As we age, our bodies do too. We become more susceptible to a number of medical conditions that we might not think much about earlier in life. In this article, we explore the ten most common medical conditions that affect older adults. Identifying and understanding these conditions can help you manage them before they progress. This is not a complete list of medical conditions, and symptoms and treatment vary from one person to another. Always talk to your doctor about any health concerns you have.


High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common medical condition that occurs when your heart pumps a lot of blood, but your arteries are too narrow for the blood to flow freely. Untreated hypertension can lead to other health conditions, like heart attacks and strokes. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 70% of Americans over the age of 65 have Hypertension. 

Signs and Symptoms

Hypertension often has no visible signs or symptoms, the only way to know for sure that you have it is to measure your blood pressure consistently. However, those with very high blood pressure (180/120 mmHg or higher) may experience the following symptoms:

  • Severe headaches and dizziness

  • Nosebleeds

  • Chest pain

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Blurred vision or other vision changes

  • Anxiety

  • Confusion

  • Buzzing in the ears

  • Abnormal heart rhythm


Treatment for hypertension depends on how high your blood pressure is. For those with only slightly elevated blood pressure, your healthcare provider may just recommend healthy lifestyle changes in order to manage hypertension. These changes may include increased exercise and a healthier diet. Your doctor will also suggest limiting alcohol and tobacco intake. 

Sometimes, lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough to treat hypertension. In these cases, your doctor will likely prescribe a combination of medications, including:

  • Water pills/diuretics

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)

  • Calcium channel blockers

Original Medicare covers screening, diagnosis, and some hypertension treatments. However, you will need additional coverage (such as Medicare Part D) to cover any necessary prescriptions to treat your hypertension. 

High cholesterol

High cholesterol occurs when your body has an excess of "bad fats." Those fats can eventually clog your arteries. Your arteries are critical to supplying your body with oxygenated blood. High cholesterol can lead to heart disease and stroke, among other life-threatening conditions. According to the National Council on Aging, 50% of older adults struggle with high cholesterol

Signs and Symptoms 

High cholesterol is known as a hidden risk factor, which means that it can happen without any signs or symptoms. The only way to know you have high cholesterol is through a blood test. The risks associated with high cholesterol increase as you age. Because older adults are more likely to develop high cholesterol, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends cholesterol screenings every year for adults over 65 (source). 


In addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as eating heart healthy foods and increasing physical activity, your doctor may prescribe one of the following medicines to lower your cholesterol: 

  • Statins

  • Bile acid sequestrants 

  • PCSK9 inhibitors 

Original Medicare covers screening and diagnosis of high cholesterol. However, you will need additional coverage in order to get the necessary prescriptions to treat it. 


Arthritis is the inflammation of your joints that causes pain and stiffness. There are two common forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Other less common types of arthritis include gout, lupus, scleroderma, ankylosing spondylitis, and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. While arthritis can affect people of all ages, it is more common in older adults. In fact, 47% of adults aged 65 and older report having arthritis. 

Signs and Symptoms

Although there are many different types of arthritis, the main symptoms remain similar across all forms:

  • Persistent pain in joints

  • Warm feeling and redness in joints

  • Swelling in joints

  • Stiffness in joints

  • Difficulty moving 


Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis. However, your doctor should tailor a treatment plan for your needs in order to limit pain and inflammation. Some treatment methods your doctor may suggest are:

  • Medications that relieve pain and reduce inflammation. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.

  • Hot and Cold compresses 

  • Splints or braces

  • Massage therapy

  • Acupuncture

  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

Sometimes, arthritis gets worse over time and injections or surgery might be necessary to treat your symptoms. 

Medicare generally covers your doctor’s visits, physical therapy, and some medical equipment necessary to diagnose and treat your arthritis. 

Heart Disease

Heart disease is an umbrella term that is used to describe several conditions that affect the heart. These conditions include coronary artery disease, irregular heartbeats, congenital heart defects, heart valve disease, and heart muscle disease. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease. CAD is the buildup of plaque around your heart’s arteries. This plaque makes it difficult for the rest of your body to get enough blood, oxygen, and nutrients. 

Signs and symptoms

  • Pain, tightness, pressure, and discomfort in the chest

  • Shortness of breath

  • Pain in neck, jaw, throat, back, or upper belly

  • Pain, numbness, or coldness in your legs and arms


Treatment for heart disease, specifically CAD, involves adopting healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy, staying active, and limiting tobacco use. Sometimes, doctors will prescribe medication to lower bad cholesterol, reduce plaque build up, or thin your blood. Surgery may be needed to fix a blocked artery.

