A Head-to-Toe Guide to Aging
What is considered normal aging and when to seek care
As you age, you may experience a variety of changes with your body, many may be a “normal” part of the aging process, while others may indicate a more serious health issue. In most cases, there are ways to minimize the impact certain conditions or their symptoms have on your life and activity level. Some of our specialists share what’s considered normal and when you may want to seek medical care.
Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Aging:
Memory Loss (Head)
You may experience lapses in memory and forgetfulness. Treat your brain as you would a muscle, and engage in habits that exercise your brain like puzzles, reading and learning something new.
Eating a balanced diet with brain-boosting, antioxidant-rich foods like nuts and blueberries, and minimizing stress can also help keep your memory sharp.
If your memory loss worsens, impacts your ability to perform daily activities or your judgment, your doctor may recommend you meet with a neurologist to determine if you are experiencing a more serious memory-related condition like dementia.
Hearing Loss (Ears)
Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is common in older adults, affecting nearly one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74. It is often gradual and affects both ears and may be accompanied by ringing in the ears.
Hearing loss may be cause by a variety of reasons including high blood pressure or diabetes, long-term exposure to loud noises and certain medications.
As hearing loss worsens it may become hard to talk with family and friends, which can lead to feelings of isolation.
Untreated hearing loss is associated with cognitive decline and dementia, so it’s important to seek medical care. An audiologist can help you select a treatment that best fits your needs which may include hearing aids, implants and other assistive listening devices.
Fracture Risks (Bone Health)
To keep our bones healthy and strong, our bodies naturally replace old bone with new bone until about age 30. At that time, bone removal starts to out pace new formation, which leads to loss of bone structure over time.
This can pose bone density risks as we get older, such as fracture and osteoporosis. Eating foods rich with vitamins and minerals, exercising daily and quitting smoking can all help you maintain bone density health.
Talk to your doctor about your individual risk for fracture, need for bone density testing and to see if you qualify to be evaluated at our Fracture Liaison Service.
Chronic Constipation (Stomach and Digestive Tract)
Nearly 25 percent of adults over the age of 60 reported experiencing frequent constipation, and nearly one-third have occasional constipation. If you develop constipation you may experience straining, lumpy or hard stools, a sensation of incomplete evacuation or a decrease in stool frequency.
Constipation becomes more common with age due to weakening digestive muscles, physical inactivity, other chronic health conditions and increased medication use. Simple lifestyle modifications, including increased fluid and fiber intake, may help prevent chronic constipation.
If the problem persists for more than three weeks, or occurs more frequently, and lifestyle or dietary modifications and over-the-counter medications aren’t helping, a gastroenterologist will develop a treatment plan which may include medications to manage your symptoms.
Frequent Night-time Urination (Bladder)
About one in three adults over the age of 30 experience nocturia, an increased urge to urinate throughout the night. Your likelihood of developing nocturia increases with age.
Nocturia can be caused by a variety of reasons including increased fluid intake, an overactive bladder or more serious issues like uncontrolled diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, congestive heart failure, fluid retention or a bladder obstruction. Nocturia also can be disruptive to your sleep cycle and have a negative impact on your overall quality of life.
Simple lifestyle adjustments like reducing fluid intake in the evening, especially caffeinated beverages and alcohol, and elevating your legs in the evening may help.
If you are waking up more than once each night to go to the bathroom, a urologist can help you to determine the cause, and prescribe medications to help your body regulate urine production and bladder emptying.
Body Aches (Joints)
Body pains often become more frequent with age, and may be difficult to determine if it’s caused by muscle pain or arthritis. Body aches are temporary muscle pain that you may experience anywhere on your body, often after an injury, fall or an illness like the flu. Arthritis pain occurs in your joints as the protective cartilage in your body wears down over time. Arthritis pain is chronic and you may experience flair ups often, especially after periods of inactivity or fluctuating weather.
You can reduce your arthritis risk by eating foods rich in omega-3, incorporating regular exercise into your routine and maintaining a healthy weight.
If you suspect you have arthritis, seek prompt medical care. A rheumatologist can diagnose arthritis and help establish a treatment plan to minimize your symptoms and reduce your risk of joint damage.
These are just a few of the many age-related changes you may experience. It is important to discuss any changes you experience with your primary care physician. Your physician can help determine what is normal for you and provide referrals for certain age-related symptoms and conditions. Our primary care physicians and specialists work together to provide you with comprehensive care to keep you healthy and active throughout adulthood.
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