What You May Expect as Part of the Aging Process
People can begin to age as soon as they reach their twenties, depending on how they have taken care of their bodies. Those who are sedentary, smoke, play rough sports, or regularly get sunburned can begin to find signs of obesity, poor teeth and skin, and degenerative changes in their joints at a very young age. Aging is a continual process and, by the time a person reaches the age of fifty or sixty, signs of aging are apparent in almost everyone. Here are some signs of aging that are normal and expected, as one gets older:
Skin Changes Due to Aging
Skin tends to lose collagen as part of the aging process. This increases the signs of wrinkles and the skin begins to develop decreased turgor and an increase in red and brown spots, especially on sun-exposed areas. Some of these changes of aging can be slowed by performing regular cleansing and moisturizing of the skin, staying out of the sun, using sunscreen when outdoors, and not smoking. Those who have the healthiest skin in their older years are those who have cared for their skin from the very beginning. Wrinkles can be prevented far easier than they can be hidden once they develop.
Arthritic Changes as you Age
Wear and tear on the joints, especially the hands, knees, ankles and hips, can increase pain in these areas and can result in visible changes, particularly in their hands. Joints are meant to be used, but to be used gently so that those who participate in contact sports or do repetitive motion of their hands are more prone to these degenerative changes. More than half of all people over the age of sixty-five have at least one or more joints affected by joint degeneration. While there exists pain medications and physical therapy to counteract some of the inflammatory and painful changes joints normally go through when aging, it is best to avoid overstressing the joints, even when you are young.
Osteoporosis as Part of the Aging Process
This is a part of aging that affects primarily women after menopause. Estrogen is protective to bone so that, when it is lost through menopause, an increase in bone loss can occur, leading to less dense bones and osteoporosis in some women. The best way to prevent or delay this sign of the aging process is to keep your bones strong while you are young and continuing to get calcium and vitamin D in your diet as you get older.
Obesity as One Ages
The rate of metabolism slows as one ages so, if you eat the same number of calories with the same kinds of foods as you age when compared to when you were younger, you will find yourself gaining weight. As you age, you become more sedentary and this adds to the risk of gaining weight. Fortunately, the older you get, the less appetite you have so that, after a period of gaining weight in middle age, men and women both tend to naturally eat less so that some of that weight falls off.
It is important to remember that your metabolic rate decreases as you age so, if you find yourself packing on the pounds, cut down on your eating and increase your level of activity. Obesity can lead to secondary changes in your health, such as an increase in the risk of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
Decrease in Hearing, Taste, and Vision
Many body senses, including the sense of hearing, vision, and taste tend to diminish with age. You will have a lesser sense of smell so that foods don’t taste as rich as they did when you were younger and your vision can become clouded with cataracts as a part of the aging process. The lens of the eye becomes less flexible as you age so that reading books and things up close can be difficult. If you were exposed to excess noise as a younger person, you will be at a greater risk of having sensorineural hearing loss when you get older. Protect your eyes from the sun and your ears from loud noises and you will have longer use of these senses as you get older.
Keep in mind that not all of the above will occur in everyone, there are people in their sixties and seventies that are in optimal health and are strong, virile, energetic and disease free. Typically, these people took great care in making healthy lifestyle choices, like diet and exercise along with preventative medical care.
Of course, it’s never too late to start on the road to good health, evaluate your habits, and make appropriate changes to ensure the healthiest senior years possible. Exercise every day, eat whole food and stay within appropriate calorie limits, quit smoking and excessive drinking, find things in life that bring you joy and fulfilling relationships, and see your doctor to evaluate your overall health.
An Anatomy of the Aging Metabolism
When you were a child, it’s very possible that your dad was nice and slim. Perhaps he was even lean. As you entered your teens, perhaps your dad was noticeably gaining a bit of weight. Maybe he was developing a belly. “He certainly isn’t as slim as he used to be,” you mused. As you entered your twenties, your dad was definitely gaining more and more weight by the year. “What happened?” you wondered.
Then something struck you as you looked around you; as people are aging and get older, they seem to put on weight. Weird! Weight gain is very common, with the aging process. This is largely because our body’s metabolism slows down as each year passes. When we’re young, our metabolism is generally speedy, which helps us to stay nice and lean. However, as we get older, it becomes tired and weary.
What Is Metabolism?
Metabolism is something of an umbrella term that describes the chemical reactions that sustain our living cells and organism. Essentially, metabolism breaks down nutrients to produce energy.
There are two types of metabolism:
What Happens After Age Forty-Five?
Turning forty can often signal an aging midlife crisis for a number of people. The Big 4.0 is a scary moment in anyone’s life as it pretty much dawns on you that your days of youth are well and truly over. The thing is, the days where we can happily eat whatever we want without worrying about weight gain are probably sadly over for many of us.
At the age of around forty-five, we lose around 10-15% of our muscle mass for the next few decades. To put that into perspective, we lose around 1/3rd of muscle every year while at the same time gaining the same amount in body fat. Muscles burn a lot of calories, and they certainly burn way more than fat. For this reason, the number of calories we actually need reduces.
Metabolism and Aging
As humans, we’re a bit obsessed about our weight, and particularly weight gain. As such, numerous studies have been carried out to find the link between a slowed metabolism and aging. When you cut through all the noise, the answer becomes clear: The glaring decline in metabolism is down to a change in body composition.
Weight Watchers define body composition as “the relative proportions of lean body mass (structural and functional elements in cells, body water, muscle, bone, heart, liver, kidneys, etc.) to body fat (essential storage) and mass.”
