Getting older involves changes in a lot of ways, from your physical appearance to your mental outlook to your social calendar and more. Some of these changes can be positive, while others may be unwanted. The goal is to maximize the good parts of getting older while taking proactive steps to maintain your health and minimize any negative aspects.
Everyone wants to age gracefully. But that doesn’t mean trying to recapture your youth. Instead, it’s about living your best life and having the physical capability to enjoy it. With the right care, you can support your body as you grow older and keep it as healthy as possible.
Your Aging Body
Here is a look at how aging affects various parts of the body:
Your heart. One of the most common changes to your cardiovascular system is the narrowing and stiffening of blood vessels and arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis. This causes your heart to work harder to pump blood through your blood vessels. The heart muscle then undergoes modifications to adjust to the increased workload. Another change? Your heart rate won’t increase as much as it used to during exercise. Taken together, these changes can increase the risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular concerns.
To keep your cardiovascular system healthy as you age, try to include some aerobic exercise in your daily routine. This can be as simple as walking around your neighborhood, swimming, or taking a Zumba class. It’s also important to eat a healthy diet, including veggies, fruits, whole grains, and lean sources of protein.
Your bones. As you get older, your bones start to lose mass and density. Over time, this makes it easier for you to break a bone. Your muscles also start losing strength and flexibility, which can affect your coordination, stability, and balance.
But one thing you can do to support your bone health is to take a calcium supplement, along with vitamins D3 and K2 (vitamin D3 helps your body absorb the calcium and K2 directs it into the bones). These nutrients are critical to bone health as you age.
Your digestive system. Constipation is one of the chief complaints of those who are getting older. Symptoms include difficult or painful bowel movements, or infrequent bowel movements. Why does this happen more frequently as you age? Your digestive system moves food through your body by a series of muscle contractions. As you get older, this process can slow down, causing more water to be absorbed in the colon. This can ultimately cause constipation.
Eating a fiber-rich diet that includes lots of fruits and veggies, and limiting fatty meats, dairy and sweets can help relieve constipation and keep you regular. Adding a daily probiotic to your routine can also help by supporting the beneficial bacteria in your gut and by keeping harmful microbes in check. As a bonus, a daily probiotic can help manage gas, bloating, and other minor GI problems. Look for a probiotic supplement that is shelf-stable, which means it can safely be stored at room temperature.
Another helpful tip? Don’t skip your doctor’s appointments! Staying on top of your health is about much more than going to the doctor when you feel sick. It means seeing your doctor for regular checkups and screenings (including the dentist and eye doctor too). These visits can help uncover potential health problems in the early stages or before they even start. If you can, have a friend or loved one take you to your appointments. This may make it more enjoyable and will hold you accountable.
Loneliness can affect your health, both mentally and physically. If you feel lonely, whether you live alone or with someone, you are more likely to suffer from depression. In fact, researchers have found that lonely people have higher levels of the stress hormones that can cause low-level systemic inflammation. Studies have linked this chronic inflammation to a number of chronic conditions like arthritis and diabetes.1 Try getting out of that comfort zone and joining a club, a community group, or set up a regular call with a family member or friend.
Chronic inflammation is a result of unhealthy habits, including a diet filled with processed foods, lack of exercise, and overindulging in alcohol. As you age, the effects of these habits will start to catch up with you. But it’s never too late to trade in your bad habits for good ones.
You can’t stop the aging process, but you can make choices that improve your ability to maintain an active lifestyle and do the things that make you happy. Surround yourself with the people you love, do activities that you enjoy, and maintain healthy habits. Getting older doesn’t have to slow you down!
- Smith K, Gavey S, Riddell N, et al. The association between loneliness, social isolation and inflammation: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 2020; 112: 519.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.