OK, let's start continue our healthy journey by taking a look at what experts recognize as the signs of aging, what you can do to combat these issues and finally what is the optimum physical shape for a 50+ year old to be in:
Wonder what's considered a normal part of the aging process? Here's what to expect as we get older — and what to do about it. You know that aging will likely cause us to develop wrinkles and gray hair. But do you know how the aging process will affect our muscles, looks, eye sight, teeth, heart, brain and sexuality? Here's what kind of changes you can expect in your body as you continue aging — and what you can do to promote good health at any age.
Your cardiovascular system
As we age, our heart rate becomes slower and our heart might become bigger. Our blood vessels and our arteries also become stiffer and more susceptible to clogging by cholesterol, causing our heart to work harder to pump blood through them. This can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and other cardiovascular problems.
Your bones, joints and muscles
As we age, bones tend to shrink in size and density — which weakens them and makes them more susceptible to fracture. The body stops putting on muscle mass. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength and flexibility, and you might become less coordinated or have trouble balancing.
Your digestive system
Constipation is more common in older adults. Many factors can contribute to constipation, including a low-fiber diet, not drinking enough fluids and lack of exercise. Medications such as diuretics and iron supplements and certain medical conditions such as diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome also might contribute to constipation. Many people are more easily affected by acid reflux and similar disorders as there internal organs lose their flexibility. We get heartburn and gas from foods we once loved like chili, hot dogs (I'm still not convinced that hot dogs are considered a food), tomato sauce and even some fruits and veggies.
Your bladder and urinary tract
Loss of bladder control (urinary incontinence) is common with aging. The old jingle: "No matter how hard you wiggle and dance, the last few drops wind up in your pants" really rings true now. Medical conditions, such as diabetes, might contribute to incontinence — as can menopause, for women, and an enlarged prostate, for men. Many folks have a weak urinary stream and find themselves going to the potty a couple of times a night. As my doctor eloquently stated at my checkup when I attempted to delicately broach this subject…"So you aren't tearing the bark off of trees when you piss anymore, huh?" Yes, your once proud act of writing your name in the snow has now gone away.
Memory tends to becomes less efficient with age. What becomes what when? It might take longer to learn new things or remember familiar words or names. Sometimes there is just that annoying lack of clarity that plagues you when working on problems. And let’s not forget what I call the "squirrel" behavior (everyone yell out "squirrel" all at once) that creeps into your life as you get older. Like a dog that is focused on his bone we catch the sight of a squirrel out of the corner of our eye and begin to chase it forgetting about the bone completely. In my case, I walk to the kitchen to get a refill on my cup of coffee and see a stack of mail on the counter so I walk over to read it. While reading it I come across my insurance bill which needs to be paid to I walk to my office to write a check. As I sit down I figure I can do all of my bills at the same time so I put out my file but it is hot in the office so I turn around to open the window and notice how dirty the windows are. I head out to the garage to get the cleaning supplies and before I know it I am standing outside in my underwear with a hose and bucket thinking how great another cup of coffee would be.
What's happening? On the outside, you may still look like John Wayne, the epitome of the rugged American male (or for the ladies…. Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model) but inside, it's another story. All health problems somehow have an effect on the penis/vagina. We experience a drop in levels of the sex hormone testosterone as we age approximately 2% a year starting in our early 20's). Blood flow to the penis is reduced. We all know our energy levels and stamina decline. For women, this is also the decade when they enter perimenopause, the period preceding menopause, when production of estrogen and testosterone begins dropping off. Perimenopause typically kicks in at age 46. About half of all women over 45 experience some symptoms, including irregular periods, lower libido and vaginal dryness. Let's add on our feelings that we are less sexually attractive and things don't work like they used to.
What's happening? You will begin to notice over a period of time a change in your skin. It has become drier and thinner. Muscle tone has decreased and things begin flapping in the wind. You find it harder to walk as erect as you did in your earlier years. There are age spots and liver spots, and dry spots and scratchy spots and weird little spots that have course gray hairs growing out of them. Aches and pains have become more common so movement isn't as fluid. You hair has become drier and may have started to thin. Your forehead has become a five or six head. Even worse, you may start to get hair where you don't want it. Jungles are growing in your ears and nose and women may have developed a bit of a moustache. You will also become drier in you intimate regions and your urine has darkened and begun to smell. Sounds miserable doesn't it but luckily it doesn't all happen at once and in the same degrees to everyone.
