1. Eyes. “Can I have a light with that menu?” Presbyopia will hit you after the age of 40. You will notice it's more difficult to focus on objects up close because of presbyopia. This is normal and happens due to hardening of the lens inside your eye. When you first notice presbyopia you may be able to compensate by holding your reading material farther away or holding a light to it. Eventually you will need reading glasses, multifocal contact lenses, or multifocal eyeglasses.
2. Ears. “Say what?” Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is the slow loss of hearing that occurs as people get older. Tiny hairs inside your ear help you hear and hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs inside the ear are damaged or die. About half of all people over age 75 have some amount of age-related hearing loss. We lose high frequency hearing first so women’s voices become harder to hear than men’s voices (how convenient.)
3. Sclera. The whites, well the “off whites” of your eyes. The color of the sclera changes with age from bluish (in babies) to yellowish. This is likely because of accumulation of fat in the scleral tissue.
4. Skin, especially on the neck. Wrinkles on the neck show your age, no matter how many creams you’ve put on it. The neck contains thinner skin, which is more sensitive to sun damage and other factors that wrinkle the skin. The muscles and skin tissue supporting the neck area are also weaker than that of the face so neck skin is more vulnerable to gravity over time.
5. Knees and Hips. All those years of no pain, no gain. There is no way to completely prevent the onset of osteoarthritis. Degenerative joint disease affects up to 80 percent of the elderly and can be debilitating. The only good news here is that some people who have knee and hip arthritis won’t have any symptoms. Oh, and there is also the option of knee and hip replacement.
6. Talk to the thumb. Arthritis of the thumb occurs at the joint found at the base of the thumb, where the thumb meets the wrist. This joint, the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint, is important when trying to grip or pinch. Thumb arthritis is more common in women than men, and increases in frequency over the age of 40 years. Anti-inflammatories, splints and cortisone injections may help, and surgery only as a last resort.
7. Memory. “What was his name again?” Normal age-related memory loss doesn't prevent you from living a full and productive life. You will notice, however, you may forget a person's name, but recall it later in the day. You might misplace your glasses or find that you need to make lists more often than in the past in order to remember appointments or tasks. That, my friends, is “normal” with aging.
8. The breasts. The one time we want more fat. In your 50s and 60s, hormonal changes will cause the amount of fat in your breasts to decline which will shrink your breasts. As women go through menopause, fat will replace most of the breast tissue and cause the breast to lose elasticity.
9. The valve at the end of your esophagus. “Why can’t I eat spicy Thai food now that I’m over 50?” Reflux disease (GERD) is more common in the elderly and causes heartburn with spicy foods. There is a valve at the lower end of the esophagus that is designed to keep acid in the stomach. In GERD, the valve relaxes too frequently, which allows acid to reflux, or flow backward.
10. The pelvic floor. Ladies, do your Kegels. The pelvic floor is the muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum, and it starts to fail as we get older. Symptoms include problems with urinary incontinence, and prolapse of the bladder or uterus. Twenty seven percent of women ages 40 to 59 and 37 percent of women ages 60 to 79 will experience pelvic floor dysfunction.
What did I miss?
- Dr. O
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