What’s Happening as We Age?
As you age, the heart rate beats slightly slower and the may become enlarged. Blood vessels and arteries become stiffer, causing the heart to work harder in order to pump blood through them. This can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and other cardiovascular problems.
To promote heart health:
Regular daily moderate physical activity, such as walking, swimming or other activities that get the heart pumping, can help maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and lessen the extent of arterial stiffening.
Consume a healthy diet of fresh vegetables, fruits (cold-pressed juices are an excellent choice), whole grains, high-fiber quality foods and lean sources of protein, such as salmon. Limit foods high in saturated fat and sodium. A healthy diet can help you keep your heart and arteries healthy.
Don't smoke. Smoking has been proven to contribute to the hardening of the arteries and increases your blood pressure and heart rate. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, take steps to help you quit.
Manage stress. Stress can take a toll on your heart. Take steps to reduce stress and learn to deal with stressful situations 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 - 8 hours a night.
Bones, Joints and Muscles
With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density which weakens them and makes them more susceptible to fracture. As you age, you might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength and flexibility, and you might become less coordinated or have trouble balancing.
To promote bone, joint and 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.
Include weight-bearing exercises daily. Walking, jogging, tennis, climbing stairs and strength training can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.
Avoid substance abuse. Avoid smoking and don't drink more than one or two alcoholic drinks a day, depending on your sex and age.
Digestive System Problems
Constipation is more common in older adults. Many factors can contribute to constipation, including a low-fiber diet, not drinking enough fluids and lack of exercise. Medications, such as diuretics and iron supplements and certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome also might contribute to constipation.
To Prevent Constipation:
Eat a healthy diet that includes high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit meats that are high in fat, dairy products and sweets, which might cause constipation. Drink plenty of water and other fluids.
Include physical activity in your daily routine. Regular physical activity can help prevent constipation, and is important for overall health.
Bladder and Urinary Tract Problems
A bladder control problem (urinary incontinence) is common with aging. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, menopause and an enlarged prostate, might contribute to incontinence.
To promote bladder and urinary tract health:
Do Kegel exercises. Tighten the pelvic floor muscles by holding a contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds, five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
Avoid bladder irritants. Caffeine, acidic foods, alcohol and carbonated beverages can make incontinence worse.
Avoid constipation. Eat more fiber and take necessary steps to avoid constipation, which can worsen incontinence.
Memory may naturally become less efficient with age. It can take longer to learn new things or remember familiar words or names.
To keep a memory sharp:
Include physical activity in your daily routine. Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including the brain.
Eat a healthy diet. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish and lean meats. Avoid too much alcohol, as it can lead to confusion and memory loss – not just when tipsy, but also when sober.
Stay mentally active. Mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape. Do crossword puzzles and learn new things.
Be social. Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with family, friends and others that you enjoy hanging with.
Lower blood pressure. Reducing high blood pressure might reduce vascular disease that might in turn reduce the risk for dementia.
Quit smoking. Smoking might increase your risk of dementia.
Eyes and Ears
As you age, focusing on objects that are close up may become difficult and issues with light sensitivity, including trouble adapting to different levels of light, may become a problem. Aging also can affect your eye's lens, causing clouded vision (cataracts).
Hearing also may diminish. It may become difficult to hear high frequencies or following a conversation in a crowded room.
To promote eye and ear health:
Schedule regular checkups. Follow your doctor's advice about glasses, contact lenses, hearing aids and other corrective devices.
Take precautions. Wear sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat when you're outdoors, and use earplugs when you're around loud machinery or other loud noises.
Your gums might pull back (recede) from your teeth. Certain medications, such as those that treat allergies, asthma, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can also cause dry mouth. As a result, your teeth and gums might become slightly more vulnerable to decay and infection.
To promote oral health:
Brush your teeth twice a day and clean between your teeth with dental floss or an interdental cleaner daily.
Visit your dentist or dental hygienist for regular dental checkups.
As you age, skin begins to thin and become less elastic and more fragile. Additionally, a decrease of fatty tissue just below the skin occurs. You may bruise more easily. A decreased production of natural oils can cause the skin to be drier. Wrinkles, age spots and small growths called skin tags are more common.
To promote healthy skin:
Be gentle to your skin. Bathe in warm, not hot, water. Use non-toxic, paraben-free mild soaps and moisturizers.
When outdoors, use sunscreen and wear protective clothing. Check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor.
Don't smoke. Smoking contributes to skin damage, such as wrinkling.
Maintaining a healthy weight is more difficult as you get older. As you age, your muscle mass decreases and body fat takes its place. Since fat tissue burns fewer calories than does muscle, you need fewer calories to maintain your current weight.
To maintain a healthy weight:
Include physical activity in your daily routine. Regular moderate physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and incorporating weights into your routine will help build or at least maintain lean muscle mass.
Watch portion sizes & consume a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit sugar and foods high in saturated fat.
With age, sexual needs and performance can change. Illness or medication may affect the ability to enjoy sex. For women, vaginal dryness can make sex uncomfortable. For men, impotence can cause concern. It might take longer to get an erection, and erections might not be as firm as they used to be.
To promote sexual health:
Share your needs and concerns with your partner. You might experiment with different positions or sexual activities.
Talk to your doctor for specific treatment suggestions, such as estrogen cream for vaginal dryness or perhaps oral medication to increase libido in women or for erectile dysfunction in men. Natural herbal remedies for sex drive can help.