Our bodies change as we age – some subtle changes, some more obvious. However, many of us can remain active, healthy, and vibrant throughout our lives.
In fact, our physiologic age can often be younger than our chronological age – often due to diet and lifestyle factors combined with our genetics.
Let’s look at the effects of aging on the muscles, bones, and joints. Then, we’ll explore some ways to counteract the effects of aging on these parts of your body.
- Muscles shrink and lose mass as they age – this is a natural process. However, living a sedentary lifestyle accelerates the process.
- Muscle fibers also decrease with age, making it take longer for our muscles to respond as we age.
- Tissues get stiffer with age and less able to tolerate stress. This is due to the decrease in the water content of tendons.
- The heart muscle is less able to propel large quantities of blood to the body and we tend to tire more easily as we age and recover less quickly.
- Our metabolic rate – how quickly we convert food into energy – slows with age. The effects can be obesity and an increase in “bad” cholesterol levels.
- During our lifetime, our bones are consistently going through a process of absorption and formation called “remodeling.” The balance between absorption and formation shifts with age, resulting in loss of bone tissue.
- Bones become less dense with age as the mineral content decreases.
- With loss of bone mass, common age-related conditions like osteoporosis can develop, a condition responsible for nearly all hip fractures in older men and women.
- Arthritis can develop from loss of cartilage between the bones, which occurs with age.
- As we age, our ligaments, connective tissue become less elastic and we lose flexibility.
- Changes in tendons and ligaments with aging result in less joint flexibility and motion.
- As cartilage breaks down with age – which cushions our joints – the joints can become inflamed and arthritic.
Slowing the Progression of Age-Related Orthopedic Conditions
Now that we’ve covered the effects of aging on the muscles, bones and joints, let’s look at ways to counterbalance them.
Disuse is often the biggest culprit in our musculoskeletal system’s aging.
And, guess what? The most sedentary group of Americans is older than 50. The right lifestyle choices will go a long way to combat aging on the musculoskeletal system.
- Stretching – Regular stretching will help to maintain joint flexibility.
- Weight Training – Increases your muscle mass and strength. Maintaining muscle mass will allow you to do your daily activities much easier with less exertion.
- Aerobic Exercise – Studies show that just 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a day can help maintain your body’s response time, deliver and use oxygen efficiently and keep your heart muscle strong.
- Healthy Diet – You are what you eat, so make sure to load up on nutrient dense real foods and get adequate amounts of lean protein in your diet.
When the Effects of Aging Occur
The body does age even with all the right lifestyle choices. Its muscles, joints and bones will change with age. As an orthopedic surgeon, we work with many patients over 50-years-old to help them manage age-related orthopedic conditions and stay active. Sometimes surgery is needed, but more than not, non-invasive treatments can manage these conditions, including: