Health & Wellness Articles

Aging & Your Digestive System

What to expect with your digestive system

As we grow older, we can experience age-related changes to our body. One change is structural changes in the large intestine. This can result in constipation in older adults. Other factors that can affect the digestive system and cause constipation are a decrease or lack of exercise, not drinking enough fluids and a low-fiber diet. Medications, such as diuretics and iron supplements, and certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, also might contribute to constipation.

What you can do to prevent constipation

  • Eat a healthy diet. Make sure your diet includes high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit high-fat meats, dairy products and sweets, which might cause constipation.
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Regular physical activity can help prevent constipation.
  • Don’t ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. Holding in a bowel movement for too long can cause constipation.

If you experience frequent constipation symptoms, or it seems to last for a long time, talk with your doctor.

What to Expect as You Age

Bones, Joints and Muscles

With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density, weakening them and making them
more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally
lose strength, endurance and flexibility — factors that can affect your coordination,
stability and balance.

What you can do to promote bone, joint and muscle health

  • Get adequate amounts of calcium. The National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recommends at least 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily for adults. The recommendation increases to 1,200 mg daily for women age 51 and older and men age 71 and older. Dietary sources of calcium include dairy products, broccoli, kale, salmon and tofu. If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet, ask your doctor about calcium supplements.
  • Get adequate amounts of vitamin D. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 600 international units for adults up to age 70 and 800 IU for adults over 70. Many people get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunlight. Other sources include tuna, salmon, eggs, vitamin D-fortified milk and vitamin D supplements.
  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, tennis, climbing stairs and weight training can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.

Aging: What to Expect (Your Heart)

You know that aging will likely cause wrinkles and gray hair. But do you know how aging will affect other things? This is the first in a series of topics to find out what changes to expect as you continue aging — and how to promote good health at any age.

The most common change is to your cardiovascular system. Blood vessels and arteries are stiffening, causing your heart to work harder to pump blood through them. The heart muscles enlarge to adjust to the increased workload. Your heart rate at rest will stay about the same, but it will not increase during activities as much as it used to. These changes increase the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) and other cardiovascular problems.

What you can do to promote heart health:

  • Include physical activity in your daily routine. Try walking, swimming or other activities you enjoy. Regular moderate physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your heart disease risk.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat and salt.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking contributes to the hardening of your arteries and increases your blood pressure and heart rate. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit.
  • Manage stress. Stress can take a toll on your heart. Take steps to reduce stress, such as meditation, exercise or talk therapy.
  • Get enough sleep. Quality sleep plays an important role in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Aim for seven to nine hours a night.

May we, like our patron, St. Brendan, trust joyfully in the guidance of our God and in the goodness of our fellow travelers.

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