Aging: What’s Normal and What’s Not?

The first step to protecting your health is knowing what physical and mental challenges normally occur with aging. Here are some of the most common bodily changes that you can expect when aging:

Woman face at three different ages

1. Bones

Your bones will not only become thinner but also more brittle with age. This is because they lose mass, or density, which results in osteoporosis sometimes. Low bone mass increases the risk of broken bones. This includes bones of the spine (vertebrae), and this may cause a stooped posture and loss of height.

Osteoporosis and low bone mass tend to be more common in women, but they can also occur in men. Ensure that you talk with your physician about what you can do to prevent osteoporosis. Oftentimes, a broken bone is the first sign that you have it. Click here for ways to help you keep mobile.

Xray of broken bone

2. Heart

Large arteries become stiffer as you age, a condition known as arteriosclerosis, which contributes to higher blood pressure. 

The walls of the arteries also usually have a buildup of fatty deposits, known as plaque. This may harden and narrow the arteries, which reduces the flow of blood to the heart. The buildup of plaque in the arteries that lead to the heart is known as coronary artery disease. It is a major factor for heart attacks. 

While not all of the blood vessel and heart changes associated with aging are controllable, following a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity are some of the best ways to keep your heart and arteries healthier for longer.

human heart

3. Brain

People often experience some slight forgetfulness as they grow older. Their ability to multitask or process new information may also slow with age, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If memory problems and confusion go beyond the occasional “senior moment,” however, that isn’t normal. It should be checked out by a medical professional. You could be in the early stages of dementia or could have a treatable condition that is affecting the brain.

Dementia symptoms picture

4. Digestive System

Your digestive tract slows down as you age. It simply does not contract as often as it did back when you were younger, and this can lead to stomach pain, constipation, as well as feelings of nausea. Medications may also contribute to or cause constipation.

To prevent the aforementioned digestive problems, it is advisable to follow a diet that is rich in fiber, drink plenty of fluids, do your best to manage stress, and keep as active as possible.

digestive system

5. Senses

As you age, you might start noticing that your 5 senses – vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste – are not quite as sharp as they once were. 

Changes within the structures of the ear may cause you to experience some degree of hearing loss and can also affect your sense of balance. 

The sharpness of your vision may be dull and you may require reading glasses. 

You may also start losing your sense of taste, which is the result of having fewer taste buds. As a result, you might not find flavors as vivid or as distinct.

Your sense of smell may also weaken with age because of the reduced production of mucus and a loss of nerve endings in the nose.

You may also find that you have reduced sensitivity to pressure, pain, vibration, and touch, although some people become increasingly sensitive to touch due to the thinning skin.

Man with hearing loss

6. Teeth and Gums

The tough enamel that protects teeth from decay can start wearing away over the years, leaving you susceptible to cavities. Furthermore, it is believed that the nerves in the teeth usually become smaller with age, which leaves you less sensitive to pain and possibly delaying a diagnosis of cavities or cracks in the outer surface of the tooth.

According to a 2017 article in the American Journal of Public Health, over 50 percent of people over age 65 have moderate or severe gum disease; the same article states that about 400 commonly used medications cause dry mouth, which can increase the risk of oral diseases. 

smiling mouth showing teeth

7. Skin

Skin loses its elasticity as you age and may start to sag and wrinkle. Still, the more protected your skin was from smoking and sun damage when you were younger, the better it will look as you get older.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends moisturizer and sunscreen as 2 most important anti-aging products you need to be using. You can also protect the skin on your face and scalp by wearing a hat with a brim.

Start protecting your skin now that you are younger to prevent further damage and lower your risk of skin cancer.

senior hands and younger hands

8. Sexual Function

Estrogen levels drops and menstruation stops after menopause, which causes many women to experience certain physical changes, which include reduced vaginal lubrication. All these changes can also lead to a lower sex drive.

For men, advancing age is usually accompanied by erectile dysfunction, but as the American Sexual Health Association points out, this isn’t a normal pat of aging and could indicate an underlying medical issue or occur as a side effect of medication.

Fortunately, many of these physical issues can be readily treated or, if not, accommodated by open-minded partners willing to experiment.

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