Common Pains of Aging: How to Feel Better
The common aches and pains that come with aging are a fact of life. But they don’t have to be an unwelcome part of your daily routine. In this article, we look at the most common aches and pains you can expect as you age—and how to feel better when these symptoms strike.
Arthritic pain is one of the more obvious signs of aging. It affects about 20 percent of people over 65 years old, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. The AAOS estimates that nearly 50 million Americans suffer from arthritis-related conditions. And it’s not just older adults who get joint problems; children also develop osteoarthritis in their knees by middle school.
Back pain is another condition commonly associated with aging. Common Pains of Aging: What You Can Do About Them
Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by low bone density or strength. As bones become weaker due to loss of calcium through urine, blood levels drop, which leads to fractures. According to the National Institute on Aging, approximately 10 million women and 2 million men aged 50 and above live with osteoporosis.
Hearing loss is yet another problem often linked to aging. While some hearing loss may occur naturally as we grow older, others stem from diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and heart failure. If left untreated, hearing loss could lead to depression and isolation.
Dementia refers to any disorder that causes memory impairment. Alzheimer’s disease is the most well-known form of dementia. Other types include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and Parkinson’s disease dementia. Approximately 5.7 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s disease, while 1.6 million experience other forms of dementia.
How To Deal With Aches & Pains At Age 60
If you’re experiencing any of these aches and pains, there are things you can do to help ease them. Here are five ways to deal with back pain, for example:
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise helps strengthen muscles and joints, reducing stress on those areas. Try walking briskly for 30 minutes three times per week. Or take up yoga or tai chi if you prefer gentle exercises.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you eat right and sleep enough. Get plenty of rest each night so you wake feeling refreshed instead of groggy. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Avoid caffeine and alcohol because both stimulate nerves and cause dehydration.
- See a doctor. Don’t ignore minor aches and pains. They might signal something serious like cancer or infection. Visit your primary care physician first before seeking treatment elsewhere. He or she will likely recommend tests to rule out medical issues.
- Use heat therapy. Heat applied directly to painful areas reduces inflammation and speeds healing. Wrap hot towels around affected parts or soak feet in warm water. For severe cases, apply ice packs wrapped in cloths soaked in cold water.
- Treat mental health concerns. Depression and anxiety are two major contributors to chronic pain. Seek counseling or medication if necessary.
- Consider alternative treatments. Some studies suggest acupuncture relieves lower back pain. Others show massage improves muscle flexibility and range of motion. Talk to your doctor about whether either would benefit you.
Aging gracefully means more than just getting old; it also means staying young during an age when many people feel their best years have passed. The secret lies in the way that seniors’ brains physically change postnatally – this new knowledge comes from research conducted by Harvard Medical School. In the journal Neuron last month, researchers found evidence suggesting neurogenesis still occurs in adults – but not in our minds! We’re happy to bring you Dr. Michael Merzenich’s interview featuring his work on adult brain plasticity. Read below or listen here:
Selfcare & Aging
Merzenich has been studying how we learn since he was a graduate student at Stanford University. His early work focused on learning processes in animals, including rats and monkeys. As part of his doctoral thesis project, he studied the effects of training on neurons in the visual cortex of cats. This led him to study human subjects as well. Since then, he has worked extensively with children and adults who suffer from hearing loss due to congenital deafness or acquired conditions such as noise exposure, aging, and head injury.
He is now working on understanding why some individuals retain much better auditory skills into adulthood than others. He believes that this difference may be related to differences in neural activity patterns between older and younger listeners. Understanding what makes one person smarter than another could lead to improved educational programs for all students.
In addition to his academic pursuits, Dr. Merzenich serves as Director of Research Development at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland where he directs the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory. He holds faculty appointments at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine Committee on Hearing Loss Prevention.
Managing the Aches and Pains of Aging | Interview Transcript
Michael Merzenich: I think there’s no question that the brain changes over time. It doesn’t do so uniformly across different regions of the brain. And certainly, those changes can affect cognition and behavior. But they’re very specific. They tend to occur within particular circuits, which are defined anatomically. So, for example, in the hippocampus, the place where memories are formed, memory formation tends to decline. That happens because synapses get weaker and fewer connections form. There’s less connectivity overall. Those kinds of things happen throughout the brain.
But there’s something else going on too. When you look at these same circuits, you see that the strength of synaptic transmission increases. You see increased excitability. These are called long-term potentiation and depression. LTP is associated with strengthening synapses. LTD is associated with weakening them. Both of those mechanisms seem to play important roles in learning and memory.
So, there’s a lot of interest right now in trying to understand exactly what role each mechanism plays in normal cognitive function. What does it mean? How does it relate to disease states like Alzheimer’s Disease? Is it possible that both forms of plasticity might contribute to dementia? Or maybe only one type contributes? Maybe neither?
We don’t know yet. But we’ve learned a great deal already.