When I was 50, 70 sounded really old. Now that I’m close to 60, 70 is looking younger and younger. And not just because I am now closing in on that age myself. Age 70 brings new challenges, but many people remain sharp, vibrant and energetic through this decade. Though aging affects individuals differently, many changes at this point are universal just because of the way the body works.
Is This Normal? Health After 70…
Everyone who lives long enough will experience the unavoidable physical changes. Unfortunately you can’t turn back the clock…wouldn’t it be nice if you could? But you can prepare if you know what to expect.
You may be prepared for the age spots and wrinkles you’ve noticed on others, but you may also find that you bruise more easily and sweat less. Your skin may seem drier, itchy and more papery. Invest in a humidifier to keep the air moist. It may help also to find a gentler soap and use moisturizer and sunscreen daily.
Do you find you have more trouble remembering names or coming up with specific words as you age? Most people do. Parts of your brain shrink as you get older, and signaling between different areas can slow. You may find it is harder to multitask and pay attention. These are normal changes and are not cause for alarm. Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia cause much more severe problems with memory and everyday tasks.
Maintaining your weight may become more difficult due to your metabolism slowing with age. You may need to eat fewer calories to prevent weight gain. You may also find you are not as hungry or thirsty as in earlier years. In this case, eating nutrient rich foods with less calories are recommended, such as fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Supplements, such as vitamins D and B12, are a good idea too as your body changes.
Your heart beats more slowly during exercise or when stressed as you age. Blood flow is often not as efficient as the walls of the heart get thicker and its valves become more rigid. Artery plaque buildup is a common problem at this life stage. Healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise, a heart-healthy diet and smoking cessation can lower your risk of cardiac problems.
Hearing loss is common at this phase of life. People in their seventies often find high-pitched sounds particularly difficult hard to hear, which makes it hard to understand what others are saying. Vowels might be easier to decipher than consonants, and background noise also may interfere more with conversation. Talk to your doctor about things that can help if you have difficulty hearing
The muscles that support your bladder lose strength as the years go by.They might squeeze when you don’t really need to go, resulting in an overactive bladder. Also, your bladder won’t hold as much as it once did. Women in their seventies commonly have issues with urine leaking, and men in that age range may have trouble peeing due to prostate issues.
Bones, Joints, and Muscles
Individuals over 65 often have osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease. Osteoporosis affects primarily women, but men are affected too. Muscles weaken, and tendons, which connect muscles to your skeleton, become stiff. The result is a decrease in your strength and flexibility. You might shrink by an inch or two as the disks in your back flatten. Weight bearing exercise can help prevent, and possibly reverse, these changes.
Less time in deep sleep, and more in lighter sleep, is inevitable when you’re older. You might fall asleep and waking earlier, or wake up more frequently and not be able to go back to sleep. Insomnia is an issue in your 70s, particularly for women. Despite these changes, you still need 7-8 hours a night. Try to continue to practice good sleep habits and discuss problems with your physician.
You are more vulnerable to illness in your later years. To complicate the situation, vaccines don’t work as well as they did when you were younger, but it’s still important to get flu, pneumonia and shingles shots because you’re susceptible to infection and viruses. One silver lining is that allergies become less severe and autoimmune disorders are rare at this age.
The most common problem at this age is constipation, caused by food moving more slowly through your digestive tract. Medications and lack of exercise also contribute to constipation issues. Also, ulcers occur more frequently as you age because the stomach lining is more fragile – particularly if you take a lot of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Your eye muscles weaken as you age which causes your pupils react more slowly to changes in light. For that reason, you need more time to adjust when you move between the indoors and bright sunlight. Fine details might be difficult to see because fewer cells are available to send messages about what you see back to your brain. The lens becomes thicker and yellows, which impairs vision further in dim lighting and makes colors less vibrant.
The Bottom Line
The earlier you start to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, the better – and it’s important to continue into your seventies. Diet and exercise are particularly important. Pay attention to your health, and get regular checkups from your physician. Watch for problems like cancer and heart disease. Stay active socially, and challenge yourself mentally to help fight mental decline. Take care of yourself – physically and emotionally – to continue to thrive and maintain your health after 70.