Aging is an inevitable part of our lives. Many years ago someone said to me, as I get older I grow hair in places I don’t want it and lose hair in places I do. It is a phase that will to us all.

Today, one can expect to live longer than ever before. But aging is much more than how many years you have lived. When it comes to aging, so many questions come to mind. Why do we age? What are the symptoms of aging? How old can people get?

There is no particular age at which age-related changes happen. Some people are way past their 70s and 80s and are still living healthy lives. Although specific predisposing factors and other causes may hasten the aging process, for example, medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes may cause stress on the body, resulting in hastening age. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and bad lifestyle choices can also affect how fast we age.

I recently spoke to a 60 year old who had very few grey hairs and was still pretty fit and active, the topic of conversation was more about aging well rather than how old he was.

In this post, I’m going to discuss the various age-related changes and how we can promote healthy aging.

Physical changes that occur with aging

Change is the only constant thing in life. This also applies to the human body! All living things experience changes in their bodies as they age. These changes are influenced by various factors, i.e., heredity, environmental factors, lifestyle, diet, etc. Aging leads to a variety of physical changes. Some of these physical age-related changes are noticeable, while others are not.

Studies have shown that aging can affect your appearance from head to toe and even the cells and organs in your body but it doesn’t necessarily affect your desires.

Let’s take a close look at the changes in the physical age-related changes in the elderly.

  • Sagging skin: The human skin is not able to maintain its elasticity as you age. It becomes thinner, drier, itchier, and more sensitive, making it susceptible to damage and wrinkles. The ability of your skin to produce elasticity and collagen (these are compounds naturally produced by the body) decreases. Age spots and other discolorations may also appear. While it may seem like you are slowly losing your look, with the right care and maintenance, you can age healthily.
  • Thinning and graying of hair: The thinning and graying of your hair are two noticeable variations of aging. Your hair may become gray, dry, thin, or white. As compared to when you were younger, your hair density and texture will change as well. Men and women should start noticing hair loss once they hit their 50s. But as for the graying of your hair, this depends on your diet and lifestyle.
  • Tooth decay and gum infection: As you age, you become more susceptible to discoloration, gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth sensitivity. Along with aging, unhealthy lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking can affect your oral health. Certain medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes can cause serious damage to your teeth.
  • Nail changes: Nails may also become thicker and brittle and we even get cursed with fungal nail conditions that require treatment
  • Poor Eyesight: One undeniable physical change you will experience as you age is problems with your eyesight. Although genetics and lifestyle play a huge role in this change, you may suffer from the following eye problems: Presbyopia, an increased risk of cataracts, tearing, floaters, temporal arteritis, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. Your eyes may also become drier and tearier, so you may need reading glasses.
  • Trouble Hearing: Hearing loss is a common problem that develops as we age. Studies show that 60% of adults over 65 experience mild hearing loss. People with mild hearing loss may have difficulty engaging in conversations with their friends and family. Presbycusis is a hearing loss that develops gradually as we age. It reduces the ability to hear high-pitched sounds. It occurs in both ears and affects them equally. With a life of various vocations, some of us suffer from Tinnitus, a ringing in the ears caused by loud noises.
  • Weakening Muscles: As we get older, bone regeneration slows down, resulting in low bone density. The human body is said to decrease in strength by 40.9% once it hits 40. Common muscle and bone changes include osteoporosis, a decrease in muscle mass and strength, weaker bones, a high risk of fractures, and joint changes.

Body System Age-Related Changes

All vital organs begin to lose function as you age. It affects the tissues, cells, and organs, and these changes affect the proper functioning of your body system.

