The aging process affects just about every part of the body. Even though certain factors (such as genetics) are beyond our control, there are plenty of steps that people can take to help slow the aging process. For seniors, this means living a longer, healthier life where they look and feel better. Learn more about how aging affects the body and what you can do to slow these effects.
How Aging Affects the Body
The aging process is a very slow and complicated matter. The things we associate with aging happen over a period of years or even decades. The following are some of the key ways that aging affects the body:
- Brain: Memory becomes less efficient and learning new things can become more difficult. (Also read: How To Boost Brain Function & Power For Seniors.)
- Eyes: Seniors may have trouble focusing on things are that close up. They may also be more sensitive to glare and have trouble adapting to different lighting conditions. Cataracts may develop.
- Ears: Hearing may become more difficult, especially when trying to hear high frequencies or distinguishing conversation in a noisy room.
- Teeth: The gums may recede. Dry mouth often occurs with certain conditions or medications, leading to an increased risk for decay and infection.
- Heart: The heart rate becomes slightly slower. The blood vessels and arteries become stiffer, which causes the heart to work harder (sometimes leading to hypertension or cardiovascular problems).
- Bones, joints and muscles: Bones shrink in size and density, making them more susceptible to fracture. Coordination and balance may decrease, and muscles generally lose strength and flexibility.
- Digestive system: Constipation is more common in seniors.
- Bladder and urinary tract: Urinary incontinence is more common in seniors.
- Skin: Skin becomes less elastic and drier. Wrinkles, age spots and skin tags are common effects. Some seniors may find that they bruise easier.
- Weight: Body fat begins to take the place of lost muscle mass, making it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.
- Sexuality: Seniors may experience changes in their sexual needs, patterns and performance. While women may have vaginal dryness, men may have issues with impotence.
Tips for Slowing the Aging Process
While the list above may seem daunting, it’s not inevitability. Many seniors are able to delay or even prevent some of the typical aging signs and symptoms by working towards living a healthier lifestyle. The following tips are helpful for seniors who want to slow the aging process.
- Eat a healthy diet: This is one of the best things seniors can do to counteract the aging process because it benefits every aspect of your health. Eating a diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat protein sources is good for your heart, your brain, your weight, your muscles, your skin and just about every part of you that’s affected by aging.
- Be physically active: This is right up there with eating healthy as far as slowing down the aging process goes. Exercise helps in so many ways – the cardiovascular activity is good for your heart and builds strong bones, the increased blood flow helps keep your memory sharp, the burned calories prevent excess weight gain, etc.
- Stay mentally active: Mental stimulation is great for maintaining good cognitive function. Your memory may improve and you’ll increase your capacity for learning and retaining information.
- Get regular checkups: As a senior, you have an increased risk for many serious health conditions. It’s important to get regular checkups to ensure that you’re in good health. In addition to a routine physical exam, don’t forget to schedule dental, hearing and vision tests as well.
- Protect your body: There are numerous ways that seniors can prevent the signs of aging in their eyes, ears and skin: wear sunglasses, earplugs and sunscreen when necessary.
- Avoid alcohol and substance abuse: Smoking and heavy drinking contribute to many health problems for seniors. In addition, it can cause you to look older, be less capable of physical activity or contribute to excess weight gain. Don’t drink heavily and quit smoking as soon as possible for the best results.
- Get plenty of vitamins and nutrients: A healthy diet is a great start, but seniors may need an extra boost to help slow the aging process. In particular, calcium and vitamin D are considered especially helpful for bone, joint and muscle health. Talk to your doctor to find out which supplements are right for you.
- Manage stress: Stress is one factor that can really take a toll on your body – particularly the heart and the brain. Find ways to deal with stress in a healthy manner.
- Don’t ignore the urge to go: Don’t put it off when you feel like you need to urinate or have a bowel movement – doing so could increase your risk of urinary incontinence or constipation.
- Do Kegel exercises: Contracting the pelvic floor muscles for a few seconds on a regular basis can help prevent urinary incontinence. (Also read: Best Exercises For Seniors & Older Adults.)
- Brush and floss: Don’t neglect dental hygiene, especially as you age. And see a dentist regularly.
- Talk to your doctor: If any of the effects of aging are bothering or worrying you, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor. This is especially important for matters which may vary on an individual basis, as is the case with sexual issues like impotence.
Aging doesn’t have to be as scary as it once was for generations past. Today, seniors are armed with the knowledge that there’s plenty they can do to help ensure that the look and feel good well into their golden years. Use the steps above to help slow down the aging process and reduce your risk for numerous diseases and conditions.