Oh my goodness, this has turned into a depressing discussion. So what can we do about all of this? According to my research help from multiple authorities, especially the Mayo Clinic (if you can't trust them who can you trust?) there are 4 keys to improving your health and these apply to both men and women of any age:
- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Work out; try walking, swimming, playing sports, planking (my favorite) or other activities you enjoy. Regular moderate physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and lessen the extent of arterial stiffening.
Like I said yesterday, I have a fairly consistent routine of working out on a home weight machine. I put on 3 to 4 albums (yes, I am an audiophile dinosaur) while working out to motivate me and keep my spirit level high. Like I said, you don't have to go to the gym to work out. The machine I use, the Body Solid 1500 is a middle of the road model that I picked up from someone who "gave up" on trying staying fit. There are plenty of home gyms for sale online both new and used. It has everything I need to work different muscle groups, is pretty damn solid and fits into the corner of my bedroom.
Strength training such as free weights, resistance exercises -- such as push-ups and pull-ups and using workout machines increase muscle mass, providing more strength and structure to your aging body. Strength training increases bone strength, combating the loss of bone after 50, which reduces your risks for age-related bone diseases such as osteoporosis. I try to "plank" every day – 3 times for 2 minutes each. I will use another blog to explain this exercise in more depth.
Don't forget to add in the cardio. Like I said earlier, grab your partner, friend or neighbor and go for a walk or bike ride every day. It doesn't have to be very long. Our walks are generally under an hour and we get the added benefit of seeing the neighborhoods around our house and meeting new neighbors.
- Make sure you stretch. Stretching is a way to increase joint flexibility. It also helps increase blood circulation to the muscles and relaxes tense muscles.
- Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein. Choosing lean proteins and low fat dairy reduces your intake of bad LDL cholesterol, and including healthy fats from sources such as fish or avocado can increase your good HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL cholesterol, both of which increase your cardiovascular health and fitness.
I really like Whey protein supplements because I am always on the move and they make a fast, efficient meal substitute. Plus they are great before and after workouts by promoting more aggressive muscle protein synthesis. Try to drink a glass 30 to 45 minutes before your workout and then again immediately afterwards. The brand doesn't matter to me. I usually just pick up a few 2 pound containers when they are on sale. Six Star, Body Fortress and Met-RX are brands you would usually find in my pantry.
What you drink counts, too. Drink plenty of water. It is the elixir of life. Once again, drink plenty of water. It is what your body is made of.
Studies have shown that some alcohol is good for you but in moderation. I love a glass (grab a cab) or two of wine with dinner. But remember, but remember, but remember, too much alcohol can lead to confusion and memory loss.
- Get adequate amounts of calcium. For adults ages 19 to 50 and men ages 51 to 70, the Institute of Medicine recommends 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day. The recommendation increases to 1,200 mg a day for women age 51 and older and men age 71 and older. Dietary sources of calcium include dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, canned salmon with bones, sardines and soy products, such as tofu. If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet, ask your doctor about calcium supplements.
- Get adequate amounts of vitamin D. For adults ages 19 to 70, the Institute of Medicine recommends 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day. The recommendation increases to 800 IU a day for adults age 71 and older. Although many people get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunlight, this might not be a good source for everyone. Other sources of vitamin D include oily fish, such as tuna and sardines, egg yolks, fortified milk, and vitamin D supplements.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you're overweight, lose excess pounds.
What else should we do to combat the effects of aging?
Here are a few more recommendations and they should be topics of some of my future blogs:
- · Don't smoke. Smoking contributes to the hardening of your arteries and increases your blood pressure and heart rate. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctors to help you quit.
- · Manage stress. Stress can take a toll on your heart. Take steps to reduce stress — or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.
- · Avoid substance abuse. No recreational drugs, alcohol in moderation and again, no smoking.
- · Don't ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. Holding in a bowel movement for too long can cause constipation.
- · Go to the bathroom regularly. Consider urinating on a regular schedule, such as every hour. Slowly, extend the amount of time between your bathroom trips.
- · Do Kegel exercises. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
- · Stay mentally active. Mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape and might keep memory loss at bay. Do crossword puzzles. Take alternate routes when driving. Learn to play a musical instrument. Do things with your left hand that you normally always do with your right (no not that guys, I was thinking more like shaving or eating).
- · Be social. Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others.
OK, that was a lot for today. I guarantee that my blogs will get shorter and more precise but health is something I have just become passionate about and it is the single best thing to concentrate on to help you enjoy your "advanced" years. The next step in our healthy journey will be taking a look at what experts recognize as the optimum physical shape to be in at the age of 50+. Please stay tuned and Thanks for joining me!!!