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What Happens to Your Body When You Get Old?

May 6, 2021

What happens to your body when you get old? It can be a frightening question to consider, bringing up all kinds of stressful mental images beyond wrinkles and gray hair. We may not like to think about it, but getting older happens to the best of us, and being aware of some of the changes you may experience as you age can help you feel more prepared to handle them.

There are many things about aging that we can arrest or reverse with some careful living. Those we can’t, we can adjust to with some clever thinking and good preparation in our younger years. Being informed and thinking ahead on practical matters can really help with managing what happens to your body when you get old.

Here are a few changes you can expect as you age — as well as some ways to catch potential problems early and lessen the impact of others.

Skin Changes

Skin changes are one of the most obvious outward signs that someone is aging and one of the most obvious indications of what happens to your body when you get old. As you get older, the skin gradually loses some of its elasticity and thins as fatty tissue under it decreases, which results in fine lines and wrinkles. These wrinkles generally start around the eyes and mouth before spreading to other areas. A decrease in the production of natural oils can also leave the skin very dry, and you may notice that you bruise more easily than you did.

A good skincare routine will help lessen the effects of these changes. And it’s not just high-budget dermal fillers that can help, either! Even something as simple as remembering to put on lotion before bed can do wonders for your skin’s moisture and softness. Keeping up with the health of your skin, in general, can also work to lessen the appearance of lines and wrinkles until much later in life.

The skin may change in other ways as well, sometimes developing uneven ‘age spots’, skin tags, or warts. Cryotherapy can often be used to remove abnormal tissue such as warts and skin tags.

To keep your skin healthy:

  • Be proactive. Wear sunscreen and protective clothing when outside, especially if you’re planning to be outdoors for a while.
  • Take warm showers. Use a mild soap and warm water. Hot water will work to dry out your skin further, which can lead to cracking in extreme cases.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can accentuate wrinkles in the skin and is hard on your overall health.

Eye and Ear Problems

Someone wondering ‘what happens to your body when you get old?’ may think of hearing loss. It isn’t uncommon for aging to bring on issues with the eyes and ears. Issues with the eyes can range from a slight worsening of your prescription to gradual blindness which can become total if not addressed. Aging can also affect the lens of the eye, causing it to become cloudy. These are called cataracts and can be deeply disruptive to everyday life.

Common eye problems such as dry eye can also occur. A doctor will usually prescribe vitamins for dry eyes in the form of an eyedropper but may suggest a diet supplement as well. Seeing an eye doctor regularly is the best way to avoid these issues or catch them early if they do get started.

Hearing can also be affected by aging, leading you to have difficulty hearing certain pitches or following conversations if there’s a lot of background noise. To help avoid this, be proactive. Wear ear protection when around loud machinery or in other areas with a lot of loud noise, such as a concert.

To maintain ear and eye health:

  • Schedule regular check-ups. This is one of the best things you can do to help maintain the health of your eyes and ears. Regular check-ups are much more likely to catch a problem early and be able to either correct it or mitigate the damage.

Teeth Problems

What happens to your body when you get old? Would you believe me if I told you that aging may cause gums to pull back from the teeth? Certain medications, such as those used to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma, and allergies, can also cause dry mouth, which can make your gums and teeth a bit more vulnerable to infection or decay.

Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day is one of the best day-to-day ways to avoid these sorts of complications. It’s also a good idea to schedule regular dental check-ups with a dentist you trust in order to address any problems that do occur as soon as possible.

Weight Changes

Your metabolism, or how your body burns calories, changes as you age. This means that if you decrease activity as you age but continue to eat the same things and amounts that you always have, you’ll end up gaining weight. To maintain a healthier body weight as you age, there are several things you can do:

  • Keep an eye on portion sizes. Often, what we’re given in restaurants is not a proper portion for a single person. To keep your weight down, mind your portions.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, and grains for the majority of your meals and try to limit foods with a lot of processed sugar in them.
  • Stay active. Moderate physical activity on a regular basis can go a long way toward marinating a healthy weight.

While there’s no one way to really control what happens to your body when you get old, maintaining a healthy weight will go a long way toward lessening the effects of any potential issues you may have, and help you avoid future obesity health problems.

Mobility Changes

As we age, our bones become less dense and more susceptible to fracturing. Additionally, muscles gradually lose strength and flexibility. All of these factors can lead to issues with your coordination, balance, and stability. This is often what people are asking about when they ask ‘What happens to your body when you get old?’

