What Are Chronic Degenerative Diseases?
If you live somewhere where there’s snow, you may be familiar with the wear and tear on the roads over time. Such wear and tear is particularly common during the winter, when ice and snow freeze the pavement, causing cracks as the underlying surface expands and contracts at a different rate than the asphalt. Plow trucks and salt also work to break apart the smooth surface. Even though it is unintended, the result is a patchy, pothole-ridden road in the spring.
A similar process happens in our body and it’s called degenerative disease, but snow and ice aren’t the culprit here. In degenerative diseases, parts of the body break down at a faster rate than normal over time. These might be caused by environmental factors or genetics, and some causes aren’t fully understood yet. Below, we’ll look at four major examples of degenerative diseases: Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration and osteoarthritis.
Degenerative diseases refer to medical problems that worsen over time. These degenerative diseases may affect the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), bones, blood vessels or heart. Sometimes, certain medications and therapies can treat these degenerative diseases.
Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the United States, says the Mayo Clinic. Heart disease can occur due to blocked blood vessels and various heart problems such as an irregular heartbeat. Generally, symptoms of heart disease include chest pain, trouble breathing and pain or numbness of the legs. It also leads to lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting, a fast or slow heartbeat and swelling of the legs, ankles or hands.
Heart disease that is left untreated can progress to heart failure, a heart attack, a stroke, aneurysm (widening of the blood vessel), blockage of the vessels in the legs (peripheral artery disease) and cardiac arrest (heart stops beating).
Treatment for heart disease initially begins with lifestyle changes. Simply eating foods low in cholesterol and exercising at least 30 minutes a day can be beneficial. Also, taking certain medications such as statins can lower cholesterol. Other treatments involve antibiotic medications if the heart is infected. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a valve, open a blood vessel or insert a pacemaker. Sometimes, heart disease may be so advanced that a heart transplant is the only option for successful treatment.
Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease affecting the bones. According to MedlinePlus, 1 out of 5 women over the age of 50 in the United States suffer from osteoporosis, a disease of decreased bone mass.
Osteoporosis symptoms include bone pain, a stooped posture, bone fractures, a loss of height and low back pain due to fractures.
Not consuming enough calcium and lack of estrogen during menopause can lead to osteoporosis. Exercising can strengthen bones. Also, eat foods rich in calcium such as salmon, tofu, yogurt, cheese and ice cream to manage osteoporosis.
Treatment for osteoporosis also involves taking drugs such as ibandronate, calcitonin and hormone replacement therapy (estrogen). Parathyroid hormone and raloxifene are other treatments for osteoporosis.
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