People experience many changes as they grow older. Eventually every part of the body is altered in some way. While these age-related changes are inevitable, you do have a fair amount of control over the speed at which they occur. By making healthy lifestyle choices, you can put the brakes on changes linked to aging, helping you stay fit and strong well into your later years.
Let’s take a look at the common ways your body changes as you age and how you CAN do something about it!
1. Body Fat Increases
As people age, their body fat tends to increase and their muscle mass tends to decrease. These changes in body composition start around age 30 and often pick up speed after age 40.
Shifting hormones play an important role in these changes. Testosterone levels in men and estrogen levels in women start to wane as the years pass, making it harder to retain muscle mass and easier to accumulate fat. Metabolism begins a slow decline as early as age 25, contributing to the changes many people start noticing in their 40s.
Body composition is an area where your lifestyle can make a big difference. A healthy, balanced diet in addition to regular exercise can help you avoid fat gain and keep your muscles strong.
To get the most benefit:
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 times per week
- Minimize sugar intake
- Eat a well-balanced diet rich in fat, protein, and carbohydrates
2. Bones Lose Density
Bones lose density with age, and this density loss can lead to osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to weaken and become more likely to break. Bone density loss often speeds up in women after menopause because the body produces less estrogen, a hormone that protects bone mass. As you grow older, your body doesn’t absorb calcium as well and your levels of vitamin D decrease. Combined, these two factors lead to a reduction in bone density in both men and women.
To minimize bone density loss:
- Maintain a healthy diet that includes enough calcium and vitamin D
- Try strength training exercises 3-4 times a week to make your bones stronger and help prevent falls
3. Plaque Starts to Form in Your Arteries
As you age, cholesterol causes plaque to build up in your arteries, resulting in reduced blood flow. When blood can’t flow freely, your risk of heart attack increases. If you smoke or eat a poor diet, your blood vessels may weaken, allowing plaque to get in and further corrode your arteries.
Diet and exercise can slow plaque build-up. It’s hard to get rid of plaque once you have it, so the earlier you start getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet, the better. Foods that help you fight plaque include asparagus, wild-caught salmon, and avocado.
It’s Not All Downhill
Not all age-related changes are negative. Studies have shown that people tend to get happier during old age. While people report high levels of happiness at age 18, they begin reporting lower levels in their early 20s. Happiness appears to bottom out around age 50. However, after age 50, happiness begins to rebound. In fact, people in their 80s report feeling more satisfied with themselves than people in their late teens.
Growing older can be uncomfortable, but learning about the changes taking place in your body can alleviate much of the anxiety surrounding the aging process. Lifestyle is important when it comes to slowing age-related changes, so don’t wait to adjust your routine. You can start making lifestyle changes right now to living a long, happy and healthy life.