Let’s take a minute to talk about aging. We know graying hair and wrinkles are expected, but what else? A writer for the Huffpost in 2017 posted 35 humorous signs that you may be getting older. You can read it here .
Some people age much faster than others while some seem to remain “ageless”. I once took care of a woman in western Oklahoma who seemed ageless. She was 89 years old, working full time, physically active, and looked to be in her mid 50s. In southwest Missouri I took care of a 104 year old woman who had similar characteristics although she did look much older than the woman from Oklahoma.
One of the questions older people frequently get asked is their secret to longevity. I will address the answers to these questions in this series of posts about healthy aging. Since we are approaching Fall, I thought this would be an appropriate series. Some of us feel like we are in the Fall (or even Winter) seasons of our lives.
I don’t like to say that these signs are just a “normal part of aging”. Health professionals saying that are not helping you. It takes some thought and investigation to see if signs of aging are normal or due to an underlying (and treatable) disease process.
🤔 Did you know that aging can also affect your immune system, digestion, and sexual wellness? These effects are almost always a decrease in efficiency or a slow down in function. The effects may also be detrimental to your overall health and should be investigated. If not, you truly are not getting “health care”.
Some signs of aging begin as early as our 30s (like fine lines), while others may not become apparent until our 50s, 60s, or later (like thinning bones).
How many of these 20 signs of aging are you starting to notice?
🔹 Fine lines and wrinkles from loss of elasticity and collagen production in skin. This is accelerated by smoking, alcohol use, makeup removal, sun damage, and even rubbing your face.
🔹 Dry skin from loss of hormone controlled oil production and dehydration. Acceleration of dry skin can be from air conditioning, heat, fan use, and tanning beds. Dry skin usually appears in your 40s but may occur as young as those in their 20s.
🔹 Blotchy skin or age spots is usually from exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet light or from tanning beds. Your skin increases production of melanin to help protect itself from free radical damage. When this melanin clumps together, you get solar lentigines, or age spots.
🔹 Sagging skin occurs from loss of elasticity and reduced collagen production as we age but can also result from weight loss, pregnancy, and some underlying illnesses.
🔹 Graying hair is usually genetic in nature with decreased melanin production from melanocytes that give hair follicles their color. This is different melanin than the pigment that gives skin its color. Acceleration of graying hair occurs from smoking, vitamin deficiencies, stress, dietary factors, and some underlying illnesses.
🔹 Thinning bones happen when the body reabsorbs more bone tissue than is being made. Maximum bone health occurs in our 30s and then begins declining. Eventually this can lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis, both of which increase bone fracture risk. Nutritional deficiencies and an inactive lifestyle lead to increased bone loss.
🔹 Decrease in height from bone loss, muscle loss, and spinal disc degeneration. Women lose about two inches of height from age 30-70. Men lose about an inch by age 70 and another inch by age 80.
🔹 Stooped posture occurs from loss of bone mass (osteopenia) and loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) also leading to loss of height. This is called kyphosis, also known as hunchback.
🔹 Decreased muscle mass, which starts in your 30s, is known as sarcopenia. This loss of muscle occurs in a linear fashion with up to half of muscle mass lost by the 8th decade of life. Sarcopenia is one form of muscle atrophy and both of these can occur from a variety of detrimental health conditions.
🔹 Weakening grip can be measured and is underutilized in the medical community. There are a variety of health conditions that may present with weakening of the hands. Some of them can be quite serious (like multiple sclerosis) if left untreated.
🔹 Aching joints depends upon genetics, physical fitness, your environment, and history injury/trauma. Over half of those older than 65 have joint pain but aching joints is not an inevitability of aging by itself.
🔹 Stiff joints can occur from age related changes in connective tissue as we start to lose bone and muscle mass. Almost 33 million Americans develop osteoarthritis as they age resulting in joint pain and stiffness. There are other more serious health issues that can lead to stiff joints.
🔹 Constipation may be more related to diet, inactivity, medication side effects, and overuse of laxatives. However, there are treatable underlying medical conditions that may lead to chronic constipation.
🔹 Urinary Leakage may occur from changes in the bladder reducing its capacity to hold urine. Urinary incontinence is the most frequent bladder issue affecting younger women who’ve carried a pregnancy. It becomes more common in women as they enter menopause and may also become more frequent in men as they get older.
🔹 Decreased Libido is more frequent as sex hormone levels fall for women and men in their 40s. Addressing these declining levels can rapidly help men and women regain their sex drive.
🔹 Difficulty reading small print is called presbyopia. Anyone over age 35 is at risk for these changes. Age causes the lens of the eye to harden and become less flexible causing difficulty focusing on anything close up.
🔹 Trouble hearing in a crowded room occurs from damage to hair cells in the inner ear. The longer your ears have been exposed to loud noises, the more damage to the hair cells.
🔹 Memory lapses may occur once in a while but if they impact daily living, it’s time to investigate the reasons for memory loss. This may occur as a medication side effect, from depression, or infection all of which can be treated. Some conditions that cause memory loss are irreversible.
🔹 Slowing of thought may occur from decreased production of chemical messengers and loss of connections in the brain even in healthy older adults. Blood flow in the brain may decrease. The inflammation response to illness or injury may increase and affect mental ability.
🔹 Trouble multitasking occurs for brains in older people who have trouble disengaging from a secondary task and reverting back to the original task. Older adults react as well to a new task as younger adults but when adding another task, those similarities ended.
Nobody can avoid aging, but there are plenty of things we can do to minimize the effects and age with grace!
👀 Watch for my upcoming posts where I’ll be sharing insider tips for healthy aging—so you can stay active, happy, and vibrant no matter how many candles are on your next birthday cake.
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