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How Your Body Changes As You Age

We all try to avoid it, but physical changes are part of aging. No matter your health or how well you eat, exercise or otherwise take care of your body, everyone will experience changes as they get older. Even if you’re prepared for them, they can still be unsettling.

It’s important to communicate with your doctor as you experience any of these physical changes. Be open and honest with your health care providers so they can help you navigate through any issues, as well as offer ways to help you maintain your best health as you age.

Here are tips to prepare for and deal with some of the physical changes that accompany aging.

Reduced mobility

CHANGES TO EXPECT: Muscles can lose strength and joints can become stiffer, making it more difficult to stay active, which in turn can contribute to reduced mobility.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Use it or lose it. Staying physically active can help counter these changes, and may help prevent falls, arthritis-related joint pain and other health problems. Gentler exercises may be better than high-impact ones, as your body can’t recover as fast as it once did. Activities to maintain mobility can be as simple as gardening or walking outside, or indoor activities like yoga or strength training.

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Exercise that brain, too

CHANGES TO EXPECT: It may sound strange, but just like the rest of your body, your brain ages. That can mean difficulty focusing or remembering details as you get older. It could also mean reduced reaction times and more difficulty learning new concepts.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: For starters, keep your mind active by staying social, visiting with friends and family, and participating in group activities. In addition, challenge your brain by doing puzzles, learning a new language or other skill, or reading. And physical activity can boost your mental wellness, too. Research has shown that aerobic exercise is one of the best things you can do to help your brain. It increases blood circulation, which provides your brain the oxygen and nutrients it needs to perform at its best.

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“That tastes weird”

CHANGES TO EXPECT: After age 50, you may begin to notice that some foods suddenly taste bland, or you don’t enjoy a wide range of flavors as much anymore. The reason: Taste is strongly related to the sense of smell, and your sense of smell may weaken over time.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Counteract that reduced sense of taste by adding herbs or other seasonings (be careful with that salt though — you don’t want it to affect your blood pressure). Despite foods tasting bitter or different, make sure you watch what you eat and keep a good, healthy diet of whole foods — fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.

Feeling blue

CHANGES TO EXPECT: As you age, you might notice that you feel sad more than usual. Older adults can be at a greater risk of depression and other mental health problems.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: One way to help reduce the likelihood of mental health problems is to stay social and involved with others. The National Institute on Aging reports that older adults who participated in regular social activities lived longer than adults who did not. Still, it’s important to watch out for warning signs that you or someone you know is struggling with mental health. If you feel like you’re suffering from any mental health issue, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

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Immunize, immunize, immunize

CHANGES TO EXPECT: Over time, vaccines and immunizations can lose their effectiveness. So you may need new or updated immunizations, especially the ones you received in your childhood.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Ask your doctor if you need any new or updated immunizations. Also consider getting a flu shot every season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over the age of 65 receive a flu shot because older people have a greater risk of serious complications if they catch the virus.

“What does that say?”

CHANGES TO EXPECT: Even if you’ve never needed glasses or contact lenses, you may find that your vision weakens as you age. It’s natural to find you need more light to see or read, or have difficulty seeing items closer to you. As you age, your eyes might also become drier.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Keep eyedrops handy for dry eyes. Go to a local pharmacy to get reading glasses that work for you. Most important, visit an ophthalmologist if you have any concerns about your vision or any significant changes in your sight.

Increased risk of heart disease

CHANGES TO EXPECT: As the rest of your body ages, so does your heart, leaving you with an increased risk of heart disease.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Get your blood pressure checked regularly. Plus, staying physically active and eating a healthy diet can help keep your heart strong.

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Keep your bones strong

CHANGES TO EXPECT: With aging, your bones can weaken or even shrink. Because of muscle weakness and reduced mobility, older adults are at risk of falling and injuring themselves. With weakened bones, that means a higher chance of fractures or breaks.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Make sure you have adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D in your diet — your doctor may prescribe supplements — and incorporate weight-bearing exercises into your daily routine.

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If you need advice on ensuring you have appropriate coverage for all of the medical help and treatments you may need, consult our Medicare 101: Medicare Basics.

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