Normal Physiological Changes Associated With Aging
There is a great deal of what fairly can be called chatter in regard to what happens when people grow old. As part of that chatter, there is considerable amount of misinformation. Time and again, physiological changes that are a natural part of the human aging process become something quite different and even alarming in the minds of many people.
Through this article, we examine some of the most significant and yet normal physiological changes that occur as a person grows older. While everyone does age differently, this discussion provides you a base from which you can consider whether a change you or a loved one is experiencing fairly can be called “normal.” If you do ever have questions or concerns about something that is happening in regard to your body, you should promptly consult with your healthcare provider.
Your heart works around the clock for the entirety of your life. On average, a human heart beats 2.5 billion times during the course of a lifetime.
As a person ages, there are expected changes that occur to the heart:
- Blood vessels lose elasticity
- Fatty deposits build up against artery walls
- The heart is forced to work harder to pump blood throughout the body
A good many people end up suffering from high blood pressure or hypertension or atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can lessen the impact of these naturally occurring changes by exercising regularly, eating a health diet, getting a proper amount of sleep, managing stress, and not smoking.
A number of things occur with a person’s digestive system as they age:
- Swallowing and digestive reflexes slow down.
- Swallowing may become harder as the esophagus contracts less forcefully.
- The flow of secretions that help digest food in the stomach, liver, pancreas, and small intestine may also be reduced.
- The reduced flow may result in digestive issues that weren’t present when you were younger.
The Mayo Clinic has a trio of recommendations to address naturally occurring changes to the digestive system as a person grows older:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Do not ignore the urge to have a bowel movement
Kidneys and Urinary Tract
There are a number of issues to contend with when it comes to the kidneys and urinary tract as a person ages. Kidneys do become less effective and efficient at removing waste from the bloodstream. This happens because as we age kidneys lose cells and they become smaller.
Urinary incontinence is also a relatively common issue experienced by women and men as they grow older. This typically happens because of changes in hormone levels in women and the enlargement of a man’s prostate.
As an aside, while some changes to the kidneys are a part of natural aging progression, it is important to note that some diseases can also damage kidneys further. High blood pressure and diabetes are a pair of such culprits.
The Mayo Clinic does have some recommendations to enhance overall kidney health:
- Urinate often and on a regular schedule
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Do not smoke
- Do Kegel exercises (as an aside, some people think Kegel exercises are for women only; in fact, men can and should do them as well)
- Avoid constipation
There is one other recommendation that can prove particularly challenging for many individuals. The Mayo Clinic suggests avoiding what it calls “bladder irritants.” The four bladder irritants mentioned by the Mayo Clinic, items you should avoid for urinary tract health are:
- Acidic food items
- Carbonated beverages (soda pop and so forth)
- Alcoholic beverages
- Caffeine (coffee and tea, among others)
Bones, Joints, and Muscles
The Mayo Clinic succinctly summarizes what naturally happens to bones, joints, and muscles as we age and grow older:
With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density, weakening them and making them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength, endurance and flexibility — factors that can affect your coordination, stability, and balance.
Johnson Memorial Health sums up what you need to do to enhance the overall health of your bones, joints, and muscles:
Exercise is a great way to slow or prevent the problems with bones, muscles and joints. Maintaining strength and flexibility will help keep you strong. In addition, a healthy diet including calcium can help your bones stay strong.
In the final analysis, you need to understand that the aging process itself is a natural phenomenon. There are some steps you can take to lessen the impact of aging in some instances and to some degree. At the heart of those steps are exercise, a healthy diet, regular exercise, a suitable amount of sleep, and taking steps to reduce stress.