How Your Health Changes With Age

As you age it’s important to know the changes that may affect your mind and body. This critical information will help you prepare for the natural aging process so you can better manage these changes.

One out of every four 65-year-olds will live past age 90. Rather than looking at how to extend your lifespan, let’s look at ways to improve the quality of your life by staying healthy, active and productive. Knowing what to expect will help to achieve these goals. Topics listed below will address some of these changes that happen as you age.


Good To Know!

Before we look at changes as you age, here are some Good To Know positive information:

  • Cognition or thinking changes are mild and do not significantly affect your daily functioning.
  • Older adults can learn new skills later in life although it may take longer than for younger adults.
  • Long-term memory declines less with age
  • Older adults may outperform younger adults on intelligence tests that take into account knowledge and experience.
  • Wisdom and creativity can last well into your older years even until end of life.
  • Personality traits remain stable over your lifetime.
  • Most report good mental health and fewer mental health problems than other age groups.
  • As you age you are usually more satisfied and more optimistic about growing older.
  • Two thirds of older adults who do not live in long-term care settings report their health to be good, very good or excellent compared to other age groups.
  • Many will continue to work or volunteer.
  • Many continue to enjoy a fulfilling sex life. 
  • You catch fewer colds. By this time you’ve built up a pretty expansive immune response.

person with white nail polish

Skin

Your skin is often the first sign of aging because the collagen the body produces declines. Your skin produces less natural oil, you sweat less and you lose some of the fatty tissue just below the skin. This results in your skin becoming thinner and developing fine lines and wrinkles. Your aging skin is also more susceptible to bruising, sun damage and skin cancer.  You may notice your veins and bones more easily. 

Taking care of your skin is critical as you age because it acts as a protective barrier to keep you safe from toxins and injury. A big risk factor that causes premature aging is prolonged and repeated exposure to UV light. The UV rays from the sun harms the DNA in your skin which may cause skin cancer. Using sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 is highly recommended as well as avoiding sun tanning outside or in a sun tanning booth.

It’s also important to conduct monthly self examinations looking for new moles or growths, bleeding moles or changes to current moles or abrasions that take long to heal.

Other things you can do to help protect your skin and prevent further damage including age spots:

  • Drink more water.
  • If you smoke, quit. It causes skin to wrinkle.
  • Avoid dry air. Use a humidifier or other appliance to add moisture to a room.
  • Avoid using too much soap, antiperspirant, or perfume.
  • Hot baths can make dry skin worse. Warm water is best.
  • Use moisturizers, lotions, creams, or ointments, every day.
  • Take fewer baths or showers and use milder soap.
  • Stay out of the sun between 10am and 4pm. Be aware that the sun’s rays can go through clouds and water. 
  • Your sunglasses should block 99 to 100 percent of the sun’s rays.
  • When outdoors wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your neck, ears, eyes, and head.
photo of head bust print artwork

Brain Health

One of the most important priorities for older adults is to preserve your brain, your ability to think, learn and remember. As you age it will be harder to encode, store and retrieve information as quickly as you used to, but it does vary with each person. You may experience slower reaction times and reduced problem-solving abilities. Your vocabulary, short-term memory, the ability to learn new material and recall words may be slightly reduced after age 70. This article goes into more detail for memory help.

As you age, the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus being to shrink. These are important to mental activities. The nerve cells in your brain also decrease but it is partly compensated by the brain making new connections between the remaining nerve cells. New nerve cells may form in some areas and the brain has more cells than it needs to do most activities.

Doctors recommend reducing and managing stress to help maintain brain health. If you have chronic stress it can change your brain by diverting resources away from functions like learning and memory and instead toward the part of the brain that deals with anxiety. Stress is also linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  You can help reduce stress by:

  • Stick to a daily routine to help reduce stress and create a sense of stability.
  • Write down your thoughts and worries in a journal to help process them and reduce the negative thoughts on your mental health.
  • Try to stay active everyday to promote the feel-good hormones in your brain. These will help you stay positive.
medical imaging of an injury on the hand

Bones, Muscles & Joints

As you age your network of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints are impacted. Bone density is affected by your bone mass declining, particularly in women. Joints lose cartilage over time which will reduce your cushioning. You will experience loss of lean muscle mass and your muscle tissue gets replaced slower.

Your muscles won’t contract as quickly because your fast-twitch muscle fibers are being lost more than the slow-twitch muscle fibres. Changes in your posture and walking pattern may also occur which can lead to weakness and slowed movement.

The spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. As you age the disks (cushion between the bones) becomes shorter and start to lose fluid causing the middle of your body (trunk) to become shorter. The Vertebrae also loses mineral content causing your spinal column to become curved and compressed. Your foot arches lessen which may also contribute to a slight loss of height.

Arthritis, chronic pain and fatigue can occur more often due to the changes in your muscles, bones and joints and as you age. The aging affect on your bones and muscles shouldn’t be affected by more than 10 to 15% and any loss beyond that is preventable with regular exercise.

Here are some tips to follow to help maintain your mobility:

  • Regular physical activity is necessary to build healthy muscles and bones and to help reduce the decline of bone and muscle mass.
  • Strength and resistance training such as weight lifting works against gravity to help improve the strength of your muscles and bones.
  • Stretching exercises help to prevent stiffness after exercise and improves your posture. It also helps to relieve joint pain, improve joint stability, clears your mind and improves your physical well-being.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of calcium. Postmenopausal women and men over 70 should take 1,200 mg of calcium per day. Women and men over age 70 should take 800 (IU) of vitamin D daily. If you have osteoporosis, talk to your provider about prescription treatments. Click here for more information on nutrition.

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