Taking care of your old age at a younger age

There's no doubt that one of the best ways to prepare for one's old age, if nature will permit one to grow old, is to look out for the health issues related to aging in one's parents. The rules are not set in stone but the study of genetics has made us understand that many of the old age problems faced by individuals in a population are hereditary in nature. In other words, they are heritable. In actual fact, many diseases that are not even old age-related are genetically heritable, just that many do not manifest themselves until a certain age is reached.

Armed with this fact, I have always been on the lookout for old age-related illnesses in my old man. He is in his 70s and we all know that the average life span of individuals within Nigeria is now below 50. Hence, someone in his or her 70s is considered old as far as the country is concerned. Anyone would be lucky to get to that age, although we still got people that reach 90s and even above 100.

I decided to take a huge interest in old age-related issues in my dad because of the probability of me coming down with the same issue as senescence sets in with time. Not just that, perhaps there is a change I could make to my lifestyle so as to reduce the probability of coming down with such a disease. This is because even though one might be genetically be predisposed to an abnormality, most of the time, some external factors might have to come into play for the gene to be expressed. For example, someone that has a genetic predisposition to having a liver-related problem but won't stop drinking and observing a lifestyle that promotes liver problem will have a higher probability of actually coming down with the disease.

In the same vein, someone that tries to cut down on alcohol or a teetotaler might reduce their chances of coming down with liver problems even though they have some genetic predisposition to it.

Goiter. By OpenStax Anatomy and Physiology,CC BY 4.0

From my observation and keen interest, two old age health-related issues have been recorded in my old man. They are

  1. Goitre
  2. Heart-related issue

Goiter

The goiter started as a very small lump in his neck and kept on increasing in size with age until it seemed to reach a climax size. Although the goiter does not seems to be a major issue because it is painless and not as big as many of the goiter I have seen around. In fact, you will need to come very close to him in order to know that he suffers from goiter.

We started noticing the lump on his neck when he was in his 50s and since then, he has been having series of consultations with professionals on how to go about treating the disease that seems to have no effect except the morphological disfiguration it gives to the body. At the end of all the consultations, the ultimate treatment recommended was surgical removal of the goiter. However, 2 issues were raised that have prevented him from going under the knife to have the goiter removed

  1. The goiter has not reached a surgically removable size. This will make it very difficult and may lead to unwanted complications.

  2. There is no indication that the goiter will not grow back even if it were to be removed surgically.

With this knowledge, we, his children, decided it is best to just wait and see if the goiter will grow bigger to a stage that surgical removal would be easy. At this stage, we will then sit down and assess our chances. However, I have been having it at the back of my mind that this could be me in my 70s or even at a lower age.

Goiter is simply characterized by the swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck of individuals. There are different ways a goiter might result but the primary cause has been reported to be a deficiency in iodine. Other causes include the production of too much or too little thyroid hormone, inflammation of the thyroid gland, formation of cyst in the thyroid nodule, and cancer. Based on the causal factor, the abnormality has been classified to be of different types, including colloid goiter, simple nodular, and multinodular goiter.

Among several other factors, iodine deficiency and genetics are the leading predispositions to goiter. While it might not be possible to exclude genetic factors, at least, one can try to live a lifestyle that will not make one be iodine deficient. This can be achieved by making sure that one's observes diets that are sufficient in iodine.

One thing I do so as not to take chances with iodine is to eat enough snails, especially during the rainy season when snails abound and are cheap in the market. Snails and seafood, in general, are very rich in iodine and an iodine-rich diet can limit one's chances of developing goiter.

Heart-related issues

I recently wrote a piece on how the magic of Garcinia kola and mint gave my old man relief from occasional fainting due to his faulty heart's pacemaker. The doctor presumptively diagnosed him with a faulty pacemaker and recommended that he gets an electronic pacemaker implanted in his body. However, we decided to stay away from surgery for a couple of reasons bordering around finances and the unsure attitude of the consultants.

At some points, the consultant thought the sudden passing outs could be related to the goiter on his neck but further diagnosis proved that there is no connection between the two issues. It has been more than 4 years now and we have been managing it with herbs. However, I have it at the back of my mind that this could also be me at that age.

If the heart-related issue is heritable, the best I could do is to take good care of my heart at a younger age. Perhaps by doing so, the gene for the trait will not be triggered and expressed.

Final words

Many diseases do not show up until later in life after a certain age. These old age-related abnormalities are sometimes hereditary in nature. This is why if one has old parents, they should take note of these old age diseases and try to adopt a lifestyle that can limit them from having the same disease when they get to old age. Research has found that environmental factors sometimes play huge roles in triggering genes from being expressed. By taking note of the likely old age issues one might experience and adjusting one's lifestyle at a young age, one is simply taking care of their old age at a younger age.

Thank you all for reading.

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