The physical and mental changes of aging can pose challenges, but if you're aware of what conditions the aging process will bring, you can take proactive steps today to ensure that you continue aging healthily. By doing so, you can ensure that you have a solid foundation of mental and physical wellness on which to build an enjoyable and fulfilling retirement.
Sensory Changes: Vision, Hearing and Balance
Changes in vision can begin in middle age. If you work on a computer all day, you may eventually notice that your near vision isn't as sharp as it once was. You might feel less comfortable driving at night due to difficulties with glare or seeing at a distance. Age-related macular degeneration, which can impair vision, is a common condition that can occur as early as age 60 and may affect driving ability, the National Center for Biotechnology Information notes. Maintaining your sight may depend on seeing the right doctor at the right time, so be sure to schedule annual appointments with an opthalmologist for regular eye and vision screenings.
Hearing loss is another sensory change that can occur gradually with aging. If you have to ask people to repeat information frequently, or you notice that low or high tones are becoming difficult to hear, you should schedule a hearing exam. Balance-related issues may also come with age and can be related to changes in the ear. An audiologist can diagnose hearing and balance conditions and help you find suitable treatments.
Changes Within the Body
Balance issues may lead to falls and fractures, which are serious concerns for older adults. To help counteract balance issues, consider taking daily walks. Walking can improve circulation, strengthen muscles and joints and boost your mood.
It can be easy to ignore dental health until tooth pain arises — after all, who likes to go to the dentist? But remaining attentive to your dental health is important, especially for aging people taking medications, which can result in dry mouth and make teeth and gums more vulnerable to decay, according to the American Dental Association. Minimize dental concerns by brushing and flossing twice daily, and aim to see your dentist every six months for a cleaning.
Digestive issues that come with aging, such as indigestion, constipation or loose stools can be challenging. Stomach problems may be tied to prescription medications, lack of exercise, dehydration, smoking or a low-fiber diet. To address stomach-related issues, request a referral to see a gastroenterologist.
Cognitive Changes and Memory Loss
Changes in memory can occur with age as the brain's processing ability slows down. With normal aging, the slowing of brain processes tied to executive function can make remembering information, performing familiar tasks, problem-solving and initiating tasks more challenging.
If you have concerns about memory, consider seeing a primary care physician, as a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment can progress to dementia or Alzheimer's. Other early signs of dementia or Alzheimer's include new difficulties with mathematics and managing money. If your family has a history of memory loss, request a referral to a neurologist for a complete examination.
There are steps you can take to counteract memory loss. Research from Northwestern University on "super-agers" in their 80s confirms the potential benefits of physical activity and mental stimulation (such as doing Sudoku or reading about an unfamiliar subject) for keeping the brain engaged. The research notes that muscle-strengthening exercises can reduce your risk of falls, while exercising twice a week could lower your chances of developing Alzheimer's.
Take Proactive Steps Today
Preventative actions such as regular check-ups, vaccinations and routine examinations can help address both physical and mental changes of aging. Taking steps now to address any developing health concerns can allow for early identification and treatment, which could make a significant difference in whether or not a condition becomes more serious as time progresses. By keeping track of your physical and mental well-being and seeking professional assistance where necessary, you can adapt to life's changes and make the most of your golden years.