Story by Greta Connelly

Everyone knows that when an individual ages, it is more than likely that they will develop wrinkles and gray hair. But does anyone know what else happens to your body when you age? Aging will affect your heart, bones, digestive system, and your memory. It is important to understand what will happen and how to stay healthy throughout the aging process.  

Let’s start with the cardiovascular system. The most common change in the cardiovascular system is the stiffening of blood vessels and arteries. This causes your heart to have to work harder to pump blood through them. Your heart rate at rest may stay about the same, but it won’t increase during activities like it used to. These changes can increase the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) and more cardiovascular problems. But don’t worry, there are some strategies for improving heart health while aging. Including physical activity in your daily routine, such as walking, swimming, or biking can help you maintain a healthy weight and thus lower your risk for heart disease. Eating a healthy diet will also help with this. Make sure to get plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. It is also important to limit food that is high in saturated fat and salt. One more way of improving your heart health is by getting adequate sleep. When you are sleeping, it is your heart’s time to heal and repair your blood vessels. It is important for adults to get around seven to nine hours a night. 

When individuals age, their bones tend to shrink in size and density, which makes them weaker and more susceptible to fracture. Muscles will also lose strength, endurance, and flexibility. These are all things that affect your coordination, stability, and balance. In order to promote bone health, it is important to get adequate amounts of calcium. The recommended amount increased to 1,200mg daily for women who are age 51 and older and men age 71 or older. There are also many foods that are high in calcium, such as, broccoli, kale, salmon, and tofu. However, it is important to know that vitamin D is very crucial when it comes to calcium absorption. The daily recommended amount for vitamin D is 600 IU for adults up to age 70. You can get vitamin D from the sun, tuna, eggs, and vitamin D-fortified milk. Another way to keep your bones and muscles healthy while aging is to get enough physical activity. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, tennis, and climbing stairs can help build strong bones and slow the process of bone loss. 

The large intestine will also go through structural change while aging and can cause more constipation in adults. Some other things that can cause constipation are lack of exercise, not drinking enough fluids, and a low-fiber diet. There are also medications and certain medical conditions, such as diabetes that may contribute to constipation. Eating a healthy diet that includes high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limiting high-fat meats, dairy products and sweets can promote a healthy bowel movement. Regular physical activity can also prevent constipation. The last important thing about preventing constipation is to not ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. Ignoring bowel movements for too long can cause constipation. 

Another thing that changes in this process is your brain. These changes may have minor effects on your memory or thinking skills. These changes may not be detrimental to one’s health but healthy older adults might forget familiar names or words, or they may find it difficult to multitask. If you haven’t noticed this trend yet, of course it is important to get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet in order to promote your cognitive health. But along with that, it is also vital to stay mentally active. Staying mentally active may help you sustain your memory and thinking skills. Reading, playing word games, or taking up a new hobby such as taking a class or learning to play an instrument can also promote your cognitive health. Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss. Volunteering at a local school or nonprofit, spending time with family, or joining a book club are all very good ways of staying social and protecting your cognitive health. 

As always, if you have any concerns or become concerned about your heart, bones, digestion, or mental health, it is important to talk with your healthcare provider. These things are inevitable when aging, but with proper care and practice, these effects can be minimized. And remember the most important thing; physical activity and a healthy diet are vital when it comes to aging well!