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Symptoms of Aging: What’s Normal and What Isn’t?

symptoms of aging

When you looked in the mirror this morning, what did you see? You may have noticed that your skin and hair looks different than it did a year ago. They probably look very different from five years ago.

The signs of aging are everywhere, from our hair to our bones. We also notice the signs in our thinking, memory, and mood.

It’s completely normal to notice your mind and body change over the years. Aging happens to the best of us. But, there are some signs that need further investigation.

Are you experiencing the symptoms of aging, or something more serious? Keep reading to find out the common effects of aging and when you need to get them checked out.

Changes in Eyesight

Almost everyone will need glasses when they age. As the lenses in our eyes age, they become more flexible. This changes our field of vision and strength of the eye muscles.

You may notice a decrease in your peripheral vision. To see the far sides of your vision, you’ll start turning your neck and head more. And, it becomes harder to see at night.

These are normal signs of aging in our eyes and shouldn’t cause much concern. But, there are other symptoms that could be signs of more serious conditions.

If you start experiencing pain in your eyes and reddening around the eyes, see a doctor. These are early signs of glaucoma, a disease that can lead to vision loss.

Another concern in the aging population is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Early symptoms you might notice are blurry and distorted vision. Any change in your vision should spur a visit to the eye doctor.

Changes in Skin

We all know the signs of aging in the skin: sagging, fine lines, wrinkles, and sun spots. If you’ve ever watched TV, you’ve seen a commercial for anti-aging skin products. You also likely know that eating a nutrient-rich diet benefits our skin, among other body parts.

As much as we try to halt the aging process, it’s going to happen. Our skin will look different in five, ten, and fifteen years from now. Sagging, fine lines, and wrinkles are normal.

The sunspots you develop may cause some concern. Sometimes what we think are freckles or harmless moles are actually melanoma. Stay on the safe side and get any new spots or moles checked by your doctor.

Changes in Muscles

Our muscles lose density and mass as we age. The consequences are becoming weaker and less flexible. We also lose balance more easily.

Because of the loss of muscle density, it’s normal for older people to lose weight. But, in some cases, weight loss is a symptom of cancer-induced anorexia. It can also be a sign of a nutrient deficiency, a parasite infection, or hyperthyroidism.

You can ward off muscle density loss from age by staying active. Go for walks, runs, or bike rides. Eat a full and nutritious diet.

If you notice sudden weight loss or unexplained weight loss, that’s cause for concern.

Changes in Hair

Do you remember the first time you found a grey hair? For many, this is a big moment that spurs anxiety over the aging process.

Genetics play a huge part in your hair changes through the years. Some people lose hair and become bald. Others keep their dark hair until the very end.

Either way, you’re bound to notice a change in the texture and growth in your hair. For women, hair is strongly affected by estrogen production. After menopause, estrogen decreases and so does your hair’s ability to grow long and strong.

In both sexes, the cells in our hair follicles change with age. These cells shrink over time which only allows thinner wisps of hair to grow. When we’re younger, the cells are larger and can produce thicker strands.

Most of the time, changes in hair due to age are normal. You need to see a doctor if large patches are falling out in one instance. Or, if it’s causing severe stress and anxiety for your mental state.

Changes in the Brain

Do you often misplace your keys? Forget that you already have milk at home when grocery shopping? It’s super normal and expected to become more forgetful as you age.

When we age, the weight and density of our brains start to decrease. Our neural networks also decrease. This causes general forgetfulness.

Over 40 percent of older adults experience some memory loss. But the line between normal and abnormal forgetfulness is blurry.

Alzheimer’s and dementia are extremely common conditions that affect memory and personality. If you start to forget where you are and who you are, you need to see a doctor. The path to that intensity of memory loss is a gradual one, though.

It’s a good idea to track your memory loss with a journal. Or through family and friends’ observation. Keep the brain active with problem-solving and critical thinking.

Changes in the Stomach

As we age, our stomachs produce less stomach acid. We need acid to break down our food and enable the absorption of nutrients. It’s an integral part of the digestive system.

Unfortunately, this decrease in acid is the reason many seniors have stomach problems. Some have frequent heartburn, GI infections, and severe indigestion.

These are treatable conditions that geriatric doctors see all the time.

If you become deficient in certain nutrients due to low stomach acidity, this is more serious. Even if you eat healthy foods, your body isn’t getting the vitamins. Many seniors develop anemia, B12 deficiency, and magnesium deficiency.

These deficiencies can lead to a who slew of health problems. Taking doctor-recommended supplements and multivitamins are sometimes helpful.

Are You Experiencing the Symptoms of Aging?

If you’re noticing the symptoms of aging in your own mind and body, welcome to the club! We all go through these changes and you shouldn’t feel alone.

But it’s crucial that you know when a symptom is normal and when it’s not. Some signs of aging can also be signs of more serious underlying conditions.

For more information on the aging process, senior health, and dementia and Alzheimer’s care, check out the resources blog.