Unfortunately, anti-ageing drugs have not been discovered yet, which means aging will remain an inevitable part of our lives for now. As we age, certain biological changes occur in our organs, which can sometimes manifest themselves as nasty signs and symptoms.
It’s good to have an understanding of these bodily changes because it can help you take preventive measures to reduce and slow the progressive degeneration of your body, providing you with a rich old-age experience and a fulfilling life.
If you’re really struggling to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle because of these changes, however, a good aged-care facility like Banfields can be extremely helpful. But for now, let’s dive into how your body changes as you age!
Your bones begin to weather.
Our bones are not static structures — they undergo continuous cycles of breakdown and build up throughout our lives. At around the age of 30 years, we achieve the maximum mass (and strength) our bones will have during our lifetime.
After this point, the process of breakdown outpaces the process of build-up, and this leads to a condition called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis gives you weak bones that are extremely vulnerable to fractures. Particularly dangerous are the hip fractures that result from the condition because they carry a significant immediate mortality rate.
Osteoporosis is inevitable, but there are certain things that you can do to slow it down and reduce your risk of fractures. These include weight-bearing exercise, good dietary calcium, and vitamin D intake, and reduced alcohol and cigarette consumption.
Despite all these measures, if your doctor still feels you’re at an increased risk for fractures, she might prescribe you a class of drugs called bisphosphonates with or without other medications.
Your brain shrivels up.
Just like you start losing bone mass after the age of 30, the neurons in your brain also start dying after this age (30 seems to be an unlucky number).
The most affected parts of your brain include the prefrontal cortex — which is involved in abstract thinking, socially appropriate behavior, and personality traits — and the hippocampus, which controls your memory and learning.
Now unlike osteoporosis, a reduced brain mass doesn’t really produce dangerous symptoms apart from the usual slowing down people experience in old age. So you don’t need to worry about losing yourself — just take this as an interesting fact!
The lens of your eye loses its elasticity.
There’s a reason why almost every elderly person around you needs reading glasses. Normally, the lens of our eye is a very elastic structure. This property allows us to easily shift focus from distant objects to nearer ones — the lens becomes shorter and bends light to a greater degree when focusing on near objects.
With age, the proteins inside the lens degenerate, leaving it less elastic and flexible. This means the lens can’t focus on near objects anymore, leading to blurry vision when performing activities like reading or knitting. This condition is called presbyopia.
But don’t worry, because science will save you once again. Presbyopia can be easily treated using glasses that carry a convex lens. More advanced treatments like LASIK surgery also exist, and the best treatment choice for you can only be determined after a chat with your doctor.
The heart and blood vessels become stiffer.
Our blood vessels are very elastic structures, which helps them stretch in response to a surge of blood (when the heart pumps) and keep our blood pressures within a normal range.
But as we age, the molecules that make our vessels elastic begin to degrade and are replaced by more rigid molecules, which leads to vessel wall stiffening. Stiff vessels can’t expand to accommodate incoming blood, which causes a rise in our blood pressure.
Increased blood pressure is a risk factor for a condition called atherosclerosis, where fatty plaques accumulate inside blood vessels and disrupt blood flow. Atherosclerosis is what causes heart attacks and strokes (by cutting blood supplies to the heart and brain, respectively) but it can affect virtually any part of the body, causing disease at the location.
Due to the increased blood pressure from aging, the heart has to pump against a higher pressure, which leads to stiffening and enlargement of the heart as well. This is called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and a stiffened heart does a poor job of pumping blood around the body, leading to heart failure.
All these changes can be potentially delayed if you maintain a healthy, active lifestyle that keeps your heart up and running. Routine measurement of your blood pressure and consulting a doctor if it turns out to be elevated are also good ideas.
You don’t taste and hear well.
While these changes are not as worrisome as some of those mentioned above, they can certainly be a nuisance.
As you cross 60 years of age, you’ve lost around half of your taste buds. This might be one reason why elderly people prefer foods that are loaded with salt, fat, and sugar — the increased flavor compensates for the decreased taste buds.
And while hearing loss can begin in one’s 20s, it really becomes noticeable and annoying after you cross 65. Hearing loss is a relatively common condition in the elderly, so much so that one in every three people experience it by 65 years of age.
If you think your hearing loss is interfering with your normal, everyday functioning, make sure you discuss this with your doctor!