No two people are exactly alike and this applies even to the process of aging. People may age in number at the same date and time. However, their physiologic changes may happen at different rates. Genetics and individual lifestyle choices often influence the rate at which a person may show signs of aging.
With the steadily growing number of adults over 65, it is important to understand whether these physiologic changes are brought on by the normal aging process or a result of a disease. Here are the normal physiologic changes that happen to your body as you grow older:
The body’s metabolic rate declines with age. Your body’s skeletal muscles consume the largest percentage of your body’s energy. As the muscle mass decreases, it can also result in a decrease in physical activity and energy requirement. If your energy intake exceeds your needs, fat accumulation happens, most particularly in the abdominal area.
Tip: To manage these changes, consume calories in proportion to your physical activity for the day. Engage in routine physical exercise and strength training to increase your muscle mass. Take note that an increase in muscle mass can benefit your body’s metabolism.
Bones and Muscles
Muscle strength and bone mass decrease as you age, a process known as sarcopenia. In men, the rate of bone mineral density loss after the age of 50 is at 1% per year. Women, on the other hand, lose bone mineral density at a rate of 2-3% per year following menopause. This is attributed to decreased physical activity, and calcium and estrogen withdrawal.
Tip: These changes are important factors in determining the rate and severity of falls associated with increasing age. To improve your bone and muscle mass, perform weight-bearing exercises like walking, hiking, and dancing. Incorporating more calcium into your diet, taking calcium supplements and getting adequate Vitamin D are also good for your bones.
You should also observe certain safety precautions such as removing clutter from the living environment, providing adequate lighting from room to room, and placing non-slip mats, grab bars and bath steps for use in the bathroom and other slicker environments.
When you hit your 30s, your brain volume and brain weight starts to decrease gradually as do the communication pathways between brain cells called synapses. The blood supply to the brain also lessens and your body’s reflexes slow down. As you age, you might find it harder to remember names and recent memories.
Tip: Doing physical activities could facilitate an increase in the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain. Taking part in regular social interaction, practicing fine motor skills, and learning new things can also help exercise your brain and fortify a reserve of strong neurons and synapses you can rely on later in life.
As you age, the muscles involved in respiration, like the diaphragm and the muscles of your rib cage, lose muscle mass and become weak. This could lead to a decrease in the volume of air that could enter your lungs, compromising your body’s oxygen supply.
Tip: Deep breathing exercises, like you practice in yoga, and regular physical activity could help counter this process.
Your blood vessels lose their elasticity and stiffen with age, causing the heart to have to pump harder and harder to circulate blood. This can result in an increase in blood pressure which puts you at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
Tip: The buildup of atherosclerotic plaque could further narrow your blood vessels, increasing the cardiac workload. Eating a healthy diet that limits cholesterol and sodium, and completing regular moderate-intensity exercise could prevent this from happening.
Your kidneys also decrease in function and size as you age leading to a decline in their ability to filter. Combined with a diminished sense of thirst which accompanies aging and your kidney function can become impaired, failing to filter out toxins and reabsorb proteins. That is why despite the absence of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease, your urinalysis might still show proteinuria (protein in the urine).
Tip: Treat your kidneys well by avoiding alcoholic drinks. Stay away from unhealthy foods and do not take medicine unnecessarily. It is also important to increase your water intake to prevent dehydration.
Circadian rhythm or sleep pattern changes occur as you get older. You might find it harder to initiate sleep only to wake up very early the next morning. Poor sleep quality could predispose you to certain health conditions such as depression, diabetes, and heart disease.
Tip: There are certain measures that could improve your quality of sleep such as keeping your bedroom quiet and dark in the evening, making sure that your bedroom is for sleeping and relaxation purposes only, and having the same bedtime routine every night.