Our bodies are constantly changing, from childhood to puberty and beyond — and this is true for older adults as well. As you approach 50, you might notice your body going through some changes, and while they might not be as dramatic as those during your teenage years, you’ll still feel the effects. Here are nine different ways that your body changes after age 50:
1. Reduced Bladder Control
Your muscles become weaker as you age, and this can lead to bladder leakage, also known as incontinence. If you find yourself peeing involuntarily, talk to your doctor about the different potential causes of the incontinence and what you can do to manage it. Your doctor will likely prescribe a routine of pelvic floor exercises to build those muscles back up and may incorporate some medications as well. While you wait for these to take effect, you can manage your symptoms in the short-term with incontinence products for women.
2. Slower Collagen Production
The good news is that your skin produces less oil as you age, which reduces your chance of breakouts. However, this reduced oil production can lead to dry skin, especially if you don’t moisturize. Your skin also slows collagen production as you age, meaning that the skin cells don’t reproduce as quickly. As a result, you will notice your skin becoming thinner, which makes wrinkles more apparent. You may also find that cuts are slower to heal and that your skin breaks or scrapes more easily. Take extra good care of any cuts you get, and monitor them for possible signs of infection.
3. Loss of Bone Density
While you might not notice it, your bones are constantly breaking down material and creating new bone. This process slows down as you age, so the new bone growth can no longer match the reduction of old bone. This condition, called osteoporosis, is especially common in women over 50 due to the dips in estrogen that come with menopause. Eating a healthy diet and doing bone density building exercises, such as lifting weights, will help prevent the development of osteoporosis. If bone density loss has already set in, your doctor may also prescribe some medications to check the effects.
4. Digestive Issues
The older you get, the less acid your stomach produces, making it difficult to digest foods and medications. Your stomach takes longer to empty, which can lead to acid reflux. Meanwhile, your bowel muscles might also get weaker, which further slows down the digestive process and can lead to constipation. Drinking plenty of water and eating a high fiber diet will help keep you regular, while doing core exercises will physically contract the muscles and contribute to bowel movements.
5. Slower Metabolism
Gastrointestinal problems aren’t the only health issue that is related to food. As you age, your metabolism also slows, so even if you eat the same amount of food as you did before, you might find yourself gaining weight. This is heightened by the loss of lean muscle, which burns calories when you’re at rest. Eating a healthy diet, as well as exercising regularly to maintain as much lean muscle as possible, will help you keep your metabolism up and stay at a healthy weight.
6. Hormone Fluctuations
Menopause usually begins around age 50, though it may happen earlier for some people. During menopause, your body produces less estrogen and progesterone and more follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). These changes in hormones can lead to hot flashes, insomnia, depression, mood swings, and more. If you’re in the middle of menopause and it feels like it’s taking over your life, menopause relief can help get things under control. Talk to your doctor about what treatment options are the best match for your symptoms.
7. Vision Changes
Even if you’ve had perfect vision your whole life, you might find that changing as you age. Many people need at least reading glasses, and some may need to get full prescription glasses or contacts. Your tear glands also reduce the amount of moisture they produce as they age, which can lead to dry, itchy eyes. This is why you might find yourself reaching more frequently for eye drops as the years go on. Once you reach your 70s, you might also find that your sense of color perception lessens over time.
8. Stiffer Heart
Your heart is a muscle, and like the other muscles in your body, it does grow weaker with age. The walls get thicker and the valves stiffen, and the first signs of heart disease often appear around age 50. As a result, you might notice your heart rate slowing down or heart arrhythmia (any irregularities in your heartbeat). Talk to your doctor if you notice the latter, as it can increase your risk of a stroke. Thankfully, doing regular cardiovascular activity will keep your heart strong and elastic into your 50s and beyond.
9. Lowered Immune System
Having a lower immune system might sound bad, but it actually has some benefits. Allergies are caused by an overreactive immune system, so as people’s immune systems begin to slow down, their allergies often get better. However, a lowered immune system does have other drawbacks, including a greater susceptibility to illness. As you get older, you might be laid low by common illnesses like colds and flu that you would have previously shaken off within a couple of days. That’s why it’s so important to stay up to date on your vaccine after 50 and beyond, in order to keep your immune system in good shape.
The bad news is that you can’t stop aging altogether. The good news is that a healthy diet, exercise, and stress management can go a long way towards minimizing or delaying the effects of aging. Watch out for these changes as you approach 50, and make it a priority to take care of yourself.
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