10 Things that Don't Age Well

It's hard to avoid reading glasses after age 40.It's hard to avoid reading glasses after age 40.by Sharon Orrange, MD, for Sharecare

Like it or not, some inevitable signs of aging are hearing loss (huh?), memory lapses (who?), and increased Acid Reflux, thanks to the valve at the lower end of the esophagus that begins to relax on the job, allowing stomach acid to reflux, or flow backwards. Ouch. Inconvenient? Yes. But completely normal. Here are 10 bodily functions that change with age.

1. Eyes.
"Can I have a light with that menu?" Once you reach age 40, you'll notice it's more difficult to focus on objects up close because of presbyopia -- a hardening of the lens inside your eye. When you first notice presbyopia you may be able to compensate by holding your reading material farther away or holding a light to it. Eventually you will need reading glasses, multifocal contact lenses, or multifocal eyeglasses.

2. Ears. "Say what?" Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is the slow loss of hearing that occurs as people get older. Tiny hairs inside your ear help you hear and hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs inside the ear are damaged or die. About half of all people over age 75 have some amount of age-related hearing loss.

3. Sclera. The whites, well the "off whites" of your eyes. The color of the sclera changes with age from bluish (in babies) to yellowish. This is likely because of accumulation of fat in the scleral tissue.

4. Skin, especially on the neck. Wrinkles on the neck show your age, no matter how many creams you've slathered on; the neck contains thinner skin, which is more sensitive to sun damage. The muscles and skin tissue supporting the neck area are also weaker, making neck skin more vulnerable to gravity over time.

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5. Knees and Hips. Degenerative joint disease affects up to 80 percent of the elderly and can be debilitating. The only good news here is that some people who have knee and hip arthritis won't have any symptoms. Oh, and there is also the option of knee and hip replacement.

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6. Talk to the thumb. Arthritis of the thumb occurs at the joint found at the base of the thumb, where the thumb meets the wrist. This joint, the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint, is important when trying to grip or pinch. Thumb arthritis is more common in women than men, and increases in frequency over the age of 40 years. Anti-inflammatories, splints and cortisone injections may help, and surgery only as a last resort.

7. Memory. "What was his name again?" Normal age-related memory loss doesn't prevent you from living a full and productive life. You might misplace your glasses or find that you need to make lists more often than in the past in order to remember appointments or tasks. That, my friends, is "normal" with aging.

8. The breasts. In your 50s and 60s, hormonal changes will cause the amount of fat in your breasts to decline, which will shrink your breasts. As women go through menopause, fat will replace most of the breast tissue and cause the breast to lose elasticity.

9. The valve at the end of your esophagus. "Why can't I eat Thai food anymore?" Reflux disease (GERD) is more common once you reach middle age and causes heartburn with spicy foods. As mentioned, the valve designed to keep acid in the stomach lets it flow backward, causing the pain and burning sensation you feel as the acid comes into contact with the delicate lining of the esophagus.

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10. The pelvic floor. Ladies, do your Kegels. The pelvic floor is the muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum, and it starts to fail as we get older. Symptoms include problems with urinary incontinence, and prolapse of the bladder or uterus. Counter these symptoms with Kegels.


Sharon Orrange, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine in the Department of Medicine at the USC/Keck School of Medicine. She writes a weekly blog on various topics in primary care for Dailystrength.org, a leading health social networking site.


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