No matter how old you might be, making your health top priority is essential longevity. More and more people today are living well into their 80’s and 90’s, with many living up to 100 years old and even more. If you want to live to a ripe old age, there are many things we as humans can do. Eating right of course, exercising and generally just being happy and stress free.
Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions about aging that are easy to come by. You may have even met an older person who fits a common stereotype. But here's a reality check: Age doesn't define who a person is.
When it comes to ageing, the bottom line is it’s important to stay on top of your health, and managing your health through diet and exercise becomes more important than ever. Let’s explore some important and common things to check as you get older, and we’ve added in some fun facts about ageing as well.
Checking your Blood pressure
Having high blood pressure can cause a heart attack, a stroke, eye problems and kidney problems. Worst of all, you probably wouldn’t even know you’ve got high blood pressure. As you can well imagine this is why it is so important to get your blood pressure checked occasionally even if you don’t feel unwell.
If your blood pressure is lower than 120/80, at least once every 2 years is usually fine. If it’s higher, your doctor probably will want to check it more often. A blood pressure test is easy and painless, your doctor or nurse will use a cuff that fits around your upper arm and is inflated until it becomes tight. The test only takes a minute.
Ageing Fact #1
Carstensen, a psychology professor at Stanford University and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, said the percentage of people on the planet who are over 65 is expected to more than double by the year 2050, and the fastest-growing segment of the population is people over age 85.
Check your Cholesterol
Did you know that heart disease is one of the top causes of death in the U.S?
One of its main risk factors is high cholesterol.
Doctors recommend that after you turn 20, you should start getting your cholesterol tested at least once every 4 to 6 years. All it takes is a simple blood test to show your levels, and if there is a risk for heart disease.
Another thing worth noting is as you age, your risk for heart disease goes up.
Ageing Fact #2
As far as myths go, there are far too many floating around about ageing. One myth in particular is about calories intake. Do fewer calories really mean a longer life? Unfortunately, it’s not really that cut and dry.
Calorie restriction has been shown to slow ageing and the onset of disease in monkeys, and it might have beneficial effects in people. The CR Society offers books like The CR Way, full of low-calorie meal ideas that support the less-is-more approach to longevity.
In truth, we just don't know that the benefit of strict diets lies solely in their calorie content. Increasingly, it seems that many of the positive effects of calorie restriction on ageing may be unrelated to caloric intake.
Hungry animals and people tend to eat faster, and as a result spend more of their day eating nothing. These extended periods of abstinence are enough to slow ageing in mice, whether overall calorie intake is reduced or not. The science uncoupling the effects of fasting and calorie restriction on ageing is in its infancy.
Get checked for Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)
AAA screening is a way of checking if there’s a bulge or swelling in the aorta. In case you didn’t know, the aorta is the main blood vessel in the body. The aortas job is to pump blood from the heart to around the body – so, the aorta has one job which is important, and keeping on top of it is the right thing to do.
FYI - An abdominal aortic aneurysm won’t often have symptoms, so the test can pick up an AAA before it bursts.
The screening test involves an ultrasound on your stomach. This test is super-fast and completely painless – best of all, it’s very reliable.
Ageing fact #3
You’ve probably noticed we are living a lot longer than ever before. Of course, 1000 years ago we didn’t have the medical technology and knowledge we have today; however, the phenomenon – why and how we’re living longer – has got many in the scientific and medical communities excited.
If you were to look at a graph depicting life expectancy in the world’s longest-lived countries – a list that includes Sweden, Norway, Japan and non-Maori New Zealanders, among others – you’ll see a striking 45-degree line tracing the increase in life expectancy from 45 years old in Sweden in 1840 to almost 85 in Japan in 2000.
And speaking of Japan – check this out!
Check your PSA (for men)
Your PSA levels measure how well your prostate is working. A PSA test, or prostate-specific antigen test, tells your doctor how much of the PSA protein is being produced by your prostate. If your PSA levels are higher than normal, it may indicate prostate cancer. If the blood test comes back with a PSA level above 4.0, your doctor may request that you have a biopsy done to check for cancer. The PSA test is typically recommended annually for men over 50. But some doctors suggest African American men should be screened at age 40. However, it depends on the individual doctor’s suggestion for the patient’s situation.
