What’s normal aging and how to slow it down

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What’s normal aging and how to slow it down

Time marches on and so does our aging body.  Wrinkles, gray hair, stiff muscles and joints, constipation – what’s normal and what can be done to slow time down?  Of course, everyone will experience some degree of aging as the decades go by. And while our focus is often on our looks, the more important spotlight should be shining on how healthfully we are aging.  Let’s take a look at various parts of our body, and what we can do to promote good health at any age.

·      Your brain

Aging’s effect – Over the decades, your brain will experience changes showing up affecting your memory and thinking skills. You may notice struggles to recall a person’s name or grasping for the right word has become more common.

How to promote brain health – Fortunately, there are several steps you can do and the earlier in life you begin, the better.

·      Every day, be physically active. This increases blood flow to the brain and regular exercise is associated with better brain function as it reduces stress and depression.

·      Choose brain healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources such as salmon or trout, and skinless chicken breasts.

·      Stay mentally sharp by improving memory and thinking skills. Read, play word games, take up a new hobby, or learn to play an instrument.

·      Be socially active. Volunteer, spend time with family and friends, attend religious services or other social events.

·      Your eyes and ears

Aging’s effect – Everyone will experience some degree of eye deterioration, especially presbyopia, a normal change in the eye’s ability to focus that usually progresses over time. Sensitivity to glare or trouble adapting to different levels of lighting are more noticeable and some will have to forego driving at night to due night blindness.  Cataracts are another common eye problem which is mainly a result of aging.

Your hearing can also diminish. Too much time spent listening to loud music or other factors can show up in having difficulty hearing high frequencies or following a conversation in a crowded room.

How to promote eye and ear health

·      Follow your doctor’s advice on glasses, contact lenses and hearing aids. 

·      Take special precautions to protect eye health by wearing sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat when outdoors

·      Use earplugs to protect hearing when around loud music or machinery.

·      Your teeth

Aging’s effect – Your smile is another giveaway to your age.  Over time, your gums may recede, more decay and infections in the mouth and gums may increase, some due to medications, asthma, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

How to promote the health of your teeth

·      Every day, brush and floss your teeth at least twice.

·      Visit your dentist every six months and have a thorough cleaning by a dental hygienist.

·      Your skin

Aging’s effect – Your skin will show signs of aging by becoming thinner and less elastic as fatty tissue just below skin reduces. Bruising more easily is common along with wrinkles, age spots, dry skin, and small growths called skin tags begin to show up.

How to promote skin health

·      Bathe or shower in warm – not hot – water.  Use a mild soap and moisturize your arms, legs, and feet while skin is still damp to lock in moisture.

·      Use sunscreen every day and wear protective clothing.  Do self-skin checks for skin cancer each month.

·      Refrain from or quit smoking.

·      Your heart

Aging’s effect – Blood vessels and arteries will begin to stiffen causing your heart to work harder. You may develop high blood pressure due to possible plaque buildup in the arteries.

How to promote heart health

·      Include physical activity most days of the week.  Walk, bicycle, swim, or do other activities you enjoy.

·      Choose healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fatty fish, and lean sources of protein like beans and lentils.

·      Refrain from or quit smoking.

·      Manage stress by using meditation, exercise or talk therapy.

·      Get a good night’s sleep of at least 7 to 9 hours each night as it helps to heal and repair your heart and blood vessels.

·      Your bones, joints, and muscles

Aging’s effect – Your bones will tend to shrink in size and density, leading to weakening and more susceptible to fractures. You may also lose a few inches in height. Muscle mass will be reduced in strength, size, endurance and flexibility – all factors that affect your coordination, stability, and balance.

How to promote bone, joint and muscle health

·      Consume adequate calcium of at least 1,000-1,200 mg a day. Dietary sources of calcium include all dairy foods such as milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt, broccoli, kale, salmon and tofu

·      Get adequate levels of vitamin D, necessary to help absorb calcium. Adults require 600 to 800 International Units (IU) a day.  Good food sources are salmon, tuna, egg yolks, vitamin-D enriched milk and vitamin D supplements. Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D.

·      Be physically active most days of the week. Do weight-bearing exercises, such as lifting weights, brisk walking, jumping rope or jumping jacks, jogging or climbing stairs.

 

·      Your digestive system

 

Aging’s effect – Due to age-related structural changes, constipation increases, along with bloating, and gassiness. 

 

How to promote digestive health

 

·      Eat a healthy diet of high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, and whole grains. Limit high-fat meats, sweets, and sugary beverages

·      Drink at least 6-8 cups of water every day

·      Include physical activity in your daily routine

·      Don’t ignore the urge to have a bowel movement

·      Include more probiotics in your diet to promote good gut health such as kefir, Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, tempeh, miso, and kimchi.

 

 

·      Your bladder and urinary tract

Aging’s effect – Your bladder can become less elastic resulting in the need to urinate more often. Bladder muscles and pelvic floor may weaken making it more difficult to empty your bladder completely. Incontinence in men can become prevalent due to an enlarged prostate; also from being overweight, nerve damage from diabetes, and medications.

How to promote bladder and urinary health

·      Urinate frequently throughout the day

·      Maintain a healthy body weight

·      Do Kegel exercises

·      Eat more fiber and exercise more to avoid constipation