There are a few things you can do to help lessen the effects of aging on your bones and overall body, including:

  • Getting enough calcium. The National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recommends around 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day for adults, and 1,200 mg a day for women over 51 and men over 71. Some good dietary sources of calcium include tofu, kale, and broccoli. Your doctor may be willing to prescribe a calcium supplement if you’re finding it difficult to get enough in your diet.
  • Getting enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for good overall health. Many people get enough vitamin D from sunlight and their diet, but others need a vitamin D supplement to maintain good health. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 600 international units for everyone up until the age of 70, and 800 IU after that.
  • Avoiding substance use. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, and avoiding too much alcohol will help save you from many drinking-related health problems later on.
  • Including a good amount of physical activity in your daily life. Exercises that force you to bear weight, such as walking, running, playing tennis, climbing stairs, etc., can all help slow bone loss.

Losing mobility can be a frightening thing, but looking after your health and planning to age in place now means you won’t have to struggle to get around your own home later in life.

If you’re planning to stay in your home for as long as safely possible and find yourself in need of a manual wheelchair, find a remodeling company that can handle the work of making your home more wheelchair accessible. Manual wheelchairs are a great option for those who can use them, as they help keep you physically active.

Brain Changes

This is the frightening one that most people don’t want to think about. Luckily, many of these changes only have a minor effect on your memory and cognitive skills. For example, you may find it more difficult to multitask or may occasionally forget simple words or names. If you’re concerned at all about your memory, talk to your doctor and ask family and friends to be aware of the early signs of dementia, just in case.

There are many things you can do to help protect your brain, including:

  • Eating a healthy diet full of vitamins and minerals, and avoiding too much alcohol, which can lead to memory loss and confusion if consumed in a high amount.
  • Getting active and doing your best to include a good amount of physical activity during your average day. Activity increases blood flow to the whole body — including the brain — and studies have shown that an increase in activity is associated with a decrease in depression and stress, both factors which contribute to memory loss.
  • Being social and engaging with your family, friends, and community. Social connection also helps ward off stress and depression, both of which can contribute to memory loss.
  • Staying mentally active as well as physically active may go a long way toward helping you retain your memory and thinking skills as you age. Read, take a class, find a new hobby, play word games, etc. There are plenty of fun and engaging ways to stay active this way.
  • Treating cardiovascular disease and looking after your physical health. Cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes may up your risk of cognitive decline.
  • Quitting smoking if you haven’t already. Smoking is hard on the physical body and quitting can help your cognitive health.

If you ever become concerned for your own safety, senior care assistance is available, both in the form of home visits and live-in nurses and in the form of senior apartments and nursing homes, which may be covered by Medicare.

Cardiovascular Changes

At the heart of what happens to your body when you get old is… well, your heart. Aging can cause a stiffening of the arteries and blood vessels. This means that the heart will have to work harder to pump blood through them. While your heart can adapt to the increased workload, these changes do mean an increased risk of high blood pressure and other issues with the cardiovascular system.

To look after your heart, you should:

  • Exercise. Regular, moderate physical activity can go a long way toward lowering your risk of heart issues. Even simple activities like walking and swimming can have a positive effect.
  • Eat healthy. Stay away from food high in processed sugar and saturated fats. Salt can also be harmful in high doses. Choose vegetables, fruits, and grains for the majority of your meals and strive to ‘eat the rainbow’ when it comes to them.
  • Manage your stress levels. Stress is surprisingly hard on the entire body, including the heart. Try walking, meditation, a nice foot soak, or talk therapy to help manage your overall stress levels and protect your heart.
  • Get enough sleep. You should be getting between seven and nine hours of good-quality sleep each night.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking contributes to the slow hardening of your arteries and can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Quitting may seem difficult, but it can do wonders for your health.

While these suggestions aren’t cure-alls and there’s no guarantee that you won’t have any health issues later in life, incorporating these suggestions into your lifestyle now will lessen the risk of them as you age.

So, what happens to your body when you get old? Well, a lot, as it turns out. In the end, no one can have a long life without aging, but knowing a little about what to expect from the process of aging can help make the whole affair a little less scary. It’s important to look after your overall health when you’re young so that your older years are less likely to include major health issues.

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