As we age, our bodies go through a lot of changes. On the outside we change physically, but there are a lot of internal changes that occur too.
Knowing what to expect and how to slow some of those changes can help you stay as comfortable and active as possible.
Your heart pumps all day and night, whether you are awake or asleep. It will pump more than 2.5 billion beats during your lifetime! As you age, blood vessels lose their elasticity, fatty deposits build up against artery walls and the heart has to work harder to circulated the blood through your body. This can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Taking care of your body with the right types of fuel will help you keep your heart healthy and strong. You can take care of your heart by exercising and eating heart-healthy foods.
2. Bones, Muscles & Joints
As we age, our bones shrink in size and density. Some people actually become shorter! Others are more prone to fractures because of bone loss. Muscles, tendons, and joints may lose strength and flexibility.
Exercise is a great way to slow or prevent the problems with bones, muscles and joints. Maintaining strength and flexibility will help keep you strong. In addition, a healthy diet including calcium can help your bones strong. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what types of diet and exercise are right for you.
3. Digestive System
Swallowing and digestive reflexes slow down as we age. Swallowing may become harder as the esophagus contracts less forcefully. The flow of secretions that help digest food in the stomach, liver, pancreas and small intestine may also be reduced. The reduced flow may result in digestive issues that weren’t present when you were younger.
4. Kidneys and Urinary Tract
Kidneys may become less efficient in removing waste from the bloodstream because your kidneys get smaller as they lose cells as you age. Chronic diseases such as diabetes or high blood pressure can cause even more damage to kidneys.
Urinary incontinence may occur due to a variety of health conditions. Changes in hormone levels in women and having an enlarged prostate in men are contributing factors that lead to urinary incontinence.
5. Brain and Nervous System
As we age, we naturally lose cells. This is even true in the brain. Memory loss occurs because of the number of brain cells decreases. The brain can compensate for this loss by increasing the number of connections between cells to preserve brain function. Reflexes may slow down, distraction is more likely and coordination is affected.
There are many vision changes that occur as we age. We may need help seeing objects that are closer as our lens stiffens. We may have a more difficult time seeing in low-light conditions, and colors may be perceived differently. Our eyes may be less capable of producing tears and our lenses may become cloudier.
Common eye problems associated with age include cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
Excessive noise throughout your lifetime can cause hearing loss as you age. Many older adults have difficulty hearing higher pitched voices and sounds, trouble hearing in busy places and more frequently accumulating earwax.
8. Hair, Skin, and Nails
As you age, your skin becomes more dry and brittle, which can lead to more wrinkles. The fat layer under the skin thins, which results in less sweating. This may seem like a good thing, but it makes you more susceptible to heat stroke and heat exhaustion in the summer. Hair and nails grow slower and become brittle. Hair will thin and turn gray.
Decreasing levels of physical activity and a slowing metabolism may contribute to weight gain. Your body may not be able to burn off as many calories as it once could, and those extra calories will end up being stored as fat.
While you can't prevent aging, you can prepare yourself for the various effects of aging, both outside and inside the body.