George Bruns once said, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” Old age doesn’t have to be all about greying hair and stiff bones. There is so much more to enjoy and cherish, such as playing with your grandchildren, giving away wisdom to naïve youngsters, and simply embracing a healthy lifestyle without stress. Staying healthy as you age improves your life expectancy, deepens your quality of life, and allows you to make the most of your silver years.
But, statistics show that most older Americans have reported having at least one chronic health condition, and many of them have reported having multiple health issues. As we age, our bodies become more susceptible to illness and certain diseases. However, knowing what mental and physical changes commonly occur with age is the first step towards protecting your health. And then, all it takes is a little self-care, awareness, and positivity.
What happens to our bodies as we get older?
Aging is a complex process, and its effects vary from person to person. Let’s understand the common changes that take place in your body as you grow older.
Shrinking of Bones
As we age, our bones shrink, not only in size but also in density. This leads to joint pain and issues with general mobility. In addition, the shrinking of bones is one of the reasons why many seniors suffer from conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis that affect their gait and posture.
Muscles also begin to lose strength, directly impacting general endurance and flexibility. In addition, it affects general mobility, coordination, stability, and balance, which is why falls are a leading cause of injuries among seniors at home. Every year in the United States, approximately 3 million seniors are treated for fall-related injuries in the ER. Unfortunately, many of these injuries turn out to be fractures, and some falls lead to fatality.
Blood vessels tend to stiffen with age, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood through the body. As a result, there are physical changes in the heart, where the muscles change their structure to cope with the increased workload. Unfortunately, it can also lead to complications like high blood pressure and cardiac arrest.
Some structural changes occur in the large intestine as we age, leaving us vulnerable to constipation and other digestive issues.
Age also affects the elasticity of the bladder. The bladder can no longer store as much urine as it once could, resulting in frequent visits to the bathroom to urinate. Furthermore, the pelvic floor muscles also weaken, which can lead to incontinence in some cases.
Eyes, Ears, Teeth, and Skin
Age weakens our senses.
- Eyes: The lens inside the eye becomes less flexible and causes impaired vision and difficulty in focusing. It can also make you more sensitive to glare and bright lights.
- Ears: Hearing also diminishes with age, making it difficult to hear high frequencies.
- Teeth and gums: They become more vulnerable to cavities and infections
- Skin: Skin elasticity is also largely affected as the fatty tissue below the skin reduces. The fragile skin then leads to wrinkling, easy bruising, and dryness.
14.7% of adults over the age of 65 suffer from depression. All the physical, chemical, and hormonal changes that our bodies go through with age affect our emotions and mental health. A common result is depression.
10 Tips for Seniors to Stay Healthy
1. Get Active
Getting adequate exercise is important at every age, even more so in your silver years. Walking, swimming, jogging, and low-impact home workouts are just a few simple examples of activities seniors can engage in to stay in shape. Choose something that works for you and stick with it consistently. All of the aforementioned age-related issues can be easily managed by simply staying active.
2. Take Supplements as Necessary
Aging reduces the efficiency of your digestive system. As a result, your body may not be able to absorb the necessary nutrients from food as efficiently as it once did. To ensure that you are getting the right amount of nutrients, incorporate supplements into your daily diet as needed.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating healthy reduces the pressure on your digestive system and allows it to function effectively with minimal stress. A balanced diet with plenty of fiber can keep your bones and muscles healthy while ensuring constipation remains at bay.
4.Wash Your Hands Frequently
Washing your hands frequently reduces the risk of contracting infections. This can keep you from falling ill and relying on too much medication, which in turn leads to unwanted complications.
5. Learn How to Manage Stress
Stress management can go a long way in keeping blood pressure and cardiovascular conditions at bay. Activities like yoga and meditation have long-lasting benefits when it comes to alleviating stress. Alternatively, spending time on hobbies or seeking therapy can also help with stress management.
6. Get Plenty of Rest
Sleep is a miracle cure for several age-related issues. Ensuring you get at least 8-10 hours of restful sleep every night can help regulate body pain and keep you mentally healthy. You should also incorporate afternoon naps in your daily routine as they can instantly refresh a tired mind and keep you active for the remainder of the day.
7. Take Steps to Prevent Infections
Prevention is better than cure. Aging leaves us vulnerable to many harmful factors, and infections are one of them. Apart from washing your hands frequently, here are a few other factors to keep in mind to avoid infections.
- Do not share utensils with other family members.
- Avoid touching handkerchiefs or tissues used by someone else.
- Maintain good hygiene overall.
- Keep your kitchen clean and disinfect it frequently.
- Thoroughly wash all produce.
- Be cautious around stray animals.
8. Schedule Annual Check-Ups
Getting frequent check-ups is another way to prevent illnesses. Often when an illness is brewing, it isn’t brought to our attention until we see the symptoms. But by the time we realize it, it may be too late. Ensuring regular check-ups can help catch any illness early, making it easier to deal with.
9. Avoid Contact with People Who Are Sick
Infections are sneaky and can transfer from one person to another in the blink of an eye. Avoid exposure to illness by staying away from people who are sick, even if it is just mild flu.
10. Modify your home with mobility and safety devices
20% of men and 33% of women over the age of 65 in the United States live alone. Ensuring you have plenty of support around the house is beneficial to aging in place. You can install grab bars in the bathroom, invest in assistive devices like a step stool for bed, wear strong grip shoes to avoid falls, remove tripping hazards, and senior-proof the house in various other ways. These small changes ensure your safety and good health.
With access to the right information and support, it is simple to keep your health in check. As they say, “Age is just a number.” The right diet and adequate exercise can keep your body working efficiently for longer and ensure that your quality of life does not diminish with age.