Aging: What to expect
Wonder what's considered a normal part of the aging process? Here's what to expect as you get older — and what to do about it.By Mayo Clinic Staff
You know that aging will likely cause you to develop wrinkles and gray hair. But do you know how the aging process will affect your teeth, heart and sexuality? Find out what kind of changes you can expect in your body as you continue aging — and what you can do to promote good health at any age.
Your cardiovascular system
As you age, your heart rate becomes slightly slower, and your heart might become bigger. Your blood vessels and your arteries also become stiffer, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood through them. This can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and other cardiovascular problems.
What you can do
To promote heart health:
- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Try walking, swimming or other activities you enjoy. Regular moderate physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and lessen the extent of arterial stiffening.
- Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat and sodium. A healthy diet can help you keep your heart and arteries healthy.
- Don't smoke. Smoking contributes to the hardening of your arteries and increases your blood pressure and heart rate. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit.
- Manage stress. Stress can take a toll on your heart. Take steps to reduce stress — or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.
- Get enough sleep. Quality sleep plays an important role in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. People's needs vary, but generally aim for 7 to 8 hours a night.
Your bones, joints and muscles
With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density — which weakens them and makes them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength and flexibility, and you might become less coordinated or have trouble balancing.
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