Ageing Fact #4
Women live longer than men – We’ve all heard this, and we are conditioned to expect it. According to the World Health Organization, American women live five years longer than men. Historically, the gap was even larger. The relative paucity of elderly men was vividly illustrated recently in New Jersey at the world’s largest gathering of centenarians: only 2 of the 40 participating centenarians were men.
Scientists have been pondering the discrepancy in life expectancy between the sexes for decades. One reason men live shorter lives, experts say, is because they have a propensity to high-risk behaviors such as alcohol abuse, smoking, driving recklessly and going to war. Some of the latest research indicates differences in the male immune system may be a big part of the reason men live shorter lives, too.
So, guys no brainier here – stop acting reckless and you might live longer.
Check your boobs - Mammogram (for women)
Most doctors recommend women start getting annual mammograms at age 50. Mammograms check for breast cancer. However, if you have a family history of the disease, some doctors may recommend getting tested earlier. Breast cancer risk increases greatly at age 50, but it’s at its highest when you’re over 70.
Don’t skimp on your yearly mammogram — it could save your life.
The test involves an x-ray of each breast being taken. Each breast is placed in turn on the x-ray machine and is gently but firmly compressed with a clear plate. The compression only lasts a few seconds, but some women do find this slightly uncomfortable.
Ageing Fact #5
As women age, they have better sex. Turns out that older women have sex less often, but apparently, they make it count! In a study of women 40 and over, researchers found that sexual satisfaction improved with age. Women over 80 were more likely than those between 55 and 79 to say they were satisfied during sex.
Get your eyes checked
Okay, let’s face it – any hopes you might have of 20/20 vision in your 50’s is a pipe dream. We certainly don’t mean to be harsh, but it’s the truth. But here is the good news, if you get your eyes tested, you can make sure your vision is where it should be.
In all seriousness, as we age, we also notice our eyesight isn’t as sharp as it once was. Vision problems can pose a danger in everyday life, especially while driving. And after age 40, you may start to lose sharpness in your eyes due to the lens hardening (this is natural with aging). But once you hit 50, the symptoms can escalate, so you should have annual eye exams to make sure your vision is still up to par.
Ageing Fact #6
Your eyeballs grow as you age – There is a common misconception that your eyes remain the same size from birth to adulthood. As a newborn, your eyes measure about three-fifths of an inch from front to back, compared to a little under an inch in adults. Your eyes actually grow a great deal in the first two years of life, and another growth spurt occurs when you go through puberty. The confusion likely stems from the fact that your eyes as a 6-month-old infant are two-thirds the size they will be when you’re an adult.
Check your bones
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, 75 million people are affected by osteoporosis in Japan, Europe, and the United States. Both women and men are at risk for this condition, however women are affected more often.
Osteoporosis is no joke. If you have it and you suffer a fracture -- especially of the hip -- you've significantly increased your risk of permanent disability or death. That’s exactly why you need to get serious and ask your doctor to refer you for a bone density test.
Women should have a bone density test at age 65.
A bone density scan measures bone mass, which is a key indicator of bone strength.
Naturally, our body starts to absorb older bone tissue before new bone tissue can be made, which weakens our bones and makes them prone to breakage. This condition, which is almost impossible to detect before an accident happens, is called osteoporosis.
A regular bone scan can literally save your life.
Ageing Fact #7
At birth the human skeleton is made up of around 300 bones. By adulthood, some bones have fused together to end up with 206 bones. Human bones grow continually from birth till our mid 20's. Our skeleton's bone mass is at its maximum density around the age of 30. If broken, our bones will re-grow and repair themselves. Often doctors will place a cast on splint to make sure these bones repair straight and true.
More cool facts about bones you didn’t know…
There are 26 bones in the human foot.
The human hand, including the wrist, contains 54 bones.
The femur, or thighbone, is the longest and strongest bone of the human skeleton.
The stapes, in the middle ear, is the smallest and lightest bone of the human skeleton.
Get your skin checked
It is after all, our biggest organ!
Checking out our skin is important for many reasons, amongst one of them is those age spots or moles. Whether you check yourself or visit a specialist clinic, keeping an eye on moles can help you spot the early signs of skin cancer. Most moles are harmless, but sometimes they can develop into a rare form of skin cancer called malignant melanoma.
If you notice a change in the colour, size or shape of an existing mole ask your doctor to look at it and, if necessary, refer you for further testing.
It is worth noting that melanoma is the fifth most common cancer, and as with all cancers, early detection and treatment increases your chances of surviving it. If you find a suspect mole you will be referred for further tests and a specialist may decide to cut the mole out. If it is found to be a melanoma you may need further tests to check that the cancer has not spread.
Ageing Fact #8
Aging skin looks thinner, paler, and clear (translucent). We soon develop large pigmented spots, including age spots, liver spots, or lentigos, may appear in sun-exposed areas. Changes in the connective tissue reduce the skin's strength and elasticity as well.
But please, try to contain your excitement.
Don’t fear, medical science and loads of studies have proven we can in fact slow the ageing process.
Get your hearing checked
About 43 percent of Americans with hearing loss are age 65 or older, making this an important issue in senior health. The most common form of age-related hearing loss is presbycusis, in which the ability to hear high-pitched sounds gradually decreases. Noise-induced hearing loss, the second most common type, occurs when you're exposed to loud sounds over time.
In both cases, the ability to hear high-frequency sounds usually is lost first. You may have difficulty hearing hard, high-pitched consonants like "S" or the voices of women or children. This is why it’s important to get checked, and asking your doctor is the easiest way.
The testing involved is painless and usually you don’t have a doctor poking around inside the hear.
Ageing Fact #9
Fun facts about hearing loss? Yes, yes there are.
Did you know:
Sitting close to loudspeakers at concerts (which can reach about 120 decibels) can damage your hearing in just 7.5 minutes!
At the age of 65, one in three adults has some hearing loss; however, a majority of the people who suffer from hearing loss are under age 65.
Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States.
Excessive noise exposure is the #1 cause of hearing loss.
The bones in the middle ear (malleus, incus, and stapes) are the body’s smallest bones. All three can fit together on the surface area of a penny. If that doesn’t convince you to take care of your hearing and ears, we don’t know what will.
Get your Thyroid checked - Thyroid-stimulating Hormone Screening
Thyroid problems can arise at any time, so this is a test you can actually have at any age. Thyroid-stimulating hormone, known as TSH, is produced by your thyroid and regulates many of your body’s functions, including weight, hair, and hormones.
But thyroid problems can throw other bodily functions out of whack, so it’s important to get your thyroid checked periodically.
Also worth noting is that sometimes the thyroid, a gland in your neck that regulates your body’s metabolic rate, may not produce enough hormones. This may lead to sluggishness, weight gain, or achiness. In men it may also cause problems such as erectile dysfunction.
All you need is a simple blood test that checks your level of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and determine if your thyroid is not functioning properly.
Ageing Fact #10
Let’s talk about the thyroid gland – did you know the thyroid gland is only 2 inches (5 centimeters) wide and it weighs between 20 and 60 grams (0.7 to 2.1 ounces)? How can something so small regulate so much you ask? Keep reading!
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the gland stretches across the front of the neck, to below the voice box. Like a butterfly, it has two wings called lobes that stretch around the windpipe. The wings are connected by a small piece called the isthmus.
The thyroid gland, in particular, controls just about every cell in the human body. It secretes hormones calcitonin, T4 (thyroxine, or tetraiodothyronine) and T3 (triiodothyronine) into the bloodstream. The hormones control the rate at which cells and organs turn nutrients into energy and the amount of oxygen cells use.
The thyroid also regulates the brain and nerve function and development, plus the function of the skin, hair, eyes, heart and intestines.
For the thyroid to remain healthy, it needs iodine to produce hormones, but just a little. It turns out that one teaspoonful of iodine is enough for a lifetime of thyroid hormone production. But the thyroid gland needs a constant supply of iodine, so we must intake iodine in some form on a daily basis and not all at once.
Too much iodine can actually make the thyroid produce less hormones.
The best way to get iodine is through eating healthy foods, such as seafood and dairy products. You can also get it by seasoning your food with iodized salt. Iodine was first added to salt in the United States in the 1920s to combat goiters.
Ageing gracefully and with common sense
Don't forget that taking care of your health extends beyond visiting your doctor's office. Just do the right thing not only for your health but for others as well. You can start by doing these few things:
Exercising regularly and watching your diet.
Not smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, or using drugs
Wearing seatbelts with lap/shoulder straps
Using smoke detectors
Using a helmet on bicycles and motorcycles
Practicing safe sex, using condoms
Driving safely, no alcohol or drugs
Being sensible, avoiding falls and injury
Getting help for depression and anxiety