The Science of Living Longer

Leading Medical Advice on Body Care for Seniors

As sudden as aging can feel, no one wakes up in a 90-year-old body without getting some warning signs first. But if you know what’s coming, you can plan to give certain parts extra care early on. The following is advice from leading medical research that list of body parts and the age when it begins to falter (Source: Special Time Edition, “The Science of Living Longer.” May 21, 2021):

EYES – age 40

Your eyes begin “like a multi-focal camera,” says Rachel Bishop of the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute, but by age 40, range of sight declines. To prevent eye disease, don’t smoke, and wear sunglasses to keep out UV radiation; sun exposure and smoking accelerate cataract formation.

LUNGS – age 30

Lung function begins dropping 1% a year at 30 and declines more in people who are sedentary than those who are active, says Thomas Peris, a geriatrician and principal investigator of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston Medical Center. The antidote: exercise.

MUSCLES – age 40

All of us lose muscle and gain fat as we age, says Luigi Ferrucci, the scientific director of the National Institute on Aging. That sad trade-off picks up at 40. “You need to absolutely insert exercise activity in your routine if you want to avoid muscle decline,” Ferrucci says.

HEART – age 65

As you age, your heart-muscle cells shrink in number but expand in size, which makes your heart wall thicker. Your arteries tend to get stiffer too. Starting at age 20-30, peak aerobic capacity drops by about 10% per decade, and heart disease typically kicks in around age 65.

KIDNEYS – age 50

You won’t necessarily feel it, but a decline in kidney function starts around 50. The best thing to do is drink plenty of water. Since thirst decreases with age, you may have to remind yourself. One study found that people who drank more fluids were less prone to kidney decline.

BRAIN – age 70

You don’t lose your mind all at once, but by 70 you’ll start to see age-related brain changes speed up, says George Rebok, a cognitive-aging researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Stick with activities that engage and stimulate you, he says.

EARS – age 65

Age-induced hearing loss happens gradually, but in 1 in 3 people between ages 65 and 74 has it. There’s not much you can do to slow it, but listening to or playing lots of loud music or working in noisy industries like construction will hasten it, says Boston Medical Center’s Peris.

SKIN – age 18

From around 18, resilient collagen and stretchy elastin decline at about 1% per year. You can slow the process by not smoking, eating well, and wearing titanium or zinc sunscreen every day – even if you’re indoors. A 2012 study found that some compact fluorescent bulbs emit skin-damaging UV light.

BONES – age 35

Bone mass tends to go downhill at a rate of up to 1% per year after age 35 (and faster after menopause). Weight-bearing exercise makes a big difference in bone density. A 2015 study found that simply jumping 20 times twice a day significantly improved hip-bone mineral density.

In conclusion, hopefully, you’ll take care of yourself and live long healthy lives. Even so, if you need a little more assistance as you get older, remember that you can get help from In-Home- Supportive-Services (IHSS).

Call Elder Law Services of California at 800 403-6078 to discuss eligibility requirements for in-home care benefits in your county, and how Medi-Cal Planning can help you qualify for California Medicaid that pays for in-home support services, including nursing care, through the IHSS Program.


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