Have you every wondered what is considered “healthy aging”? Or what specific factors impact you, personally? Or what realistic and tangible things you can do to positively influence your aging process?
We have heard that our population is aging. What that means is the median age in the global population is higher than it used to be. Reports indicate the population aged 60 years or over was about 380 million in 1980, grew to approximately 960 million in 2017 and is expected to double again in approximately 30 years. There are many factors impacting the age of our population, including decreasing fertility and rising life expectancy.
It is common to identify wrinkles, aches & pains and gray hair to aging. However, aging also impacts other less noticeable aspects of our health such as teeth, heart and sexuality. Here is what to expect as you get older and how to promote good health at any age as a woman.
Women tend to be very critical of personal appearance, with skin being one of the most common factors critiqued. We tend to focus our attention on the visible signs of aging, like skin and hair condition, as opposed to other health factors like cardiac health. As we age our skin loses elasticity, loses moisture and becomes thinner. Other unpleasant things like age spots, skin tags or discoloration are very common as well. To promote ideal skin health you must treat it kindly – wear sunscreen, use mild soaps and skin therapies and do not smoke.
Our metabolism, or how our body burns calories, slows as we age. If your caloric consumption is maintained and you do not add any physical activity you will gain weight. Stay active, eat a balanced diet and watch the size of your portions.
A lot of factors influence sexuality – such as age, medical conditions, daily medications, and hormone levels. By getting regular exercise you can increase the ability to maintain sexual performance as you age. Speak with your partner and your doctor to identify what solutions work for you, such as hormone supplementation or other medication considerations.
As we age, the structural condition of our intestinal tract changes. In combination with lack of fluid intake and exercise, this can result in constipation. Older individuals tend to take more medications and have other medical conditions that impact proper function of the digestive tract. Also, the digestive tract is commonly referred to as the largest compartment of the immune system since it is continuously exposed to viruses, bacteria and foreign antigens. Maintaining a healthy digestive tract is essential to ensuring our immune system is functioning optimally. What you can do to maintain a healthy digestive tract:
· Take a probiotic supplement – this aids in maintaining proper gut health by promoting the healthy bacteria that are involved with breakdown and absorption of nutrients. Probiotics also prevent the overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria.
· Eat a healthy diet full of high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
· Consider additional “gut health” supplements such as digestive enzymes, licorice, peppermint oil, ginger, L-glutamine, fiber, and pre-biotics such as fructooligosaccharides.
As we age, our blood vessels and arteries stiffen forcing our hearts to work harder to get blood through them. This may impact heart rate and blood pressure which, in combination with other factors, can lead to cardiovascular disease (CVD). Cardiovascular Disease is the leading cause of death in the US exceeding those associated with cancer and is the leading cause of death in women. So what can you do to minimize your risk of heart attacks and CVD?
· Increase light to moderate activity – add a walk to your routine!
· Choose vegetables, fruit, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean protein over foods high in salt, sugar and saturated fat.
· Do not smoke.
· Increase self-care such as methods to reduce stress and get plenty of sleep.
Bones, Joints & Muscles
Over time our bones tend to deteriorate – their density decreases, leading to weakness and susceptibility to fractures. To maintain bone, joint & muscle health:
· Consume a healthy, balanced diet – this will provide sufficient amounts of calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin K which are all essential for bone health and metabolism. Calcium provides bones with structure and hardness. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium – without sufficient vitamin D, the calcium in our food will not be absorbed. Vitamin K facilitates your body’s ability to utilize calcium, keeping it balanced for proper bone metabolism. Calcium is also involved with muscle function and therefore is vital in maintaining healthy muscle function.
· Increase physical, weight bearing exercises such as walking, jogging and weight training to slow bone loss and build stronger bones.
· Avoid substance abuse.
Most of us have a lot on our minds and naturally the older we get the more we have to think about. Throughout our lives our brain undergoes changes that impact our memory and thinking. Some brain-boosting activities include:
· Be socially, physically and mentally active – this maintains cognitive ability and blood flow.
· Quite smoking.
· Treat cardiovascular disease – CVD is known to increase the risk of cognitive decline.
Maintaining optical eye and ear health depends on preventative care. Maintain your routine checkups, protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses and protect your ears by wearing earplugs when around loud noise and machinery you will be in a good position.
Over time, the bladder may become less elastic increasing the urge to urinate. The muscles of the bladder and pelvic floor may also weaken causing difficulty with completely emptying your bladder. Some things to do to promote optimal bladder health:
· Urinate regularly.
· Maintain a healthy weight.
· Do not smoke.
· Avoid common bladder irritants such as caffeine, alcohol and carbonated beverages.
· Do Kegel exercises daily
Unfortunately, medical research has not identified a fountain of youth. However, combining the benefits of the various recommendations outlined will preserve your optimal health. There are also supplements available to support healthy metabolic functions of the body to promote your ability to maintain ideal health. Speak with your pharmacist or trusted medical professional about what supplements would serve you. 😊