A Little Aging Knowledge Can Be Your Greatest Asset
Most people expect to look and feel different as they move through life, but few know the details behind why their body changes with age—or how they can determine a large part of their aging experience. Here’s a look at the aging process, inside and out, and how to manage age-related transitions with greater ease.
How to keep your heart pumping strong
The heart can change in structure and function with age, potentially increasing rigidity in the blood vessels and arteries. These changes can make it tough for the heart to maintain its job, whether due to heart disease, high blood pressure or similar arterial conditions. This is when life-threatening heart problems can develop.
Though some cardiovascular issues are inherited, one of the most common heart issues (and one of the leading causes of death in the United States) is due in large part to years of unhealthy eating, lack of exercise and stress. Eventually these factors can result in coronary artery disease, which is caused by a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries that restricts adequate oxygen to the heart—and can result in death.
The key to reducing your risk of heart disease lies in your lifestyle: Don’t smoke, move for at least 30 minutes a day and eat a diet of primarily fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy proteins, while limiting your intake of processed foods, soft drinks and trans fats.
How to help your bones remain robust
Adults reach peak bone mass around age 30, and lose a small amount of bone density each year, from that point on. Though there may be no outward indications of bone density change, weakened bones can cause more severe health issues to reveal themselves over time, including osteoporosis (more common in women than men) and an increased likelihood that a fall will result in breaks or fractures in hips, wrists and arms. Broken bones can, in turn, limit one’s future health, mobility and independence, and may even result in premature death.
Though family history and menopause (the biggest loss in bone density occurs within five to seven years following menopause) can all contribute to age-related bone loss, lifestyle factors can also have an influence on bone health.
Because aging can make it more difficult for the body to absorb calcium into the bones through food, vitamin D supplements in addition to consuming a diet that is high in calcium may be necessary to ensure adequate nutrients for bone health. Additionally, limiting alcoholic beverages, managing the chronic use of medications used to treat autoimmune disorders and acid blockers, and maintaining an active lifestyle, complete with weight-bearing exercises, can help keep bones strong.
How to maintain a healthy hormonal balance
Many of the changes in a person’s mood and appearance that take place with the passage of time can be attributed to hormonal changes.
For example, the thyroid gland, which produces the hormones that control metabolism, can impact how easily you gain or lose weight when it changes as early as age 20. As testosterone begins to drop in the early 30s, progesterone drops in the 40s, and estrogen becomes depleted by menopause, your skin may become dry and less “elastic” as it loses collagen, which leads to more wrinkles. Insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes) can also be influenced by hormonal fluctuations.
To reduce the likelihood of such issues, it’s important to manage your diet so that you limit processed foods, sugars and starches. The chemicals and components in these foods can further throw off the balance of estrogen and testosterone, and may create more severe ovarian hormone imbalances. Because estrogen also influences the production of serotonin—a neurotransmitter that regulates mood—age-related hormonal changes can also cause mood swings.
Though men experience decreased levels of the hormone testosterone throughout adulthood, they typically don’t experience symptoms (such as menopausal depression) like women do in menopause. However, as testosterone decreases, it can result in a condition known as andropause, characterized by fatigue, brain fog, mild depression and decreased sexual performance. The condition is commonly treated with hormone replacement therapy.
by Rocco Lovero