What to Expect When You Age

It’s common knowledge that aging often comes with wrinkles and gray hair, but it also affects other areas of life, such as health, lifestyle, and sexuality. Find out what types of changes to expect in your body as you grow into middle age and how to adjust to these changes in a healthy way.

Your cardiovascular system

The rundown:

Your heart rate begins to slow a little and your heart may become slightly enlarged. Blood vessels and arteries stiffen, meaning your heart has to work harder to pump blood. This can lead to high blood pressure or other cardiovascular problems if not managed correctly.

What you can do:

There are several steps you can take to promote a healthy heart.

  • Add exercise to your routine. Walking, swimming, or other activities that get you moving can help you maintain a healthy weight, contribute to lower blood pressure, and lessen the extent to which your arteries stiffen.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Diets full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high fiber foods, and lean proteins contribute to heart health. Limiting foods high in saturated fat and sodium also reduces risk of heart disease and high cholesterol.
  • Get enough sleep. Sleep allows your body to heal and repair your heart and blood vessels. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • Cope with stress. Taking steps to reduce stress and learning how to cope with stressful situations in a healthy manner lessens the toll it takes on your heart.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking contributes to arterial stiffening and increases heart rate and blood pressure.

Your digestive system

The rundown:

Constipation is common in older adults and can be brought on by many factors. Diets lacking fiber, drinking inadequate fluids, medications, and medical conditions can all contribute to constipation.

What you can do:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Make sure fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are a part of your diet. Many fruits (especially skin-on fruits such as apples and pears) and vegetables (such as peas and broccoli) have high fiber content.
  • Don’t ignore bowel movement. Holding in a bowel movement can contribute to constipation.
  • Exercise. Regular physical activity is not only important for overall health, but can prevent constipation as well.

Your eyes and ears

The rundown:

It may become more difficult to focus on nearby objects. You might also become sensitive to glare and have trouble adapting to different brightnesses.

Your ability to hear might also diminish. You may notice that you have trouble hearing high frequencies or following conversations where there’s a lot of ambient background noise.

What you can do:

  • Schedule regular checkups and tests. Following your doctors’ advice about wearing glasses or contacts, hearing aids, or other corrective devices will promote eye and ear health.
  • Take precautions such as wearing sunglasses or hats that shade your eyes and using earplugs when you’re around loud noises.

Your teeth

The rundown:

Medications that treat allergies, asthma, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol may cause dry mouth. As a result, your teeth become slightly more vulnerable to decay and infection. Your gums may also recede.

What you can do:

  • Brush and floss your teeth. Brushing your teeth twice a day and using dental floss or an interdental cleaner is more likely to keep your teeth clean and cavity free.
  • Schedule checkups. VIsit your dentist regularly to make sure your teeth are clean and healthy.

Your memory

The rundown:

Memory naturally becomes less efficient with age as the brain’s processes slow. Learning new things or recalling words or facts might take longer than they did when you were in your 30s.

What you can do:

  • Have a regular fitness routine. Exercise increases blood flow to your entire body, including your brain. This may be one key to keeping your mind sharp.
  • Eat a balanced diet. In studies, heart healthy diets have been shown to positively affect the brain. Diets that are high in healthy unsaturated fats (olive oil, nuts, fish) have been linked to lower rates of dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment.
  • Stay mentally active. Exercising your brain with crossword or sudoku puzzles, taking alternate routes while driving, or learning new skills stimulate your brain and might help prevent memory loss.
  • Stay social. Interacting with others is one way to keep depression at bay and prevent stress, two things that can contribute to memory loss. Take opportunities to spend time with loved ones or to even meet new friends and acquaintances.