Top Health Conditions for Adults Over 65

Lifestyle Changes Promote Longer Life

The leading causes of death among adults over the age of 65 are also among the most common causes of death among the population as a whole. Many of these conditions are also highly preventable and treatable. It is important to understand these diseases, know when and where to get treatment, and know how you can live with them to help prolong life and health.

Let this list serve as a guide to the best disease prevention strategies for a healthy, long life. Learn how to avoid or reduce the impact of some these causes through simple, but significant, lifestyle changes, such as eating a diet low in saturated fat, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight. Here are the top causes of death for adults over the age of 65 starting with the number one cause: heart disease.


Heart Disease

Heart disease, including heart failure, heart attack, and heart arrhythmia, can cause your heart to beat ineffectively and impair circulation.

These conditions are associated with or caused by, diabetes, high blood pressure, and smoking, along with an improper diet, lack of exercise and family history.



All kinds of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer, and skin cancer fall into this category. The malignant blood and bone marrow diseases that cause leukemia are a part of this group, too.

Older adults are at greater risk than the general population, though the cause for that is not clear.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), is a group of diseases that make it difficult to breathe, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. As COPD progresses, you have to work harder and harder to catch your breath, often feeling like you're suffocating.

More than 50 percent of people who have COPD don't even know they do. Early detection is a simple, non-invasive breathing test called spirometry and key to good outcomes.


Cerebrovascular Disease (Stroke)

More commonly known as a stroke, the cause of cerebrovascular disease is either a clot or blockage that cuts off blood flow to a part of the brain or a brain hemorrhage. Both cases cause damage or death to brain tissue that can cause paralysis, speech disorders, swallowing problems and immobility.

Seniors with diabetes and high blood pressure are at higher risk of stroke.


Alzheimer's Disease

This progressive and deadly disease is characterized by progressive memory loss, personality changes and eventually a complete loss of function and ability. The causative factor is unknown, and there is no cure, though there are some medications that can slow its progression slightly.



Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, is a chronic disease that lowers the immune system and can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and other circulatory problems. Wounds take longer to heal and respiratory infections like pneumonia often are more severe.

Maintaining an appropriate weight by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can reduce your risk.


Pneumonia and Influenza

Pneumonia and the flu are especially virulent during the winter months of flu season. At high risk are seniors with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory conditions.

The flu and pneumonia vaccines are your best defense and recommended for all adults over the age of 55. 



Falls represent more than half of accidental deaths, followed by car accidents, suffocation, and poisoning. Simple falls can result in fractures that cause immobility, disability and may hasten death. 

Balance disorders, failing eyesight, and slower reflexes may contribute to a greater risk of accidents than the general population.



Nephritis is a chronic or acute inflammation of the kidney and possible causes include bacterial infection or toxic substances such as mercury, arsenic, or alcohol. It can progress to renal failure characterized by decreased urine output and a build-up of toxins in the blood. Chronic renal failure may lead to a ​need for dialysis.



Septicemia, or blood poisoning, refers to a serious infection in your bloodstream caused when you have a bacterial infection in one part of your body and it spreads to your bloodstream. This serious condition can cause an overwhelming infection and death.

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Article Sources

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  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group - United States 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (2015).
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Deaths From Unintentional Injury Among Adults Aged 65 and Over -- U.S., 2000–2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Leading Causes of Death (2015).