop chronic disease, which can often be managed. A person may live for years with a disease such as diabetes, for example, provided the condition is well-managed.
As more people live longer with such conditions, there’s an acute need to improve the management of these conditions. Here’s what you need to know about advances in disease management.
A Focus on Prevention
The best offense is a good defense, or so the old saying goes. While age puts people at increased risk of developing some diseases, not everyone will develop the same conditions. In fact, many senior citizens today are in excellent health!
The focus is currently on preventing the development of disease in the first place. Researchers are studying different ways to decrease the risk of developing conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease. The thinking is the best way to manage a disease is to never develop it in the first place.
As a result, many programs now focus on helping seniors live active and healthy lives.
Prevention only works for those people who haven’t yet developed a condition. Even with preventative measures, some people may still develop certain conditions, and others who have already developed such diseases won’t benefit from prevention techniques.
Research is ongoing in the arena of effective disease management for those who already have a particular condition. Most of this research focuses on non-invasive management techniques. In cases of heart disease, for example, this explores management of the disease through medications and lifestyle changes, rather than through surgery.
Evidence points to some of these techniques being very effective, perhaps even more effective than surgical methods of management, which often have their own inherent complications.
Pharmaceutical companies are heavily involved in the management of chronic disease, since they make and distribute the medications that help people manage their conditions. This can be as simple as a pill for managing heart disease or a more complex regimen of medications used to manage Parkinson’s disease.
Many medications have side effects, however. Some patients may not be able to take the most effective medications due to counter-indications or allergies, leaving them with less effective options. Still others must take other medications to manage the side effects of the first.
Better disease management means developing better medications, both medications with fewer side effects and medications that are more effective in managing symptoms.
Many studies are actually focusing on the impacts of human contact on disease management. Perhaps unsurprisingly, research has found people living with chronic conditions perform better when they’re given support.
This support can come from family and friends, as well as trained healthcare workers. In many cases, support from other people is key to a person’s effective management of a disease. It seems there are factors beyond just reminding patients to take their medications or helping them get around. Social interaction reduces stress and wards off depression, both of which can amplify the effects of other chronic conditions. Social interaction even seems to strengthen the immune system, allowing people to fight off the common cold and viruses.
More Advances to Come
As more research is completed in the area of disease management, new and more effective methods for managing chronic conditions will emerge. It’s an exciting world of medical opportunity to improve lives as people live longer than ever before.