Older Men’s Health Issues
Digestive health in older men (those 50 and older) are at greater risk of something going wrong in the digestive system. There are quite a few age-related health issues that are more likely to affect men as they age, particularly problems related to the digestive system. Some of these health concerns are uncomfortable and can lead to complications, but they are not very serious if treated properly. Other health issues can be potentially fatal if not diagnosed and taken care of in time.
Both women and men tend to notice some changes in their general health after reaching the age of fifty or so. This is particularly true when it comes to their digestive health. Men, in particular, can find that symptoms related to digestive issues begin to display themselves as they hit their fifties and beyond.
This is a disorder than can cause stomach pain, bloating, and general discomfort due to less frequent bowel movements and straining to move the bowels. Constipation can be the result of a number of different causes, from irritable bowel syndrome to colon cancer to a diet that is too low in fiber. It’s important to be tested and treated for this issue, especially if cancer is suspected.
If you are a man who is 50 or older, you may already have developed gastroesophageal reflux disease, better known as GERD. GERD or acid reflux is a disorder of the digestive system that allows stomach acid and bile to move back into the esophagus and mouth. Those who have GERD, especially men over 50, are at a higher risk than women for acquiring Barrett’s Esophagus, a condition that can lead to esophageal cancer if cells become abnormal and dysplasia, a precancerous condition, develops. Barrett’s Esophagus can cause difficulty with swallowing food and pains in the chest and upper abdomen.
An upper endoscopy performed by Dr. Singh, Dr. Rashbaum, or Dr Parikh at Digestive Care Physicians can help in the diagnosis and treatment of Barrett’s Esophagus and/or GERD. There are a variety of treatment options for both of these conditions once a diagnosis as to the severity has been reached.
About half of people age 60 and older have diverticulosis. This occurs when small pouches in the lining of the colon bulge out along weak spots in the intestinal wall. While many people don’t have any symptoms, gas, bloating, cramps, and constipation may occur. As we get older, we’re more prone to developing these pockets. Why they occur with age is unclear, he says. While most of the time they don’t cause a problem and don’t require treatment, they can cause scarring and irregularity. If the pockets become inflamed, it’s called diverticulitis, which can cause abdominal pain, cramping, fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting. Antibiotics, pain medications, and a liquid diet treat diverticulitis.
Ulcers & NSAID’s
Many older adults use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to control pain from arthritis and other types of chronic pain. Regular use of NSAIDs increases the risk for stomach bleeding and ulcers. So while aging alone doesn’t make your stomach more prone to ulcers, the chronic use of NSAIDs does raise your risk. More often than not older patients don’t have pain from ulcers can have painless gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. If you notice any type of stomach bleeding, such as vomiting blood, passing dark stools, or noticing blood when you wipe, make an appointment with one of the board certified physicians at Digestive Care.
After age 50, the risk increases for developing polyps, or small growths, in the colon. Polyps may be noncancerous, they may become cancer, or they may be cancer.There’s been speculation that it’s something in the diet or something we don’t get enough of, plus genetics. It’s probably a cumulative effect over the years, he says. You can have polyps and not know it because they usually don’t have any symptoms.
Preventive Recommendation – Colonoscopy
An important recommendation for tracking men’s health risks for colon cancer is getting an initial colonoscopy performed at age 50. Men are at a somewhat higher risk than women of contracting colon cancer. Following that first colonoscopy, men should continue to be screened every ten years thereafter. Should there be a family history of colon cancer, screening should begin ten years before that youngest relative was first diagnosed with the disease.
A colonoscopy allows your physician to inspect the entire length of the large bowel and the lower portion of your small intestine for signs of polyps or cancer. If a polyp is discovered during the colonoscopy, it can be removed during the procedure and tested for malignancy, though most polyps are not cancerous. Any other suspicious growths can also be biopsied and then tested to evaluate problems associated with the digestive system, such as bleeding, abdominal pain, or chronic diarrhea. Regular colonoscopy screenings are very important for men’s health care in order to diagnose and detect possible colorectal cancers early enough for successful treatment.
Digestive Health in Older Men
Call us today to schedule an appointment at Digestive Care Physicians. We have four convenient locations in Johns Creek, Alpharetta, Cumming, and Lawrenceville, GA. Our patients also come to us from the surrounding areas of Roswell, Duluth, Canton, Suwanee, Sandy Springs, Marietta, and beyond. We have four excellent, board-certified gastroenterologists and a physician’s assistant on our staff, each of whom will provide you with high-quality personalized care and respect.