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Normal Aging Process vs. Age-Related Disease

Senior man exhibiting signs of the normal aging process, including wrinkles in the skin, a need for glasses and white hair.

Our bodies go through changes as we age. While the majority of these subtle changes are completely normal and part of the aging process, there are some that may not necessarily be normal and point to a potential age-related disease. As a caregiver to your loved one, it’s important to know the difference between signs of normal aging and signs of an age-related disease. Knowing what to look out for can help you determine when you should consult your loved one’s doctor.

What is Normal Aging?

Every person’s aging journey is unique. However, if you notice the following changes, they’re typically part of the normal aging process and nothing to worry about:

  • Skin: As your loved one ages, their skin loses elasticity. This can result in wrinkles and more delicate skin, meaning more frequent cuts and bruises.
  • Muscles: Age can take a toll on your loved one’s muscles. If they are losing strength, flexibility and endurance over time, this is typically a normal sign of aging.
  • Metabolism: Your loved one’s metabolism is going to slow down as they age. If you notice this, there’s probably no need for alarm.
  • Vision: The lenses in your loved one’s eye may get less flexible, resulting in a need for glasses. Night vision and peripheral vision also tend to decrease with age. Monitor your loved one’s eyesight and make sure they don’t drive if they can no longer see properly.
  • Hair: While this may be one of the more harmless changes, you may see a change in your loved one’s hair. Their hair color may go gray and start to thin. These are normal changes and nothing to worry about.
  • Hearing: Age-related hearing loss is very common in older adults. Make sure your loved one has regular ear appointments with their doctor to check their hearing.
  • Bones: Our bones become more fragile as we age because minerals disappear faster than our bodies are able to replace them. This is another normal part of aging you should keep an eye on to make sure your loved one doesn’t injure themselves.
  • Heart and Arteries: The heart naturally becomes less efficient over time. The blood vessels and arteries tend to become stiffer, which makes the heart work harder. Your loved one should get regular check-ups on their heart health.
  • Memory and Thinking: Normal aging can result in slower processing speeds and a difficult time multitasking. Be patient with your loved one if you notice they’re struggling with their memory and cognition.

Signs of Age-Related Diseases

While your loved one is more likely to experience the above changes, there are a few common age-related diseases you may see developing. (Please note: This is blog post is not meant to be a diagnostic tool – please encourage your loved one to speak to a doctor for all medical needs and questions.).

  • Dementia: While age-related cognitive decline may be normal, dementia is not. Dementia goes far beyond normal memory loss and can include disruptions in memory, language, attention, problem-solving and decision-making that can interfere with activities of daily living.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: Heart disease is the number one cause of death for older adults. While at the doctor’s office, ask to check blood pressure and cholesterol. Heightened levels of both could be a sign of cardiovascular disease.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes affects your body’s ability to produce the hormone insulin, and signs can include frequent urination, lethargy, increased thirst and unusual weight loss.

Your Loved One Can Age in Comfort at Heritage Senior Living

Heritage Senior Living is here for you and your loved one. No matter a resident’s care needs, we’re here to make the senior living experience as comfortable and fulfilling as possible. Daily enrichment activities, peace of mind for the future, neighbors that become friends, an attentive, caring team and more can be found at Heritage communities. To learn more, find a community near you or contact our expert team today.