You’re already aware that as you age, your face will show wrinkles in the skin, your hair will turn gray, and gravity might get a bit aggressive. But are you aware of how aging will affect your teeth, your bones and muscle, your digestive system? Here are some of the changes you can expect as your body gets older, and some good advice on preserving health at any age.
The bladder and urinary tract have been there for you all your life, but you don’t pay them much attention until they begin to malfunction, a common occurrence in aging adults. Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence) is common, with certain medical conditions like diabetes, menopause, enlarged prostate and others.
To help improve bladder and urinary tract health:
- Don’t smoke, and if you do, quit. Your doctor can help you if you can’t do it on your own.
- Urinate regularly. Try setting up a schedule to urinate once every hour, and then over time, slowly extend the amount of time you wait between trips to the bathroom.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Find ways to lose weight if you tend to hold extra pounds.
- Do Kegel exercises. Kegels help tighten your pelvic floor muscles for better urine retention. Squeeze tour pelvic floor muscles and hold the contraction for five seconds before releasing. Relax for five seconds and do it again, four or five times in a row. Work up to holding a contraction for 10 seconds, and relaxing for 10 seconds.
Your cardiovascular systemis affected by age. Your heart rate will slow down slightly, and your heart might even enlarge. Blood vessels and arteries may stiffen, which causes the heart to work harder at pumping blood through them. When the heart is working harder, you may develop high blood pressure (hypertension) and other cardiovascular problems. Try some simple routines to get your cardiovascular system to its healthiest, and then maintain it with:
- Eating a healthy diet and including physical activity into your daily routine. Regular, moderate activity can help with maintaining a healthy weight, and it can help lower blood pressure and reduce the extent of arterial stiffening.
- Manage your stress, which can take a real toll on your heart. Learn new, healthy ways to deal with stress and take steps to reduce your stress.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking contributes to hardening of the arteries, and increases blood pressure and heart rate. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor.
Bones, joints and muscles tend to shrink with age, becoming less dense, weaker, and more susceptible to fracture. Many people actually become shorter as they age. Muscles tend to lose their strength and flexibility, and some older adults experience a loss of coordination and trouble balancing.
To promote bone, joint and muscle health, follow a healthy regimen:
- Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of calcium. For adults ages 19 to 50 and men ages 51 to 70, the Institute of Medicine recommends 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily. For women ages 51 and older, and men 71 and older, the recommendation increases to 1,200 mg a day. Calcium sources include diary products, almonds, broccoli, kale, canned salmon with bones, sardines and soy products, such as tofu. If you don’t think you are getting enough calcium in your diet, talk to your doctor about supplements.
- Get adequate amounts of vitamin D. For adults ages 19 to 70, the Institute of Medicine recommends 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day. Adults ages 71 and older should be getng 800 IU of vitamin D daily, from sunlight, oily fish like tuna and sardines, egg yolks, fortified milk and vitamin D supplements.
- Make sure to incorporate physical activity in your daily routine. Weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, tennis and climbing stairs are good, and strength training can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.
- Avoid smoking and drink no more than two alcoholic beverages daily.
Your digestive system experiences some noticeable changes as you age, and constipation can be a major one.Constipation is common in older adults, and many factors can contribute to it including a diet lacking in fiber, to few fluids and lack of exercise. low-fiber diet, not drinking enough fluids and lack of exercise. Medications like as diuretics and iron supplements, as well as certain medical conditions including diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome might also contribute to constipation.
To prevent constipation:
- Eat a high fiber diet, including fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Try to limit high fat meats, dairy products and sweets, all of which might cause constipation. Drink plenty of water and other fluids.
- Include physical activity in your daily routine to prevent constipation (as well as your overall health.
- Don’t hold in a bowel movement. Holding in a bowel movement for too long can cause constipation.
Maintain a healthy weight, something that is is more difficult as you get older. As we age, the muscle mass decreases and bot fat replaces it. Since fat tissue burns fewer calories than does muscle, you need fewer calories to maintain your current weight.
To manage your weight:
- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Regular moderate physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit sugar and foods high in saturated fat.
- Keep portion sizes small. You might not need as many calories as you used to.
Sexuality slows down with age, meaning your sexual needs, patterns and performance might change. Illness or medications can sometimes affect your ability to enjoy sex. Vaginal dryness in aging women can make sex uncomfortable, and impotence may become a concern for men who discover that it takes longer to achieve an erection, or their erections may not be as firm as they once were.
To promote sexual health:
- Discuss your needs and concerns with your partner. Try experimenting with various positions or sexual activities.
- Talk to your doctor. He or she might have some specific treatment options for you, such as estrogen cream for vaginal dryness, or oral medication for erectile dysfunction.
Embrace your aging self and do everything you can to keep it healthy for as long as you can. It’s never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Although you can’t stop the aging process, you might be able to minimize its impact by making healthy choices.