Tackle the Changes of Aging
What's 'normal' aging?
It's no secret that age comes with gray hair and wrinkles. But do you know how aging can affect your heart, brain, even your teeth?
Everyone ages differently, but you have a lot of say in how you feel as you grow older. Take steps now to improve your health and delay or lessen these changes.
What to expect
Everyone ages in their own way, but here are some common changes people experience with aging:
Bones become thinner and more brittle with age, especially for women. This increases your risk of broken bones, so you should take steps to prevent falls.
Bruises will be more common because your skin becomes thinner and more fragile.
Heart disease becomes more common with age. Your blood vessels lose flexibility, making it harder for blood to move through the body. Plaque may also gather in your arteries, blocking healthy blood flow.
Brain nerve cells can shrink or lose connections with other nerve cells, leading to forgetfulness. You may also find your reflexes aren't as 'sharp' as they once were.
The digestive tract becomes rigid for some, leading to problems such as constipation, stomach pain, and nausea.
Teeth lose enamel and are more vulnerable to cavities. Also, some medications can cause dry mouth, which puts your teeth and gums at risk for disease.
With age, your body changes. Older adults often find their metabolism slows down, which can lead to weight gain. Fat may start to appear in different places for some changing their shape. Too much fat can increase your risk of health problems, such as diabetes. Eating healthy and being active can help you avoid weight gain in your 60s.
Shift in vision
Change in vision is also an undeniable sign of aging. Your lenses can become stiff, causing difficulty in shifting sight from far to near, causing a need for reading glasses. Lenses can also become yellow and less transparent with the development of cataracts. This may dim your vision or change how you see colors. Finally, eyes can dry out as they produce fewer tears, or spots may appear as 'floaters.' Use Secure Messaging (sign in required) to ask your health care team about a routine eye exam or preventive vision test.
Keys to aging well
Practicing healthy habits throughout your life is ideal, but it's never too late. As you get older, take good care of yourself by:
Being physically active regularly. Find out if your VA offers MOVE! or the Gerofit program
Eating a healthy diet that is high in fiber
Having regular health screenings
Engaging in social activities often with friends and family
Taking your prescribed medications as instructed
Getting enough sleep
Not using tobacco
Get involved in your health
You can't stop aging, but you can make choices that improve the process. My HealtheVet has all the tools you need to get involved in your health care. Your online account makes it easy to refill a VA prescription or schedule your next appointment. You can also track, view, and share your health information online with your provider.
See how Army Veteran Donald Crosby chooses to be better with age in the video below:
Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.
Five Things You Can Do to Stay Happy and Healthy
Resources for Aging Veterans (Veterans Health Library)
Updated July 28, 2020