Don’t let aging get you down…
What happens to your body as you age?
Isn’t it enough that we must endure a season of dirty politics and a record heat wave and drought? Now here I come with a reminder that we are all getting older.
Today’s workforce is aging. There’s no getting around it, with over 50 percent belonging to the Baby Boomer generation. Every year almost 30 million Americans incur a “musculoskeletal” (bones and joints) injury, costing our society in excess of $250 billion dollars.
For this reason alone, it’s important to take a closer look at your body’s normal aging process.
As we age, our bodies embark on a general decline in muscle strength and flexibility. This process makes everyday activities such as walking, taking a shower, putting on clothes, and doing daily work all more difficult to accomplish. This increases the likelihood of musculoskeletal fatigue and injury. Joints get stiff, muscles and tendons aren’t as elastic as they once were and range of motion in virtually all body parts begins to diminish.
Our metabolic rate also slows as we age, making it more difficult to keep off excess weight. So, it’s important to consider ways to increase the metabolic rate again…safely.
Most of us know that by doing aerobic exercises such as walking, biking, jogging, running and swimming, we speed up our heart rate and the rate at which our body burns calories for energy. What you may not know is that strength training increases your metabolic rate over the long term by increasing lean muscle mass. The more muscle you build, the faster your metabolic rate, thus the more energy you have for everyday activities.
Now, I’m not talking “body-building’ or “pumping iron” levels of resistance training, rather, the kind that provides reasonable resistance when performing the exercises without over-stressing the joints, muscles and tendons. Many studies have shown that, the minute resistance training begins, there is an immediate release of stored fat for conversion to glucose to supply energy for the exercises.
With age, your body’s motor nerves begin to deteriorate, leading to slower reaction time. Things like balance and hand-eye coordination becomes weaker over time.
Staying active and always challenging the body can slow this process.
Loss of calcium increase over time as well, which can lead to the weakening of our bones and an increased risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Females reach their peak bone mass by approximately age 14 to 16, while males reach theirs around the age of 18 to 19. The more active children are, the healthier and more dense their peak bone mass will become. Drinking milk and/or taking calcium and magnesium supplements are also important to building strong and healthy bones.
The body’s ability to maintain a normal body temperature (98.6 degrees) declines with age as well. This puts us at risk during extreme temperatures. In addition, the body’s ability to use glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream declines, increasing the risk for diabetes.
Diabetes on the increase
Another age-related issue on the increase – diabetes.
There are approximately 17 million diabetics in the United States today costing $117 billion in annual healthcare costs. Diabetes is a huge epidemic in America today as rates of obesity and inactivity continue to increase at staggering rates. By watching what and how much you eat and doing strength training/aerobics, you can prevent diabetes (type II) or significantly improve your blood glucose control, thereby reducing the long term side effects of diabetes such as vision problems, “neuropathy” in the lower extremities and kidney problems, to name a few.
Good vs. evil cholesterol
Over time, the ratio of High-Density Lipoproteins, or HDL (good) to Low-Density Lipoproteins or LDL (bad) cholesterol shifts in favor of the “bad” cholesterol.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to increase your blood levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Increasing your intake of unsaturated fats, while decreasing intake of saturated fat has been shown to boost HDL levels.
Your body also has a steady increase in blood pressure as you get older, in large part due to “hardening of the arteries” which robs the vessels of their elasticity. Maintaining a healthy body weight can have a positive impact on blood pressure. Remember, they don’t call hypertension (high blood pressure) the “silent killer” for no reason.
You can’t stop the aging process, but you can impact it and slow it down. Eat right, exercise right and understand your body’s limitations.
Red Skelton once said, “There are three signs of old age; the first is loss of memory…I forget the other two.”
Wow, I’m getting depressed just writing this article. Somebody turn back the clock.
There was a line in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” that I’ll never, ever forget, and it can certainly apply to all aspects of our lives, not just health maintenance. It goes like this: “Get busy living, or get busy dying. Your call.”
Chisholm’s expertise in nursing, orthopedics and surgery spans more than 30 years. For more information on orthopedic-related topics, visit www.bone-and-joint-pain.com. Submit questions or comments to Ken at