Getting older comes with a lot of benefits, but it challenges our bodies as well. The wear and tear of living affects many areas – sometimes painfully – from the muscles to the bones to the joints, but knowing what to expect as you age can help you prepare for and manage it when it arrives.
Arthritis, a degenerative disease that causes the cartilage which pads our joints to deteriorate, is the one of the most common conditions affecting seniors today – as many as half of people over 65 suffer from it. Arthritis is painful and can limit even everyday activity, which has emotional affects as well, lowering quality of life overall. Even in those without arthritis, joints lose flexibility and may develop calcium deposits.
Bones begin to lose mass and mineral content, such as calcium, as we get older, and the rate speeds up for women during and after menopause especially. This makes them brittle and more prone to breakage, even from a minor fall; in the spine, this can cause painful bone spurs to develop on the vertebrae. Some people develop a more stooped posture or find they move less steadily.
Muscles tend to become stiffer and less flexible as well, and they lose mass overall. It also becomes harder to maintain or tone muscles at the same rate, even with regular exercise. This is not to say that you should limit exercise, since it can actually help ease soreness and stiffness, along with easing – or helping prevent – the pain of other conditions.
Endurance and energy levels shift and begin to fall: you’ll likely find you have less energy than you once did for everyday activities, and even athletes lose endurance during strenuous physical activity. During activities such as running or playing sports, you’ll probably have to rest more frequently, stop sooner, or perform with less intensity in order to prevent injury.
Eating a well-balanced diet and getting enough exercise are two of the simplest and most effective ways to help prevent and manage the pains of aging, as are getting enough sleep and avoiding smoking. Seeking early treatment is also important, especially for conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis.