For many people, as they approach their Golden Years they start falling apart; figuratively, of course. Advanced age is often associated with Alzheimer’s, arthritis, incontinence, and a list of other health problems that can range from merely annoying to extremely painful. Over time, the gradual, natural process of stiffening of the muscles and joints can cause pain and limited movement.
Chiropractors use gentle joint and soft tissue manipulation as part of their treatment, and it can help provide long term pain relief, not just temporary pain suppression like the pain medications prescribed by the medical doctors provide. Certain medications may clash with each other, causing more damage than what they intend to fix, and sometimes causing a whole new problem altogether.
There are no side effects with chiropractic, and no adjustments will “clash” with each other causing new problems or exacerbating existing conditions. The list of health conditions associated with advanced age is long, so we’ll look at certain parts of the body and what you can do to keep them in shape and up to speed.
Remember as you read these “systems reviews” that everything is controlled and coordinated by the nervous system. And your Doctor of Chiropractic is a nervous system specialist. (Look for the research near the end that tells you how to stay out of the nursing home as you age.)
First, we’ll look at the cardiovascular system, or simply put, your heart and arteries:
Your cardiovascular system becomes less efficient over time. Your heart muscles become weaker, and your blood vessels become less flexible, in most people due to plaque build up. This can lead to high blood pressure, or hypertension, and other, more serious, heart conditions. Certain popular factors can help you reduce your chances of having heart problems, such as including physical exercise in your daily routine and eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you smoke, ask your doctor for help quitting. Your risk of heart disease will fall almost immediately. And remember, just because you feel healthy, doesn’t exactly mean you are healthy: for people who have suffered a heart attack, 40% of them experience death as their first symptom.
Your Bones, Joints, and Muscles Will Also Be Affected
With age, bones start to shrink in density and size, weakening and becoming fractured more easily. You might even become shorter because of this. Muscles tend to lose strength and flexibility, causing you to become less coordinated and start to lose your balance. This will become very annoying and frustrating as it gets worse, but there is a way you can fight it. As far as bones and joints go, include plenty of Vitamin D and calcium in your diet. Bones absorb calcium and vitamin D helps with the immune system, so you can focus your energy on building bone and not having to keep your immune system healthy. Also, weight bearing activities, such as walking, help put stress on the bones and can cause you to increase your bone density. Also, try to weight train at least twice a week. This puts stress on the bones, as well as building muscle to help protect joints and increase balance and flexibility.
Your Digestive System Starts to Slow Down
As a result, constipation may be a problem in old age. To fight this annoying, and sometimes painful, problem, make sure to eat plenty of fiber (top fiber food is 100% bran cereal, but popcorn is a tasty alternative!), not drinking enough fluids, and lack of exercise. These are three very simple things to incorporate into your daily routine, and if you’ve ever been constipated, you’ll know they are worth it. Also, some medications (usually pain medications) have side effects that contribute to constipation. Ask your medical doctor if they can switch you to another medication that doesn’t make you constipated until chiropractic can take care of your pain so you don’t need to use pain meds anymore.
Your urinary tract can be one of the most annoying, not to mention embarrassing, problems that comes with age. There are several contributing factors to incontinence, but obesity, frequent constipation, and chronic cough can be a few factors, as well as menopause for women and an enlarged prostate in men. The underlying factor here is the fact that the muscles in charge of controlling the “urge” have become weakened. Ask your chiropractic doctor about how you can strengthen these muscles so you can gain back control of when you want to “go.”
Your Memory Tends to Become Less Efficient with Age
The brain doesn’t make any new cells after a certain point in your infancy, and the ones it doesn’t use die off, basically the definition of “if you don’t use it you lose it.” To keep your brain sharp, make sure to include physical activity in your daily routine. The amount of coordination and neural activity it takes to do many simple activities is actually an understatement once you learn how much subconscious effort goes into a simple walk around the block. Also, mental and social activity is important, keeping the thinking and feeling parts of your brain “in shape.”
Your Eyes and Ears Get Used All of the Time
Whether you like it or not, they are bound to wear out, although in some people they may wear out faster than others. As you age, your eyes are less able to produce tears, your retinas get thinner, and your lenses become less clear. Focusing on objects that are near may become more difficult than it used to be, and you may become more sensitive to glare. Your hearing will become less efficient as well. You may not be able to hear certain frequencies, or may need people to talk louder around you. These are some of the more annoying problems that come with age, but you’re not helpless. Wear sunglasses whenever you are in any bright light, and wear earplugs when around loud noises. Get regular eye exams, as well as ear exams, and follow your doctor’s advice. Glasses and hearing aids may be prescribed, but it’s worth it to be able to hear your granddaughter’s piano recital, and see your grandson’s card he made for you for your birthday.
Teeth and Dental Health
Your teeth are also going to be used. The condition they will be in depends greatly on how you took care of them in the years before. Your mouth may also become drier and your gums may start to recede, leaving more teeth to look at. The lack of saliva causes your teeth and gums to become more vulnerable to infection and decay. Your teeth may also darken a little and become more brittle and easy to break. Make sure you brush your teeth at least twice a day, and use dental floss routinely. Also, make sure to go to all of your dental check ups and ask your dentist any questions you may have.
Your skin will likely be one of the most noticeable changes that come with age. It’s more fragile, becoming thinner and less elastic. A decrease in production of natural oils causes your skin to become drier and more wrinkled. Age spots can occur as well as skin tags. To take care of your skin, bathe in warm – not hot – water, and use mild soaps along with moisturizers to keep the skin from getting dry. When outdoors, use sunscreen and cover up more. If you smoke, ask for help quitting. Smoking damages your skin and contributes to wrinkling.
Your Weight Will Become Harder to Control
With age comes a decrease in muscle mass, which is replaced by fat. Fat burns fewer calories than muscle, so you may need to cut calories from your diet and step up physical activity just to maintain the weight you are at. To combat this problem, step up your physical activity. It can be as simple as walking an extra lap around the block, or whatever you do for physical activity. Also, you may be able to cut down some portion sizes in your meals, you may not need to eat as much as you used to.