Aging Is Real: 10 Ways Your Body Changes After 60
“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.”
–Frank Lloyd Wright
A long life is a blessing that some never get to experience. But for those that do, that blessing comes with some inevitable signs of aging.
As you get older, your body changes, which is not necessarily bad – it’s just different. Knowing what to expect can not only help you embrace these changes, but it can also give you a heads up on what you can do to ease this process.
Some of these changes can be subtle and come on gradually while others may seem to just happen overnight. Regardless of when they happen, knowing that they are normal is important.
→ If you’re 65+ and are enrolled in Medicare, there are plans that offer free gym memberships as a part of your health insurance. It's never been easier to age gracefully! Learn more
Change #1: Cardiovascular System
As you get older, your heart and blood vessels become more rigid and the heart fills with blood slower than it used to. Older adults tend to develop high blood pressure because the more rigid the arteries are, the less they are able to expand when blood is pumped through them.
A normal older heart works well, but it just can’t speed up as quickly or pump the volume of blood that a younger heart can. This is why older athletes typically cannot perform as well as younger athletes.
With all the medical advances that have been made in the last two decades, the death rate from heart-related diseases has declined. Your heart and arteries stiffen as you get older, so it’s important to do what you can to keep your cardiovascular system as healthy as possible. Being physically active with some type of aerobic activity and a healthy diet are great ways to do this.
[Read more: Keto After 60: A Doctor’s Advice for Losing Weight With the Keto Diet]
Change #2: Lungs
The diaphragm and muscles around your rib cage become weaker as you age. The lungs also become less elastic causing smaller amounts of oxygen to be taken in as you breathe. This can make breathing difficult during exercise, for smokers, or for anyone with a lung disease.
As your lungs become weaker, they aren’t able to fight off diseases like they used to. They can’t pass along microorganisms without a good stiff cough, so these germs can hang around and cause problems.
Two of the best things you can do to improve your lung health are:
- Don’t smoke
- Participate in some type of aerobic activity on a regular basis.
Your lungs aren’t what they used to be, so exercising will give them the best chance to provide oxygen for your body so you can continue to be active.
Change #3: Immune System
Your immune system does not work as well as you get older. According to MedilinePlus, this can cause some problems:
- Your risk of getting sick increases, because your immune system tends to respond to stimuli more slowly.
- Vaccines such as flu and pneumonia shots may not work as well or last as long as they used to.
- Your body heals more slowly because you have fewer immune cells as you age.
- You have an increased risk of developing cancer because your body’s ability to detect and correct defects in cells declines with age.
- You can develop an autoimmune disease where your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue.
To help your immune system stay as healthy as possible, it’s important to take good care of yourself.
Get the vaccines your doctor suggests such as flu (at the age of 65 you can get a high-dose flu vaccine), pneumonia, shingles, and pneumococcal disease. Eating healthy, exercising, refraining from smoking, and limiting your alcohol intake will also keep you on the right track to a strong immune system.
Change #4: Urinary Tract
Overall, the urinary tract system continues to work normally barring any illnesses or diseases that affect it. The one thing you have probably noticed if you’re over 60, is that you have to get up at least once through the night to use the restroom. This is normal for this stage of life, because the amount of urine your bladder can hold actually decreases with age.
The bladder muscles may also become weaker making it difficult to completely empty your bladder and harder to close off the urinary sphincter possibly causing leaking to occur.
Urinary incontinence can be a result of these problems.
There are medications available that can help with these problems as well as bladder training and pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises.
Change #5: Bones and Joints
After 60, your bones and joints begin to show signs of aging.
As you age, you absorb less calcium from the food you eat. Your bones need calcium to stay strong, and without it, they become weak and brittle. Vitamin D, which decreases with age, helps your body utilize calcium. The result of the decrease in calcium and vitamin D can be osteopenia (moderate loss of bone density), or osteoporosis (severe loss of bone density). By the time osteoporosis sets in, you’re at a severe risk of fractures and breaks.
Maintaining a normal weight and participating in weight-bearing activities can increase your bone density and help prevent osteoporosis. You might want to check with your doctor about calcium and vitamin D supplements.
After years of use, the cartilage around your joints can become thin and cause pain when you move them. As this cartilage becomes thin, it causes movement to be difficult and can result in injury. Eventually, this can turn into osteoarthritis, which is a very common disorder of aging.
Unfortunately, joint pain is caused by wear and tear from years of use, and there isn’t much that can be done at this point to reverse it except surgery. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe supplements to help with the pain. This might be something you want to discuss at your next appointment.
Change #6: Muscle Tone and Body Fat
Your body starts losing muscle tone and gaining fat somewhere around the age of 30. By the time you are 60, the loss of muscle mass can be quite severe.
Loss of muscle mass due to aging is actually only about 10 to 15%, according to MedilinePlus. The rest is due to lack of activity and poor diet. The good news is that keeping or building muscle tone is possible, even though you are over 60.
Regular exercise is key to maintaining and rebuilding muscle tone in which strength, or resistance training, is crucial. Along with regular exercise comes eating healthy. These two things together can not only increase muscle tone, but decrease body fat.
Body fat tends to increase with age. A sedentary lifestyle can easily become a habit in this stage of life. You tire more quickly than you used to, so it’s easy to get in the habit of doing basically nothing – especially nothing physical – day in and day out.
Increased body fat elevates your risk of diseases such as diabetes. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you keep your body fat percentage at a healthy level.
Read more about diet and strength training.
Change #7: Eyesight
By the time you’re 60, you will more than likely notice a change in your vision. You may experience a loss of near vision, the growing need to use a brighter light to read and see details, and possibly changes in your color perception. These are due primarily to the stiffening and yellowing of the lenses in your eyes.
There may be some physical changes to your eyes as well as you age:
- The whites of your eyes may begin to yellow
- Small spots of color may show up in the whites of your eyes
- You may develop a gray-white ring around the surface of the eye
- Your lower lid may begin to sag due to muscle loss
- Your eyes may appear sunken due to fat loss around your eyes
As you age, you will probably notice that your eyes tend to be dry most of the time. Using lubricating eye drops can help ease this problem.
These changes in your eyes and eyesight are normal aging changes. If they are accompanied by pain or you notice a severe change, it would be best to visit your eye doctor.
Change #8: Hearing
Some hearing loss is due to environmental exposure over time and is not really age-related. However, there are some age-related hearing losses such as losing the ability to hear high-pitched sounds.
The ability to hear high pitched sounds diminishes greatly with age. This age-related hearing loss is called presbycusis. The biggest problem encountered with presbycusis is the ability to understand what people are saying. This is due to a combination of high pitched voices, usually women and children, and the lack of being able to hear consonants as they are usually spoken in a higher tone than vowels. Unfortunately, hearing lower-pitched tones eventually becomes difficult, too.
Background noise and an accumulation of earwax can also make it hard to hear.
Keeping your ears clean and being fitted with hearing aids can help you hear better.
Change #9: Teeth
Cavities become a big issue as you approach 60, mainly due to dry mouth. Dry mouth is not an age-related issue, but it is a side effect of many medications that senior citizens take for other illnesses. Having dry-mouth can cause cavities, therefore it is important to tell your dentist what medications you’re taking so they can give you either an over-the-counter or a prescription drug to help combat the problem.
Gum disease is also an issue that tends to develop at any stage of life, but especially as you age. It is painless and when left untreated can cause many problems ultimately leading to tooth loss.
Mouth cancer is also a concern after 60. According to the American Cancer Society, there are 35,000 cases of mouth, throat, and tongue cancer diagnosed each year, and the average age of these patients is 62. Early stages of oral cancer are usually painless, and early detection can save lives.
Regular check-ups with your dentist can play a big role in the health of your teeth, gums, and mouth. Early detection not only saves lives, but it also saves money.
Neither Medicare nor a Medicare Advantage plan offers comprehensive dental coverage, which is why we recommend a dental insurance plan. Here at Medicare Allies, we offer dental insurance from many popular carriers such as Aetna, Medico, and Mutual of Omaha.
Dental coverage can cost less than $30 per month, and it helps cover common expenses like routine exams and cleanings, x-rays, fillings, extractions, and more.
Learn more about dental insurance options here: Dental Insurance for Seniors Over 65
Change #10: Skin
As you age, your skin changes. It becomes thinner, drier, less elastic, and more wrinkled.
Many things in the skin begin to decrease such as collagen, elastin, the layer of fat under the skin, sweat glands, blood vessels, nerve endings, and pigment-producing cells. The lack of these things causes your skin to bruise and tear easily, sag and bag, crack and peel, and develop age spots and wrinkles.
Additionally, the possibility of suffering a heat stroke increases because of a decrease in your sensitivity to pain.
After 60, your skin is not able to form vitamin D from sunlight exposure which can put you at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Talk with your doctor about taking a supplement to deter this problem.
While taking care of your skin at a young age is ideal, there are still ways to help protect it moving forward. There are surgical procedures such as laser treatments, you can start using sunscreen and moisturizers, and possibly some prescription medications given by your doctor such as hydroquinone for aging spots.
Accepting Physical Changes After 60
Aging is a privilege. Many people have said, “If I would have known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of my body.”
There is probably a lot of truth to that statement for a lot of people. While you can’t do anything about what you did or didn’t do years ago, you can go forward and do the best you can to take care of yourself now.
It seems that regular exercise and a healthy diet are key to almost every aspect of your changing body. So, stay active, eat well, and embrace the rest of your life.
Did you know you can get access to free gym memberships once you turn 65? Keep your health in tip-top shape with the help of your Medicare Advantage plan. Find out which plans in your zip code come with free gym membership privileges.
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