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Healthy Aging: Everything You Need to Know

Healthy Aging: Everything You Need to Know

What is aging? Aging is an inevitable truth of life. Being prepared for aging, and all the changes that come with it is the key to be able to “age gracefully.” Accepting the fact of aging will also make you more inclined to take care of your present health, so that you will not encounter problems when you are older.

However, aging is more than just achy joints and graying hair. Learning more about what happens to the body as it ages will offer insight on how you can prepare for your future, and how you should take care of yourself in the present.

What Is Aging?

As the body ages, the cells become damaged and worn out over time. This can make the body less efficient at carrying out its normal functions. “Old age” is generally referred to as the ages from 50-60 years old, or when a person is allowed to retire from work.

Some people may still be perfectly healthy at age 50, while others may already be bearing the burden of age-related health conditions.

Variety in the effects of growing older depend on many factors like:

  • Acquiring or developing a disease
  • Genes
  • Behaviors or habits
  • Environment

These factors can influence whether or not a person will experience “healthy aging.” The World Health Organization defines “healthy ageing” as growing older, but still being capable of leading a meaningful life by being able to meet their needs, maintain relationships, and contribute to society.

In order to achieve healthy aging, you must be aware of the changes that aging naturally does to the body. This way, you will be able to maintain and promote your health as you grow older.

Effects of Aging on the Heart (Cardiovascular System)

The heart will be responsible for pumping blood for your entire lifetime – that’s equivalent to an average of 2.5 billion heartbeats. The main effect of aging on the functions of the heart is that arteries and blood vessels will stiffen. This causes increased peripheral resistance, pushing your heart to work harder.

Fat deposits might also start to accumulate in the walls of the blood vessels, putting older individuals at an increased risk of getting blood clots in the heart and atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis may also cause myocardial infarction (heart attack).

Effects of Aging on the Senses

Aging usually affects your sense of sight and hearing. Changes in the senses brought about by aging can affect your lifestyle and may prevent you from enjoying things that you usually enjoy.

Hearing

Presbycusis is the term used to refer to hearing loss that occurs due to age. As you age, you may start to have difficulty distinguishing between different sounds. Impaired function of the structures located inside the ear can also lead to a loss of balance for the elderly.

Sight

Quality of eyesight can also degrade, along with increasing sensitivity to glare or extreme brightness. Aside from that, aging can also make it hard for you to see from your peripheral vision. This is why most elderly folk are not advised to drive especially if they are finding problems with their vision.

Smell and Taste

The sense of smell is also affected by aging. What’s more, over time, there will be fewer taste buds present on the tongue. As the sense of smell and taste are related, together they may contribute to a reduced ability to taste properly.

Effects of Aging on Bones, Joints, and Muscles

As a person ages, they may become shorter because of changes in the structure of the foot arches and even the spine. You may also experience a loss of bone mass or density, which makes you more susceptible to fractures. Loss in bone mass and density can also result in osteoporosis.

The tissue between joints called cartilage may become worn out, which can lead to arthritis. You may experience a reduced range in movement and flexibility. Fortunately, exercise can help prevent and counter these effects.

Effects on the Digestive System

Aging affects the digestive system by making you more prone to constipation. This is because the process of digestion starts to slow down as a person grows older. Thus there’s a need to adjust one’s diet depending on your digestive health, current health conditions, and daily dietary needs.

Aside from that, you may start to experience difficulties in swallowing due to the reduced function of the esophagus.

Effects of Aging on Kidneys and Bladder

If you manage to promote your health despite your age, then the normal function of your kidneys might not be affected. Also, if you suffer from an illness or are regularly take medication then issues may arise involving your kidneys and bladder.

As you age, some changes take place in the bladder. It may become less stretchy and might not be able to hold as much urine as it used to. This can result in a difficulty in holding in urine (urinary incontinence) or completely emptying out the bladder (urinary retention).

The kidneys may also become less effective at filtering waste from the blood.

Effects on Memory and Thinking

Age can also affect a person’s cognitive ability. As you get older, it may become harder and harder to pay attention or to remember recent events. This is due to a change in the structure of the brain itself, in fact, aging can make the brain smaller.

Structural changes in the brain can also make it difficult for neurons to communicate with one another, resulting in impaired function of the muscles or nerve cells.

Effects on Skin

Effects of aging on the body are not limited to the internal organs, it can also affect the exterior layer of the body or the skin. As you become older, your skin becomes thinner and more fragile. This means that you can bruise more easily, or are more prone to skin injuries.

The aging skin also produces less natural oils that can lead to dryness or wrinkles. Wounds may also take much longer to heal.

Effects of Aging on Sex

The need for physical affection and intimacy may not be affected with age. However, physical needs and ability to perform in the bedroom may change. For men, aging may have an impact on their ability to maintain or get an erection. For women, aging may cause vaginal dryness which can make sex uncomfortable.

However, it is important to note that men and women can seek professional advice regarding any issues they have about their sexuality brought about by aging. Most age-related problems in the bedroom can be easily remedied or even prevented.

Key Takeaways

Aging can affect all aspects of your life, including your overall health and wellbeing. The sooner you accept the reality of aging, the earlier you can prepare for the different health issues that you may face as you get older. It’s always best to seek medical advice from a health professional regarding the measures and practices you can incorporate into your lifestyle to ensure healthy aging.

Learn more about Healthy Aging here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

What is Aging, https://www.moh.gov.sa/en/HealthAwareness/EducationalContent/Health-of-Older-Persons/Pages/What-Is-Aging.aspx, Accessed Aug 3, 2020

9 Physical Changes That Come with Aging, http://blog.johnsonmemorial.org/9-physical-changes-that-come-with-aging, Accessed Aug 3, 2020

Aging changes in the heart and blood vessels, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004006.htm, Accessed Aug 3, 2020

Aging changes in the honest – muscles – joints, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004015.htm, Accessed Aug 3, 2020

Aging and Digestive Health: 6 Factors to Watch For, https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/digestive-health/aging-and-digestive-health-6-factors-to-watch-for, Accessed Aug 3, 2020

Aging changes in the kidneys and bladder, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004010.htm#:~:text=Aging%20increases%20the%20risk%20of,Chronic%20kidney%20disease, Accessed Aug 3, 2020

Cognitive Skills and the Aging Brain: What to Expect, https://www.dana.org/article/cognitive-skills-and-the-aging-brain-what-to-expect/, Accessed Aug 3, 2020

The Neuron, https://www.brainfacts.org/brain-anatomy-and-function/anatomy/2012/the-neuron, Accessed Aug 3, 2020

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Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos Updated 4 weeks ago
Medically reviewed by John Paul Ferolino Abrina, M.D.
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