What Happens As We Age?
Yes, age is just a number and you’re are only as old as you feel! Unfortunately, our bodies don’t always stay on track with this theory. Getting older means getting used to changes in your body, both physical and mental. But what is going on in there as the year’s pass? The physical changes in your body are often the most apparent as you age.
With age, your skin thins and becomes less elastic and more fragile with a simultaneous decrease of fatty tissue just below the skin. You might notice that you bruise more easily. Decreased production of natural oils might make your skin drier. Wrinkles, age spots and small growths called skin tags are more common.
Promoting Skin Health
- Be gentle. Bathe in warm — not hot — water. Use mild soap and moisturizer.
- Take precautions. When you’re outdoors, use sunscreen and wear protective clothing. Check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor.
Aging is a big factor in cognitive function. Much like the rest of the body, the brain shrinks as you age. The most apparent age-related cognitive changes are; memory, ability to learn and slower reaction times.
Promoting Brain Health
- Stay mentally active. Mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape — and might keep memory loss at bay. Do crossword puzzles. Take alternate routes when driving. Learn to play a musical instrument.
- Be social. Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends, and others.
Bones, Joint, & Muscle
With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density — which weakens them and makes them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength and flexibility, and you might become less coordinated or have trouble balancing.
Promoting Bone, Joint & Muscle Health
- Get adequate amounts of calcium. Dietary sources of calcium include dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, canned salmon with bones, sardines, and soy products, such as tofu. If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet, ask your doctor about calcium supplements.
- Get adequate amounts of vitamin D. Although many people get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunlight, this might not be a good source for everyone. Other sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as tuna and sardines, egg yolks, fortified milk, and vitamin D supplements.
As you age, your heart rate becomes slightly slower, and your heart might become bigger. Your blood vessels and your arteries also become stiffer, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood through them. This can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and other cardiovascular problems.
Promoting Heart Health
- Manage stress. Stress can take a toll on your heart. Take steps to reduce stress — or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.
- Get enough sleep. Quality sleep plays an important role in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. People’s needs vary but generally, aim for 7 to 8 hours a night.
Eyes & Ears
With age, you might have difficulty focusing on objects that are close. You might become more sensitive to glare and have trouble adapting to different levels of light. Aging also can affect your eye’s lens, causing clouded vision (cataracts). Your hearing also might diminish. You might have difficulty hearing high frequencies or following a conversation in a crowded room.
Promoting Healthy Vision & Hearing
- Schedule regular check-ups. Follow your doctor’s advice about glasses, contact lenses, hearing aids and other corrective devices.
- Wear sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat when you’re outdoors and use earplugs when you’re around loud machinery or other loud noises.
- Avoiding loud noises and reducing the amount of time you’re exposed to them.
As we age, our immune systems tend to weaken. A healthy digestive system greatly contributes to a strong immune system. Constipation is also a prominent issue in older adults which is also a symptom of digestive problems. Diet is key when it comes to digestion, but also in many age-related changes. A healthy diet made up of vitamins, fibre, minerals, fruit, vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats can aid in reducing the above-mentioned aging problems.
As always, it is about balance.
Staying active and avoiding stress have also shown to be extremely beneficial as we age. Including physical activity in your daily routine increases blood flow to your whole body, as well as maintaining strong bones and muscles. Don’t over-exert yourself, low to moderate exercises such as swimming, walking, golf, and bowls have all shown to help maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure, and even lessen the extent of arterial stiffening.
Please note: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Results may vary from individual to individual.