While the signs of aging might look somewhat different to some of us versus others, there are some widely accepted indicators that you’re acing this aging thing.
Signs that you’re aging well include:
- Making long-term plans
- Maintaining a good outward appearance
- Managing your medications
- Taking care of physical and mental health
- Learning new things
- Having a solid community
How many of these indicators do you identify with? If you’re eager to learn more about what constitutes healthy versus unhealthy aging to set yourself on the right track, it’s never too late to start!
What Is Considered Healthy Aging?
Isn’t this the million-dollar question? Healthy aging breaks in your golden years down into five broad categories.
Aging changes the way we eat.
You might not have quite the appetite you once did, which is fine, considering you don’t need as many calories, either.
Your metabolism can slow, making it harder to lose weight, especially if you’ve reduced your physical activity due to muscle or bone mass loss, medical conditions, or illness.
While you don’t need as many calories, you need just as many nutrients as you did in your adult years and often more.
Your doctor will recommend which nutrients, minerals, and vitamins can support your health goals.
You can get nutrients through your diet or by taking supplements.
Social Community And Engagement
Loneliness is an epidemic in older adults.
According to the CDC, citing a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, over one-third of adults 45 and up experience loneliness, and almost one-fourth of those 65 and up feel it.
Although it’s tempting to shut yourself off in older age, now is among the most important times in your life to surround yourself with positive, loving, supportive people.
After all, loneliness and social isolation can increase health risks. The CDC states that lonely people with heart failure are four times likelier to die.
Loneliness and social isolation can also elevate stroke risk by 32 percent, heart disease risk by 29 percent, and dementia risk by 50 percent.
Your rate of premature death rises, as does your likelihood of experiencing anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Maintaining Cognitive Health
Cognition naturally declines as you get older, but you don’t have to let yours fall by the wayside.
Here are some pointers to help you take care of your brain:
- Understand the differences between natural cognitive decline versus Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- Play brain games, such as video games, crosswords, and memory games.
- Continue learning new things to keep your brain sharp.
- Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about your cognition.
Good Mental Health
You already know that isolation can decrease mental health, but the elderly are at a higher risk of poor mental health from more than just that.
Psychosis, dementia, anxiety, depression, fear of death, and unhappiness about aging can lead to a mental health decline.
Many of the points discussed here can attribute to better mental health outcomes in the elderly, from having a supportive social circle to maintaining a good diet.
You can also exercise, spend time outside, cut back (or eliminate) alcohol and tobacco, and see a counselor or therapist.
Taking Care Of Physical Health
Your physical abilities will decrease as you rack up more birthdays.
That’s inevitable, but keeping physically active can strengthen cognition, keep you limber, reduce pain, improve social connections, benefit your mental health, manage your weight, reduce your fall risk, and lower your risk of deadly conditions like heart disease.
What Does Normal Aging Look Like?
Aging affects your entire body; from changes you can see to those you can’t. However, sometimes, deciding what’s normal and what isn’t can be confusing.
Here are signs of normal aging, however, if you still have questions about a personal health change you’re experiencing, speak with your doctor.
Even if your memory was once as sharp as a tack, aging can cause you to become forgetful. It will happen, sometimes more regularly than you’d like.
You can forget things daily and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The abovementioned reduction in metabolism means eating at your normal speed can pack on the pounds.
Tweaking your diet and increasing the amount of exercise you get per week can help you manage or lose weight.
Blood Pressure Changes
According to the National Institutes of Health, 60 percent of people will have high blood pressure by 60, and 65 to 75 percent by 70, with women likelier to be diagnosed with hypertension by that age.
Diet management, exercising, and medications prescribed by your doctor can help you control your blood pressure.
Even if you take care of your skin, you can’t stop it from losing elasticity and becoming thinner.
The latter is due to the loss of fatty tissue that aging naturally causes. Since your body doesn’t make as many natural oils, your skin can dry out.
You might also notice skin tags, age spots, and wrinkles in greater abundance.
Smoking accelerates skin aging, so cut out that habit if you can.
Otherwise, protect your skin, using moisturizers and sunscreen when outdoors. Avoid showering in hot water, as that will dry out your skin more.
