Chicago Health | Homepage
Is it a health problem, or is it just aging?

Is it a health problem, or is it just aging?

Harvard Health Letters

As we age, we all notice changes in our bodies, from our reflexes to our libido. But some physical changes aren’t a normal part of the aging process. “It’s important to know about them so we can do all we can to keep ourselves as healthy and active as possible,” says geriatrician Suzanne Salamon, M.D., an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Check out these common age-related health changes to see what’s normal and what’s not.

Vision

Normal vision changes: The lenses in the eyes become cloudy in later years. “As a result, older people need much more light to be able to see, read and avoid falling,” says Salamon. Also normal: impaired close-up vision and an increase in “floaters.”

Not normal: Loss of peripheral vision, which is a possible symptom of glaucoma; a sudden increase in floaters, accompanied by flashes, a sign of problems with the retina.

Next step: Schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an ophthalmologist.

Hearing

Normal hearing changes: It may be harder to hear someone speaking, especially with background noise.

Not normal: When it sounds like everyone is mumbling, and you don’t hear the phone or the doorbell ring. Don’t ignore it. “Hearing loss can cause social isolation when people avoid gatherings because they can’t hear the conversations,” says Salamon.

Next step: Report symptoms to your primary care physician. A simple earwax buildup may be causing the problem. If not, the next step is a hearing evaluation with an audiologist.

Thinking-skills

Normal thinking-skills changes: You may misplace keys, forget someone’s name, or take longer to learn something new.

Not normal: Forgetting how to drive, cook, do your finances, or find your way home, especially when accompanied by mood swings and agitation. The cause could be as simple as a lack of sleep or a side effect from a medication. Or it could be an early sign of a disease that causes dementia.

Next step: Report symptoms to your primary care physician or make an appointment with a neurologist or a geriatrician for a memory screening.

Urinary

Normal urinary changes: The bladder muscles get weaker, causing more frequent and more urgent need to urinate. In men, prostate enlargement may require nighttime bathroom visits.

Not normal: Frequent bathroom breaks that interfere with normal daily function or normal sleep patterns. “This needs to be checked out to make sure it’s not a bladder infection or an overactive bladder,” says Salamon.

Next step: Report symptoms to your primary care physician or make an appointment with a urologist.

Sleep

Normal sleep changes: We spend less time in the deepest stages of sleep as we age. As a result, you may wake up feeling unrested.

Not normal: Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or falling back to sleep after you’ve been awake in the middle of the night.

Next step: Talk to your doctor or go to a sleep specialist. Get a physical exam to make sure there isn’t an underlying cause of sleep problems, such as a medication side effect. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day to improve your sleep-wake pattern.

Taste and smell

Normal taste and smell changes: Some diminishment may make it harder to taste food or detect strong odors.

Not normal: Diminishment that leaves food tasteless. “This can lead to less enjoyment of food, and as a result, poor nutrition and weight loss,” says Salamon.

Next step: Talk to your primary care doctor or make an appointment with a neurologist or an ear, nose and throat specialist. Often, loss of taste and smell is caused by sinus blockages, but it may signal a neurological condition.

Fatigue

Normal fatigue: You may not have the energy or endurance that you did when you were younger.

Not normal: A constant feeling of exhaustion. “This often is the result of diseases, such as heart problems or anemia, or medications,” says Salamon.

Next step: Report your symptoms to your primary care physician.

(C) 2015. PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLGE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Similar Articles

Changing the Culture of Aging

Changing the Culture of Aging

Resident-centered care aims to meet the needs of individuals By Rhonda Alexander What would you like to do today?

POLST Orders Help Patients Advocate for Their End-of-Life Care

POLST Orders Help Patients Advocate for Their End-of-Life Care

By Laura Drucker My grandfather did not want to die. From hospital to home, back to

Care Quandary: Quality Rating Systems Can Help You Make the Best Decisions

Care Quandary: Quality Rating Systems Can Help You Make the Best Decisions

By Nancy Maes When your aging parent or loved one starts forgetting to take medications, lets unopened

Count ingredients, not calories

Count ingredients, not calories

By Sharon Palmer, R.D.N. Shift your focus from the calories label to the ingredients label, and

Pneumonia a leading cause of hospitalization for children

Pneumonia a leading cause of hospitalization for children

What Doctors Know Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pneumonia puts thousands of young children

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

December 2016
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
November 27, 2016 November 28, 2016 November 29, 2016 November 30, 2016 December 1, 2016 December 2, 2016 December 3, 2016
December 4, 2016 December 5, 2016 December 6, 2016 December 7, 2016 December 8, 2016 December 9, 2016 December 10, 2016
December 11, 2016 December 12, 2016 December 13, 2016 December 14, 2016 December 15, 2016 December 16, 2016 December 17, 2016
December 18, 2016 December 19, 2016 December 20, 2016 December 21, 2016 December 22, 2016 December 23, 2016 December 24, 2016
December 25, 2016 December 26, 2016 December 27, 2016 December 28, 2016 December 29, 2016 December 30, 2016 December 31, 2016

Categories

Recent Comments

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

A Hazy Shade of Healthcare: What does tort reform

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives