Understanding how your body changes as we age
By Barbara Pierce
While there are plenty of aspects of getting older that might feel great, there are many that certainly don’t. Your body changes a lot during this phase of life. Knowing what to expect makes these transitions easier.
1. Heart disease is your biggest risk
“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women,” said RN Tanya Bristol of the Mohawk Valley American Heart Association Board of Directors. “Cardiovascular disease claims more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined.”
“Women of all ages can be affected, but the incidence increases after menopause and in a disproportionate number of women of color. Women tend to wait longer than men to seek medical attention which worsens outcomes,” she continued.
“Diagnosing heart disease can be more challenging in women, as symptoms may be vague,” she explained. “The most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort for both sexes. Women are more likely to have symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, back or jaw pain, and fatigue.”
A recent study concluded that women with heart health issues get better treatment if they’re seen by a female cardiologist, she said. Female doctors simply understand female patients better than men.
2. Dementia is a huge risk
Dementia affects millions of men and women, but women are especially at risk. “Two thirds of those living with Alzheimer’s are women,” said Cathy James, executive director, Alzheimer’s Association Central New York.
This tells us that it’s important for women to be aware of the warning signs and do what they can to protect themselves, she added.
If you do one thing to protect your brain every day, it should be exercising, as this lowers your risk. “It’s also important to manage stress and get adequate sleep,’’ James said. As well as keeping your mind active as you age. You can also prepare for your retirement and check out communities like Summerfield of Stockton memory care community. You may also check out other services like memory care center In los Angeles CA.
3. You’re at a greater risk for cancer
Though cancer can strike at any age; your risk skyrockets after you enter middle age. According to the National Cancer Institute, 91% of new cancer diagnoses happen in people older than 45. Talk to your doctor about your cancer risk and what you can do to prevent it. Be especially wary about breast cancer.
4. You’ll have skin issues
As you age, you might notice more wrinkles and thinner skin. This is in part because of a lack of collagen, a protein that keeps your skin firm and elastic. When you get older, your body produces less collagen.
You’re likely to experience dry skin. Drink enough water and moisturize regularly to combat this.
You lose sweat and oil glands on your skin as you age; your sweat might start to smell differently.
You’re likely to bruise more easily. And you’ll see more age spots, those flat brown spots; sunscreen helps. You may notice more skin tags, more common in women than men.
Your risk of skin cancer increases; regular exams by a dermatologist are recommended.
5. Your vision will decline
Like the rest of our body, our eyes will present more problems, like cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma, said optometrist Matthew Wadas of the Wadas Eye Group, offering comprehensive family eye care in Barneveld, Whitesboro and Herkimer.
Everybody develops cataracts. There’s nothing you can do. Not everyone will develop macular degeneration or glaucoma, he said.
Be prepared to change your eyeglass prescription.
6. You could lose your hearing
Age-related hearing loss occurs in most adults; one in three older people experience hearing loss. Get your ears checked regularly.
7. You’ll experience menopause
Age 50 is approximately when women should expect to experience menopause.
When you hit menopause, your hormones undergo changes. You’ll produce lower amounts of estrogen and progesterone. Many women experience insomnia, hot flashes, decreased sex drive, depression and mood swings.
Vaginal dryness is common after menopause and can interfere with your sex life and cause pain. However, it can be treated, so discuss it with your doctor.
8. You may have decreased bladder control
Because you produce less estrogen, it affects your muscle tone, including the muscles in your pelvis. Talk to your doctor if you experience bladder leaks—it can be treated.
9. Your immune system will get weaker
This might make you more likely to get sick and could make recovery from illness take longer. Do what you can to protect yourself from pathogens.
10. Stress poses a risk to your health
Stress can pile up easily, and have bad effects on your health, so take steps to mitigate it when possible.
11. It’s never too late to start exercising
Exercise is a major part of healthy aging. It’s never too late to start. Exercising has so many benefits.
12. Your body handles alcohol differently
Drinking excess alcohol can contribute to your risk for dozens of problems including liver damage, cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
13. Having fun is important, too
Participating in activities that you enjoy—hobbies, social activities and leisure time—works wonders for your health.
10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s
It’s common to experience some issues with memory, thinking and behavior as you age. However, changes that interfere with daily life could be a sign of something more serious, such as dementia.
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
4. Confusion with time or place
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
8. Decreased or poor judgment
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
10. Changes in mood and personality
If you notice one or more signs in yourself or another person, these are significant concerns that should be evaluated by a doctor.
For more details, call 800.272.3900 or see alz.org
Source: Alzheimer’s Association®