  • The Cardiovascular System: With aging, there are age-related changes in the cardiovascular system. Common changes include a decrease in elasticity and arterial stiffness. This may result in reduced elasticity of blood pressure, an increase in systolic blood pressure, and a decrease in intrinsic heart rate, increasing the risk of heart disease, isolated systolic hypertension, atrioventricular conduction defects, and stroke. These are all diseases common among the elderly.
  • The Respiratory System: The respiratory system experiences various anatomical changes with age. Common age-related changes in the respiratory system include chest wall and thoracic spine deformities. Lung function may decrease, making it harder to breathe during physical activity. Loss of structure in the lung parenchyma and a decreased sensation of dyspnea
  • The Digestive System: As a result of the reserve built into the digestive system, aging has less effect on it as compared to other organs in the body. Older adults are likely to develop digestive tract disorders and diverticulosis. The digestive system may end up becoming less efficient, leading to constipation, which can also be a side effect of taking certain drugs.
  • The Immune System: The immune system helps protect the body from certain diseases. As you age, your immune system may weaken and not perform its functions well. This leaves the body more susceptible to disease and infection. Common aging changes in the immune system include autoimmune disorders, where the immune system becomes weak to heal, defend, and respond to the body.
  • The Nervous System: The brain and spine also go through natural changes as we age. There will be a reduction in brain volume, atrophy( loss of nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain), a decline in neurotransmitter production, and an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Tips for healthy aging (physical changes)

Many factors affect aging. Some are genetic—which we have no control over, while others are based on lifestyle choices. It is natural for our bodies to undergo physical changes that can impact our health and well-being. However, there are identified actions we can take to help maintain our health and live independently and happily.

Here are some simple tips for healthy aging to help you maintain a good quality of life.

  • Be physically active: Taking care of your physical health is the first step to having a satisfying life. As an older adult, regular physical activities are an effective step toward healthy aging. It can help prevent health problems that come with age. It will also strengthen your muscles and bones, making you independent in your day-to-day activities. Moderate-intensity activities such as brisk walking, jogging, and hiking will do your body much good. Adults aged 40 and above need at least 120 minutes of exercise per week.
  • Practice good skin, nail, and hair care: Your skin, nails, and hair are one noticeable sign of aging, and proper care will promote healthy aging. Create an effective skincare routine and protect your skin from the sun. Properly moisturize your skin and dedicate days to self-care alone. With proper care and maintenance, you can reduce sagging skin, hair loss and graying, and weak nails.
  • Eat a well-balanced meal: “You are what you eat.” Your food choices are very important as a well-balanced meal can prevent health diseases and even improve body system functions. Choosing a diet plan can sometimes be a hassle. But you should ensure your diet consists of plenty of fruits and vegetables, grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. You can consult a dietician to help you create a healthy meal plan.
  • Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep will make you more alert and keep you healthy. Research has shown that adults over 65 who lack enough sleep tend to have low concentrations and are easily irritated. You should get at least 8 hours of sleep every night to make you energized for the next day.
  • Reduce stress: More than 80% of disease is caused by stress. Not just the stress you feel when you are under pressure, but a combination of multiple physical, emotional, and mental stressors you may not know about. Compared to the fight-or-flight mechanism of dealing with stress, you should learn effective ways to deal with stress. Meditation, exercise, a balanced diet, yoga, or deep breathing exercises are all helpful ways to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  • Take care of your mouth and teeth: Your mouth and teeth are no exception to aging. You need to take care of them to keep them healthy in your later years. The teeth are amazingly strong, but a lifetime of chewing, gnashing, and biting will weaken the enamel, causing a break in the outer wall of the teeth. You should brush your teeth twice a day, floss regularly, eat a balanced meal, quit smoking, and visit the dental clinic for checkups.
  • Receive regular medical checkups: As you get older, you should take your health checkups very seriously. It will help identify health risks and help you understand how to deal with them. It is a form of preventive healthcare and can reduce the risk of developing other health issues.

Mental changes that occur with aging

The mental and psychological health of older adults is as important as their physical health. 6.6% of older adults suffer from at least one mental disorder once they hit 60. While some of these disorders are based on certain predisposing factors, others come about naturally as we get older.

So here are some common age-related changes in mental health:

  • Depression: Depression is one of the most common mental disorders associated with aging. Symptoms of this illness are often ignored and undertreated as they occur with other health problems. Chronic conditions like lung disease, diabetes, and hypertension tend to worsen depressive symptoms.
  • Dementia: This is a term used to define an irreversible impairment of memory, thinking, personality, intellect, and social abilities. This condition affects mainly older adults. Although it is a normal part of aging, the effects are permanent and progressive. The total number of older adults living with dementia is projected to be 150 million in 2050.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety looks different at different ages. But it is most common among middle-aged adults. As we age, we are more likely to experience stressful activities that trigger anxiety. Although anxiety disorders don’t necessarily get worse with age, the number of people suffering from this illness changes across the lifespan.
  • Disability: The more you age, the more you are likely to become disabled. Older adults aging with disabilities are increasing rapidly around the world.
  • Insomnia: Insomnia is one of the most common age-related changes in older adults. Sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome can cause severe health problems later on. You may also experience difficulty falling and staying asleep.
  • Drug abuse: Older adults are at a high risk of drug abuse. This may be due to loneliness, depression, or chronic health conditions that require the use of medication.

Tips for healthy aging (mental changes)

For healthy aging, we have to begin with activities that will affect our physical health positively. After all, the dimensions of health are interwoven.

To assist you in living your senior years to the fullest, you should adopt these lifestyles.

  • Engage in regular physical activity: Physical activity will help improve your mood and maintain good cognitive function.
  • Maintain social connections: An essential way to deal with mental age-related changes is to maintain healthy social connections. Keep tabs on friends and family, volunteer in your community, and build new social networks.
  • Be open to new activities: Keep your cognitive functions open to new ideas, skills, and activities. You can learn how to quilt, read books, take digital photos, and engage in other active activities.
  • Maintain a healthy diet: A well-balanced meal also affects your mental health. It can help reduce the risk of certain illnesses and mental disorders.
  • Get enough rest: Adequate rest is essential for your overall health and cognitive function. A good night’s rest will keep you energetic and mentally prepared for the day.
  • Have fun: Learn to have fun with those leisure activities you enjoy when you are less busy. It can be painting, hiking, dancing, or knitting—whatever the activity is, create time to engage with them. This tip is known to help seniors with dementia.
  • Seek medical help: Depression, anxiety, loneliness, and grief are some of the common mental age-related changes that, if not put in check, can result in severe health conditions. If you are noticing symptoms of any mental disorders, seek professional help. This will help you understand your condition better and how to manage it.

Emotional changes that occur with aging

Everybody adjusts to aging differently. Just as aging affects your physical and mental health, you might also develop some emotional problems. Here are some common emotional changes that come with aging:

  • Insecurity and isolation: Many elderly folks don’t have family nearby, and as time goes on, they become aware that they also have fewer friends. Join local organizations, offer your time to charitable causes, and take part in enjoyable activities if your family is not present.
  • Slower learning: It’s believed that as we get older, our minds stay sharp. You should read more or pick up a useful skill you enjoy learning to keep your brain engaged.
  • Feeling useless: Our capacity to perform specific tasks declines, leaving us with a sense of loss of independence. It will be challenging to accept help if you are used to doing everything yourself. You can seek professional advice on handling these emotional changes.
  • Grief and Depression: As adults, we become more vulnerable to negative emotions such as grief, sadness, loneliness, and depression. This can sometimes be the result of the loss of a loved one or poor health. Older adults can participate in a variety of focus group discussions that will be beneficial to their health.

How to achieve healthy aging.

Healthy aging can be achieved by anyone. With the right understanding of age related changes, you can make well informed health decisions. You can support your health by eating a balanced meal, getting regular exercise, getting enough rest, maintaining positive social connections, and engaging in activities you enjoy.

Taking the necessary steps for healthy aging can also reduce your risk of developing diseases.

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