As key as body composition is to understanding a slowed metabolism, it does not account for all weight gain we associate with getting older. According to a study carried out by NCBI, organs such as the liver and heart do not use as many calories as they once did. Essentially, this means that we need to consume fewer calories as we are aging.
Physical activity plays a prominent role during the aging process. As people get older, it’s common to reduce our physical activity. The consequence of this is that we need even fewer calories to maintain a consistent weight. Decreased activity also means we use our muscles less, which leads to more changes in body composition and a drop in muscle mass.
Overall, due to a slowed metabolism during the aging process, the average fifty plus person needs fewer calories than ever before. Therefore, even though you are eating less, you will still be able to maintain your regular weight. If, however, you are eating as much as you always did, you might find that you are putting on more weight.
Dealing with Fears of Aging
As a population, we are generally getting older so that more and more of us are classified by chronical age as being “old.”
There are two ways of tackling old age that can make a difference in how you experience these years. You can remain optimistic, living your life as if you are young, participating in physical activities, and participating in social activities as if age does not matter or you can give into fears of aging so that you are crippled and depressed as each birthday passes.
How to Delay the Aging Process
Know that modern science has changed to focus on the prevention of the diseases of aging process so that people are living longer and healthier more now than even a couple of decades ago. If you regularly see your doctor and get preventative testing, you can be better prepared for the possibility of growing older healthier. Follow your doctor’s advice around things you can do to prevent the aging process from accelerating. This will help allay your fears around getting older so you can begin to enjoy these years more.
Know that increased activity and a healthy diet can go a long way toward preventing disease and improving your physical appearance, as you get older. You are in charge of many of the lifestyle habits that get in the way of growing older gracefully. This means drinking alcohol in moderation, getting the right nutrients in your diet or through supplements, quitting smoking, and increasing your physical activity on a daily basis. Even if you have not had the healthiest habits up until this point in your life, you can change things around right now so that your body can heal and you will live longer and healthier. It is never too late to change your lifestyle habits toward better health.
Lifestyle and Aging
If your ancestors died young of cancer or lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease, know that this doesn’t have to be repeated in your generation. Many of these diseases happened to your ancestors because they didn’t know the relationship between lifestyle and aging, and they didn’t have access to the amazing medical advances that have made it difficult to die from a bacterial infection, heart disease, and lung disease.
Many cancers and certainly cardiovascular diseases can be prevented or detected early enough so that you can avoid their complications. Be sure to see your doctor regularly so that you can be treated for early disease and reminded of those things you need to do in order to prevent advanced diseases of aging.
Pretend that the calendar means nothing. You are not a different person just because you have had a birthday or two. If you continue in activities you did while you were younger and continue to stimulate your brain with mind-challenging activities, you will be reminded that you are not the old person the calendar seems to indicate you are. Age is just a number and it is what you do at the age you are at that determines how you are perceived by others and how you see yourself.
Maintain Friendships as you Age
Maintain social contacts throughout your older years. Evidence suggests that married men live longer than single men and those who maintain close friendships and other relationships will live happier and healthier lives for a longer period of time. Take the time to join a club with people who share your interests and maintain as many lifelong relationships as you age. Relationships are two-way streets so the more you decide that it’s up to you to maintain your half of any relationship, the healthier and longer your relationships will be.
There are numerous great aspects to getting older, and taking the time to identify them and think about them can alleviate your fears. For example, without work you are free to do as you please every single day. Your lifetime of experience has led to a profound wisdom that makes life easier to live and more rewarding. There are seniors climbing mountains and traveling the world, they are energetic, and their biological age certainly does not match their chronological age.
Talk to a therapist or a dear friend about your aging fears. Processing emotions begins with talk that allows all the feelings to come to the surface, and often fears become much bigger than they actually are when we keep them to ourselves. You are not alone in your fears, others experience the same, and you can process these feelings and walk through to the other side where you can actually look forward to and enjoy your older years.
The Best Nutrition for Preventing Aging
There are lots of things you can do to slow down the sands of time and age a little slower. A lot of this boils down to the right lifestyle and if you can avoid the sun, get lots of exercise and learn to better handle stress; all these things will keep you looking and feeling younger.
But sometimes it’s even simpler than that. In fact, one of the very best ways to stay young is just to eat right. Eating the right foods can help you to fend off aging deterioration as well as to fortify yourself against illness and help your body to keep rejuvenating itself.
Let’s take a look at some of the very best nutrition that will help you to stay youthful…
Antioxidants Combat Free Radicals
Most important of all are your antioxidants. These are things like vitamin C which help to combat free radicals in the body. Free radicals are compounds that travel freely around the body and that are reactive when they come into contact with the cell walls. This is bad news, because they can eventually damage the exterior of the cells to the point where they look wrinkled and aged. Worse, they can eventually break through to the DNA and cause mutations that lead to cancer. Eating lots of antioxidants will keep these to a minimum, thereby reducing the negative effects they have on the body.
Vitamin C also happens to boost the immune system, which means that it can help to fight all manner of illnesses and invading forces that can badly damage your health in older age.
Omega 3 Fatty Acid
Omega 3 fatty acid is very good for keeping your brain young and healthy in older age. That’s because it is able to improve cell membrane permeability, speeding up communication between brain cells.
Better yet, omega 3 is also an antioxidant, protects joints and improves nutrient absorption. It also slows the breakdown of muscle (which vitamin C also does).
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and they’re incredibly important for your health – especially during the aging process. These compounds serve all manner of important roles in the body from forming enzymes to aid digestion to forming neurochemicals. They also act as the raw materials that the body is made from though and that makes them crucial in restoring tissues as we get older including muscle and skin.