As I notice more gray hairs and wrinkles, I worry about getting older. I recently glanced at myself when I passed a mirror and realized I could see a resemblance to my grandma. When did I get that old?
Aging is unavoidable. As morbid as it sounds, we are in the process of dying from the day we are born. Our genes are just not equipped to keep our bodies alive forever. One theory is that our ancestors lived short, dangerous lives. They passed on their genes to their children when they were young and fit. As a part of natural selection, the genes that counter the effects of aging were not all that important.
Even just a century ago, life spans were around 50 years. Today, the average life span has risen to over 77 years for men and almost 82 for women. Modern medicine and better healthcare have extended our lives, but aging is still inevitable.
First, let’s take a look at the common changes that are a normal part of the aging process.
Thinning hair and skin
Some of the first changes you may notice as you age happens with your hair and skin. Your hair turns gray, becomes more porous and starts to thin. Your skin loses its elasticity and becomes thin. Lines become more pronounced and muscles lose flexibility.
Shrinking bones and muscles
With age, your bones shrink in size and density. They become more weak and susceptible to fracture. You might get shorter. Muscles also lose strength and flexibility, and you may have trouble balancing.
Your heart rate slows down and your heart might become bigger. Your blood vessels and arteries become stiffer. Your heart has to pump harder to move blood through your body.
Failing eyes and ears
Your eyes produce fewer tears, the retina thins and the iris stiffens making the lens of your eye cloudy. At the same time, the walls of your auditory canal thins and the eardrum thickens. You may gradually experience hearing loss.
The entire process of digestion slows down as we age. Your intestinal function diminishes causing digestion to slow down and bowel function to change. The muscles around the esophagus weaken. You may start to experience more acid reflux. Even your teeth shifting as you age can affect digestion.
Your metabolism will slow down as you age, leading to weight gain and sluggishness. You may feel tired more quickly. Your body just isn’t as efficient at breaking down and using calories as it once was.
After about 30, your brain begins to lose neurons. As we age, the speed at which we process information slows down. Also, certain types of memory start to decline. For instance, you may have trouble recalling names or thinking of a particular word. But this has nothing to do with your ability to think or your normal mental functioning.
So, now that you’re completely freaked out by the process of aging, what can you do to prevent or slow down the affects of aging? Can you be doing more to live a long, healthy life? The answer is “Yes.”
Here are 8 tips for preventing or diminishing the effects of aging:
We often talked about the importance of exercise in this blog. Cardiovascular exercise combined with strength training will rev up your metabolism and build muscle. You will control your weight and move more easily. Keeping the weight down can help stave off a whole host of chronic health problems and diseases.
Make healthy food choices
Nourish your body from the inside out. Get your nutrition from the kitchen rather than a pill. You need to eat fruits and vegetables every day to give you the antioxidants you need to fight disease. Good nutrition also aids in digestion and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
Get six to eight glasses of water a day. When you feel thirsty, your cells are actually crying out for water. Your skin, bones, muscles, kidneys, digestion, metabolism and heart all depend on water to function properly.
Laughing releases “feel good” endorphins that help boost immunity and reduce stress levels. Boisterous laughter expands blood vessels and improves blood flow. Laughing can improve your mood and overall outlook on life.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is extremely important to your overall well-being. Lack of sleep can make your more hungry, add to your stress and slow down your metabolism. A good night’s sleep can help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day. It can also improve your health and promote longevity.
Chronic stress can take a toll on your body as well as your mind and soul. It can impact your mood and relationships. Stress can be harmful to your heart and your health in general. When you’re stressed, you are less likely to stick to your healthy habits.
Spending time with friends and family can help ward off depression and stress. You are more likely to laugh and enjoy yourself. We need relationships to find balance, stay more physically active and stimulate our brains.
Sharpen the mind
Just like keeping your body active, it’s important to stimulate your mind. Read, work crossword puzzles, find new interests and hobbies or write in a journal. Your mind needs a good workout every day, too.
You have a choice in how your body ages. By adopting habits that lead to a more balanced life, you can have an impact on the aging process. Continue to make gradual changes until they become part of your lifestyle. You can create a healthier, longer life!