Left untreated, heart disease can cause other health conditions such as angina or heart attacks. Your risk of heart disease goes up significantly as you age, with 37% of older adults reporting a heart disease diagnosis. .Luckily, Medicare will cover tests or screenings to help detect heart disease or other conditions that may lead to a heart attack or stroke. 


Diabetes is characterized by high levels of sugar in the blood. If you’re healthy, insulin helps regulate the amount of sugar in your blood. If you have diabetes, however, your body either doesn't produce enough insulin or can't use the insulin it produces. There are two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. While many signs and symptoms are similar, causes and treatment can vary. Type 2 is more common.

Signs and symptoms

  • Frequent urination

  • A feeling of thirst

  • Feeling hungry, even while eating

  • Fatigue

  • Blurry vision

  • Slow healing of cuts and bruises

  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in your hands and feet (Type 2)

  • Weight loss even when you’re eating more (Type 1)


People with diabetes will regularly check their blood glucose levels and use a combination of insulin injections and other medications to manage their condition. Your doctor will also likely recommend lifestyle changes, including increased exercise and a healthier diet.

Untreated diabetes can lead to other serious health conditions, including kidney disease, heart disease, or blindness. Your chances of getting diabetes increase after age 45, and 29% of Americans over 65 have diabetes, although some cases go undiagnosed. Because almost one third of the population over 65 has diabetes, Medicare provides coverage for many tests and treatment.

Chronic Kidney Disease

As we age, so do our kidneys—and people over 65 are much more likely to develop kidney disease than younger populations. About 33% of people over 65 have CKD, while only 12% of people 45-65 have CKD (source). Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) occurs when the kidneys slowly lose function and can no longer filter fluid waste from your blood as well as they should. Without this filtration, waste and other fluids remain in your body. The lack of filtration can cause other problems, such as stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure. 


Many people with CKD don’t feel sick or notice symptoms. The only way to really know if you have CKD is through urine and blood tests. If you have CKD, you’ll likely have:

  • Elevated protein levels in your urine

  • Blood in your urine

  • Elevated creatinine levels in your blood

  • Electrolyte imbalances

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)


CKD has various levels. It tends to get worse over time, but treatment can slow its progression. If left untreated, CKD can lead to kidney failure and cardiovascular disease. When your kidneys stop working, you’ll need dialysis or a kidney transplant. If dialysis or a kidney transplant are needed, this is called end-stage renal disease (ESRD). 

Heart failure

One of the biggest risk factors for heart failure is older age. Approximately 2% of people over the age of 50 are affected by heart faire, and that number doubles with each decade of life. As of 2023, 8% of adults over 65 were diagnosed with heart failure (source). Heart failure occurs when your heart is unable to pump blood to all of your organs adequately, so it begins to overwork. This may cause the heart to become enlarged or pump too quickly. If you have heart failure, you may feel the symptoms very suddenly, or they may develop slowly over time. 


Heart Failure occurs in 4 stages. In the first 2 stages of the disease, there are rarely signs or symptoms. In stages 3 and 4, you may experience the following: 

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fatigue

  • Persistent cough 

  • Swelling in the feet, ankles, legs, fingers, or abdomen from a buildup of fluid

  • Lack of appetite or nausea

  • Rapid weight gain

  • Confusion, memory loss, or disorientation


Heart failure that has developed over time can’t be cured, but the symptoms can be mitigated. As with many other cardiovascular diseases, the first part of your treatment plan will be implementing healthy lifestyle changes. There are medications that are used to treat heart failure, including diuretics, medicine to relax your blood vessels, and medications that slow your heart rate. 

If the heart failure has progressed to the final stage, doctor’s might recommend a medical device, like a pacemaker, or heart surgery.

Medicare can help cover the cost of necessary tests, hospital stays, and cardiac rehabilitation programs.


For some, depression and other mental illnesses aren’t taken as seriously as other medical conditions. According to Mental Health America, only 38% of adults 65 and over think that depression is a health problem (source). However, depression is a very real disorder that can affect the way you feel, act, and think. Around 14% of adults over the age of 60 live with depression, however, mental health conditions among older adults tend to be under diagnosed and under treated, so this number may be higher, according to the World Health Organization.


Depression can look and feel different depending on the person. Symptoms of depression might include:

  • Fatigue or loss of energy

  • Changes in sleep

  • Changes in appetite

  • Lack of concentration 

  • Hopelessness

  • Physical aches and pains

  • Loss of interest in activities

Older adults are at a high risk of developing depression because of stressors and life changes that occur as you age. Some risk factors of depression include having a chronic medical condition, losing a loved one, or stress from caregiving


Like the symptoms, treatment of depression looks different for everyone. The first step in treating depression is to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss how you’re feeling. Your doctor might run some tests to see if the way you’re feeling is linked to an underlying medical condition. If your depression is not caused by an underlying condition, your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional for next steps. Some common forms of treatment for depression include therapy and antidepressant medication. 

Medicare helps pay for mental health services, so you can feel supported. 

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias

For some, forgetfulness is a normal part of the aging process, however, those with dementia experience much more drastic changes to their brains that impair their day to day. Dementia itself is not a disease. It’s the umbrella term for loss of memory, language, and thinking that interferes with everyday tasks. 

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to eventually die. This disease causes a slow decline in memory, language, and reasoning skills. Alzheimer's accounts for 60%-80% of dementia cases. In 2023, about 11% of people over 65 had Alzheimer’s (source). 

Signs and Symptoms

Below are the 10 early warning signs for Alzheimer’s. Identifying the early signs of Alzheimer’s can lead to earlier diagnosis, which helps achieve better health outcomes for patients (source).

  • Memory loss and disrupts daily life

  • Challenges in planning of solving problems

  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks

  • Confusion with time or place

  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

  • New problems with speaking or writing words

  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps 

  • Decreased or poor judgment 

  • Withdrawal from work or social activities

  • Changes in mood or personality 


There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Most treatments are designed to slow the progression of the disease and minimize symptoms. There are a few prescription medications that a doctor can prescribe to help with memory loss and cognitive decline. The main two types of drugs are called Cholinesterase inhibitors and Memantine (Namenda). It’s important to note that these medications are most effective for early stage Alzheimer’s. 

Another important part of treatment is creating an environment that is adapted to the needs of the person with Alzheimer’s. The Mayo Clinic has some ideas on how to create a safe environment here. 

Doctors and Scientists don’t fully understand Alzheimer’s as well as other diseases on this list. So, as researchers learn more, there will hopefully be additional ways to treat Alzheimer’s in the near future.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

COPD is a group of chronic conditions that causes breathing related problems. COPD includes Emphysema and Bronchitis. Somewhere between 11% and 18% of older adults are living with COPD, additionally, COPD is the leading cause of hospitalizations in the U.S. (source). Current and former cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing COPD. However, environmental factors like secondhand smoke, air pollution, exposure to dust, fumes, and chemicals, can also contribute to someone developing COPD. 


  • Shortness of breath

  • Tightness in the chest

  • Wheezing

  • Fatigue or a lack of energy

  • Unintended weight loss

  • Swelling in ankles, feet, or legs


The most important part of treating COPD is to quit smoking if you currently do. While quitting is difficult to do, your doctor can recommend products and therapies that can make quitting easier. 

There are several medications that are used to relieve symptoms of COPD. These medications include Bronchodilators, inhaled steroids, combination inhalers, and oral steroids. If the COPD is in more advanced stages, additional therapies, such as oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation programs, may be necessary. 

Tips for preventing these common medical conditions

Whether you want to prevent yourself from developing a health condition or need to manage a condition you already have, there are four key ways to maintain your health and wellbeing as you age. 

Maintain a healthy diet

Maintaining a balanced, nutrient-dense diet will decrease your likelihood of getting some diseases and help you manage existing conditions. Additionally, you should do your best to avoid refined sugar, alcohol, and processed foods. 

Exercise regularly

Exercise is vital to healthy aging. You can maintain a healthy weight, prevent muscle degeneration, and improve your mental health by moving your body regularly. There are many different ways to work out, such as yoga, strength training, or simply walking around the block. Take a look at some of our exercise guides for older adults:

Stay social

While staying social might feel more difficult as you age, it is critical to maintaining your health. The National Council on Aging suggests that older adults who are socially isolated are at a higher risk for heart disease, depression, and cognitive decline (source). Do your best to stay connected to your loved ones through planned meetups or join a local club to help you meet others in your area. 

Use preventive services

Using preventative services can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce risk factors for many diseases. Using preventative services can also help you catch more serious conditions early. Learn about the preventive services Medicare covers.

If you have questions about Medicare coverage for treatment and care related to these or other medical conditions, we’re here to help! Our Medicare Advisors and Advocates can help you understand your Medicare coverage and get the most value from it. We can also help you compare Medicare coverage options and choose insurance that best suits your needs. Schedule a free consultation or call us at (855) 900-2427 for free, personalized Medicare advice and support.

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