Many of us feel in pretty good shape for our age, and rightly so! We exercise, we eat well, and we look after ourselves. However, despite taking steps to do everything right in terms of our health, as we get older, our bodies start to change, and this can cause problems.
While not everyone will experience severe health problems as they age, certain medical conditions do become more common and can become more serious with age. The following are four different ways that advancing age can cause health challenges.
1. Gaining Weight
As we get older, there are many factors at work that can cause us to gain weight. Firstly, as we age, we lose muscle, which makes it harder to keep the weight off. In addition, we typically become less active as we age. Combined with the fact that our bodies also burn fewer calories while doing the same physical activities, it is almost inevitable that we will put on a few pounds as we get older.
While gaining a little bit of weight won’t have a significant impact on our health, if we become overweight or obese, we are at an increased risk of a number of conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. For elderly adults, carrying extra weight can also make it more difficult to perform everyday movements such as walking or getting up from a chair.
2. Fragile Bones
For many older adults, falling is a real concern. As we age, our balance is often affected, and we may become less steady. In addition, from around the age of 30, our bone density starts to decrease, and as a result, bones become more fragile and are more likely to break, particularly in old age.
There are several things that we can do to help keep our bones stronger:
- Eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, and foods high in calcium
- Exercise using weights or our own body weight
- Avoid smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Speak to a doctor about a vitamin D supplement if vitamin D levels are low. This can be a common deficiency in older adults as we absorb less vitamin D from the sun as we age.
3. Catching the Flu
Once we reach the age of 65, our immune systems are not as strong. While the flu may have a younger adult spending a few days in bed, they’ll typically get over it relatively quickly. On the other hand, seniors may end up hospitalized as a result of flu-related problems, with severe cases even leading to death. As we age, the chance of experiencing serious flu complications increases. Pneumonia, sepsis (bacterial infection in the blood) and worsening of lung and heart disease can all occur as the result of the flu.
In order to ensure we are best protected, a yearly flu shot is necessary for those over 65. There is a high-dose version of the flu shot available that offers more protection. If you are particularly worried about the flu, you can speak to a doctor about this option.
4. Experiencing Depression
Older adults are more likely to experience contributing factors that may lead to depression, such as physical illness or personal loss. It is thought that between 10 and 15 per cent of older people in Australia experience depression.
However, many older adults who are experiencing depression do not get diagnosed and instead dismiss their symptoms as a natural reaction to illnesses and life’s setbacks. This can result in symptoms being ignored for long periods of time, with older adults reluctant to seek professional help until they reach a crisis point.
Many people who are over the age of 65 also still think that there is a stigma attached to depression and anxiety, and view these conditions as a weakness or flaw as opposed to a genuine health condition. As such, older adults are typically more hesitant to share their experiences of anxiety and depression with others.
There are several ways that depression can be treated. Medication and psychotherapy can be helpful. In addition, lifestyle changes and seeking out social interaction can also be hugely beneficial in treating depression in older adults.
For more information on this article, or the other services that we provide, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Brain Sparks. You may consider joining our Ageing and Dementia Support Network Group aligned with the BrainSparks – Connections Facebook page to take part in our movement programs online. Alternatively, you may like to try our Ageless Grace® program to help maintain your physical and cognitive functions as you age.