Wednesday, 30 October 2013
What Normal Aging is Like – Part 2 of 2
In yesterday's post on normal aging, we covered the five senses, skin, heart and lungs, stamina and strength along with bones and joints.
Keep in mind that aging is not a disease. It is a developmental process and the normal changes (not those of disease) we experience usually have little effect on quality of life.
METABOLISM Our bodies usually need less energy as we get older so our metabolism slows. That, together with hormonal changes means we get fat. You've known the drill on this all your life: less food, more activity.
A slower metabolism also means the body does not process alcohol and drugs as efficiently as in the past.
KIDNEYS Kidneys decline in size and function so it is important to minimize alchohol, medicines and other toxins that can inhibit their ability to function well. Drink plenty of liquids to help kidneys flush themselves.
URINARY TRACT Incontinence not related to medication or disease show up in women following menopause and from an enlarged prostate in men. It helps to maintain a healthy weight, to not use tobacco and, for women, to do kegel exercises. And, consult your physician.
BRAIN AND MEMORY After age 30, the brain's size and weight decrease but the brain continues to create new connections and networks throughout life.
Forgetfulness becomes more common with age, especially with more recent memories, and it takes longer to learn new things. But elders use both sides of their brains together more than when we were young and some researchers believe this contributes to better decision making in old age.
Eating a healthy diet, physical and mental activity and keeping up social connections all contribute to maintaining a healthy brain.
SEXUALITY In women, vaginal lubrication can decrease. In men, sperm production declines and in both sexes, fewer hormones are produced so that sexual function changes. This can result in discomfort for women during sex and less firm erections in men. Barring disease, there are remedies so see you physician.
So there you are – combined with yesterday's post, the major physical changes to expect with normal aging. Volumes could (and have been) written on each one, not to mention the emotional and psychological changes that I haven't included.
As the experts never tire of reminding us (nor should they), the best way to maintain our wellbeing as we get old is to eat a healthy diet and move around every day. The importance of those two rules increases with each passing year.
I would add to that the importance of accepting the physical changes without succumbing to them.
Here are three of the most accessible sources I used to pull together this information:
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Thomas Moore: A Squadie's Lament