You used to be able to go, go, go like the Energizer Bunny, but these days, you get tired out just walking from one part of your home to another. Totally normal!
You’re more fatigued because your arteries and heart are undergoing major changes, stiffening and thickening.
This reduces your vivacity, but it’s important not to become sedentary just because you lose your breath sooner. Maintain a good exercise schedule and you can build back your stamina.
As your bones and muscle lose mass, your physical strength becomes a thing of the past.
Exercising is again the key to maintaining and boosting your strength, especially stretching and weight training.
Oral Health Changes
Check what’s going on in your mouth – it might not be what you’d expect!
Aging can cause dry mouth (mostly medications associated with aging), tooth decay, and receding gums. Brushing and flossing twice a day are more important than ever, as are yearly dental appointments.
What’s that? If you’re constantly asking people to repeat themselves because you can’t hear them, you have presbycusis, which is hearing loss from aging.
Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that in people 65 and up, one in three of them will have hearing loss.
It doesn’t necessarily come on all at once, usually beginning as having a hard time hearing higher pitches and some sounds being muffled.
Seeing your doctor to discuss your hearing and possibly undergoing hearing tests could help you manage your hearing. You might have to use a hearing aid or another type of device.
Visual Health Changes
Seeing items closer to you can become more difficult as you age, and you might struggle to see well after dark.
Glare can affect you more than it ever has.
You will probably need glasses for reading at least, but you might require a prescription for everyday use.
You should see your eye doctor at least yearly, as they can test for glaucoma and cataracts, two conditions that can potentially rob you of your vision.
Age causes a loss of bone density. Your bones also shrink.
These factors increase your fracture and breakage risk, so begin incorporating at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium into your diet per day if you’re 51 and older.
Vitamin D, weight maintenance, and exercise can also help you build stronger bones and reduce fall risks.
What Determines If You Age Well?
Aging well is as much about mental vivacity as it is physical. Here are some signs you’re embracing your life and the ups and downs of aging.
Making Long-Term Plans
You believe the future is bright, so you have no difficulties making long-term plans.
You don’t anticipate a sudden health decline, as you take good care of yourself and take the medications prescribed to you.
Maintaining A Good Outward Appearance
Although you know you don’t look as youthful as you once did, you still take pride in your appearance.
You dress comfortably but nicely, brush your teeth and floss, maintain your hair, and perhaps even wear makeup or do your nails.
You want to put your best face forward.
Managing Your Medications
You know your medications help you feel your best, so you never skip a dose.
You might use apps or another reminder system so you don’t miss a dosage, and you always contact your doctor or pharmacist when running low on meds so you can get a refill.
You know the symptoms your medications can cause and will talk to your doctor if the side effects reduce your quality of life.
Taking Care Of Physical And Mental Health
You know that your health is all you’ve got, and that you’ll have to work harder than ever to maintain it as you age.
You have a solid exercise routine, and you’ve gotten your routine approved by your doctor to ensure you don’t push yourself too hard.
You also manage your mental health, whether through physical activity, stress relief techniques, investing time into hobbies and interests, or seeing a professional like a therapist.
Learning New Things
You have more time than you once did, and you’re always eager to fill it.
You look for new activities and hobbies to try, whether it’s playing piano, learning a language, taking a cooking class, or learning to crochet.
You know these hobbies will keep you from being bored and help you stay mentally and physically happy and sharp.
Having A Solid Community
Although you spend time alone, you prioritize being with others when you can, whether a spouse or partner, adult children, neighbors, or friends.
You pick up the phone and talk or FaceTime when you can’t see those most important to you.
What Are The Signs Of Unhealthy Aging?
Just as healthy aging has many outward indicators, so does aging poorly. Here are some to be aware of:
- You look older than you are
- You have varicose veins
- You’ve gained weight
- Brain fog affects your day-to-day life
- You deal with chronic inflammation
- You don’t get enough sleep
- You always feel tired
- You have joint or muscle pain
- You have deep wrinkles
Aging is a delicate process we must all endure. Passively aging can lead to unwanted side effects, from weight gain to deep wrinkles and dry skin.
Caring for your physical and mental health more carefully as you age will help you unlock the key to vitality.