Q&A: Aging and changing

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DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I am 56 years old and have found that some things change as I get older. I know that as I get older, my body and mind will continue to change. However, can you provide some insight into the most common things I can expect?

ANSWER: Throughout your life, your body is constantly changing and there are some surprising changes that can occur in your body and mind. As you get older, some of these changes become more obvious, such as wrinkles or forgetfulness. Learning what to expect as you age can help alleviate your fear of aging.

Here are some common questions patients ask about aging:

I was 6 feet tall. Now I am 5 feet, 11 inches tall. Why am I shrinking?

When looking at altitude loss, some changes are normal and some are not. You have 24 bones or vertebrae in your spine with discs between each vertebra. These discs lose strength and thinness with age. This thinning process causes you to start shrinking.

The bone remodeling process becomes more disorderly after the age of 25. This causes you to break down your bones faster than you build them back up.

You can prevent significant bone breakdown by weight bearing such as walking, jogging, aerobics, or weight training, and by eating a healthy diet high in calcium and vitamins. Also, talk to your primary doctor about appropriate screening for your risk of osteoporosis. Although screening recommendations differ, most organizations recommend universal screening at 65 for women and 75 for men. However, other risk factors such as premature menopause, fractures, and hormone deficiencies may warrant earlier testing.

I lick urine when I laugh. What can I do?

Urinary incontinence or leakage is a common problem, especially in older women. This problem can be due to many causes, including pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, overactive bladder muscles, weakened pelvic muscles, and nerve damage. Proper treatment requires proper diagnosis. Making the correct diagnosis involves taking a complete history of symptoms. a physical exam; Urine tests; and possibly more advanced studies like urodynamic tests or ultrasound and x-ray imaging.

Treatments are helpful and include behavior changes, diet changes, pelvic muscle strengthening, medication, and surgery. Incontinence or voiding difficulties in men can be a sign of an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer. In general, I would recommend speaking to your doctor about these symptoms.

Why am I in the bathroom again?

Nocturia or getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night is a common problem for many people. About a third of men over 30 go to the toilet at least two times after going to bed. This is usually caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, which is an enlarged prostate. There are other causes, however, including medication; Alcohol; Caffeine; nocturnal drinking and eating habits; Diabetes; Heart conditions; and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.

Treatment for nocturia requires proper diagnosis by your doctor. This visit includes a medical history, exam, and simple laboratory tests. Treatments include behavior changes, diet changes, medication, or surgery.

Why do I have so many wrinkles?

Wrinkles are a natural part of aging that can be caused by a number of factors. Some common factors can be stress and sun exposure, both of which break down the elastin fibers and collagen in the skin. Exposure to air pollutants and tobacco smoke can also play a significant role.

With age, the skin becomes less elastic and the natural oil production in the skin decreases, causing it to dry out. You start to lose the fat in the deeper layers of your skin and the crevices and lines become more noticeable. Wrinkles are also genetic.

You can slow down the effects on the skin by using sunscreen. Wearing protective clothing including hats; with moisturizers; Quitting smoking; and eat a diet full of natural antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables.

If you’re interested in treatment beyond these tips, consult your doctor or dermatologist who can suggest more specific cosmetic options.

Every day I seem to lose my reading glasses. Why can’t I remember the simplest things?

Just like your joints, muscles, and skin, so does your brain. While it may seem like your glasses misplaced themselves, your brain just has a harder time remembering. You may find yourself forgetting names or unable to remember a loved one’s birthday. It may also take longer to learn new things. All of these are usually signs of normal aging.

Just as it is important to stay physically fit as you get older, it is also important to keep your mind active. You are encouraged to stay active physically, mentally, and socially to the best of your ability.

Certainly there are other causes of memory loss, including drug interactions; Vitamin deficiency; Metabolic disorders such as thyroid disease; Depression; Anxiety; or ongoing infections. If you or loved ones have noticed that memory is a problem for you, it is a good idea to speak to your doctor to determine if it is normal aging or something more important.

Aging can be a challenge. Therefore, continue to maintain regular contact points with your doctor so that you can address any concerns in a timely manner. Being prepared for the future will make it easier for you to enjoy your upcoming birthdays.

– Dr. Steven Perkins, Family Medicine, Mayo Clinic Health System, La Crosse, Wisconsin

The thin on wrinkle-free skin

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