As you age, it may seem as though each decade brings with it a unique set of health considerations. Your metabolism may slow down and you may need to alter your diet to prevent weight gain. On the other hand, some people find that they don’t get as hungry or thirsty as they used to. Changes in your body could leave you short of vitamins D and B12, so you might need supplements, too.
The way you grow older is specific to you. Lifestyle, among other things, can play a role in the process. But some health changes are very common. Here’s what to expect.
Your bones, joints and muscles
In your 70s, it’s not uncommon to notice a gradual decline in muscle mass and bone density. Your muscles also tend to get weaker, and the tendons – which connect muscles to your skeleton – get stiffer. This decreases your strength and flexibility. You might even notice you’re an inch or two shorter than you used to be, as disks in your back flatten.
Regular exercise, including both aerobic activities and strength training, becomes crucial to maintain mobility, balance and overall physical wellbeing. Engaging in low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking or yoga can be especially beneficial in promoting flexibility and cardiovascular health.
As you get older, some parts of your brain shrink, and communication between different areas slows down. This can make it a bit harder to remember names, find the right words, multitask or stay focused. To a certain extent, these are normal changes that come with ageing. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have Alzheimer’s or another serious memory problem. Alzheimer’s and dementia cause much more severe difficulties with memory and everyday tasks. So, if you notice some mild forgetfulness or find tasks a bit more challenging, it’s likely just a regular part of getting older.
Simple lifestyle changes, such as staying mentally active through puzzles, reading or learning new skills, can contribute to cognitive vitality. Social engagement is equally important, as it has been linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline. Consider joining clubs, volunteering, or spending quality time with friends and family.
When you get older, your heart rate doesn’t increase as much during exercise as it used to. Due to the thickening of heart walls and stiffer valves, blood may have a harder time flowing through the body as well. Additionally, your heart’s electrical system may start to malfunction, which can lead to an irregular heartbeat.
In terms of prevention, some of the helpful strategies you can adopt include eating a heart-healthy diet, doing regular exercise and refraining from smoking.
As you age, your skin loses its firmness, and wrinkles become more noticeable due to reduced collagen and elastin production. You may also find that you bruise more and sweat less. Your skin may be drier and more papery. It might be itchy and more easily irritated, too. It can help to switch to gentle soap and moisturise regularly.
Older adults often experience changes in sleep duration and may find it more challenging to stay asleep through the night. You might notice a tendency to wake up earlier in the morning. Additionally, the time spent in deep, restorative sleep tends to decrease.
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment and adopting relaxation techniques can contribute to better sleep quality in your later years.
Your bladder likely won’t be able to hold as much as it once did, and the muscles that support it tend to get weaker with age. This can result in a more frequent need to visit the bathroom, especially during the night. Additionally, the bladder may not empty as completely as it once did.
While these changes are a normal part of ageing, staying hydrated, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and practising pelvic floor exercises can help manage bladder health and minimise any inconvenience. If concerns arise, consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable for personalised guidance.
Your immune system
The production of immune cells may decrease, and their effectiveness in responding to infections can diminish. This can make older adults more susceptible to illnesses and infections. Additionally, the body’s ability to develop a robust response to vaccines may decline, but it’s still important to get shots for flu, pneumonia and shingles. On the plus side, allergies are less severe and developing an autoimmune disorder is rare at this age.
Your pupils may take longer than usual to adjust to sudden changes in light so you’ll need more time to adjust when you move between the indoors and bright sunlight. It may become increasingly difficult to make out smaller details because there are fewer cells in your eyes to send messages about what you see back to your brain.
Regular eye check-ups, wearing appropriate eyeglasses or contact lenses, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including protecting your eyes from UV rays, are essential for preserving vision as you grow older.
Your hearing may start to diminish and it may become more difficult for you to make out higher-pitched noises. Background noise can also interfere more with your conversations. If you find it harder to hear everyday sounds, talk to your doctor about things that can help.
It’s important to be aware of the potential health problems and changes that you might encounter as you get older. Eating a balanced diet and doing regular exercise are essential to staying healthy. It is also important to stay socially active and challenge yourself mentally, as it could help fight mental decline. It is also wise to opt for routine checkups with your doctor to take care of any sort of vision, hearing, digestion and other issues before they get any worse.
Were you aware of the health changes that can happen in your 70s? Are there any more you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments section below.
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.