Steven Perkins, D.O.
Family Medicine, Prenatal Care
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Speaking of HealthQ&A: Surprising, but normal, changes in aging bodiesFebruary 19, 2021
Weird, but normal, body reactions of aging
Throughout life, your body is constantly changing. You can enjoy growing older by knowing what's natural as you age and what's not — and by learning simple steps to delay or lessen the changes.
Q. What's going on with these wrinkles?
A. Wrinkles are a natural part of aging brought on by several factors. You can thank your parents as genetics play a role. You can thank your kids and bosses as stress also plays a role. However, there are several preventable causes of wrinkles, including ultraviolet light from tanning beds and sun exposure that breaks down the elastin fibers and collagen in skin. Air pollutants and tobacco smoke exposure also play a significant role. Skin becomes less elastic as you age, and the natural oil production in skin causes it to dry out. You lose the fat in the deeper layers of your skin, and the crevices and lines become more prominent. You can slow down Father Time's effects on skin by using sunscreen, protective clothing, hats, moisturizers, stopping smoking, and having a diet full of natural antioxidants that are found in fruits and vegetables. Talk to your health care provider if you're interested in treatment beyond these tips.
Q. I used to be muscular. What happened to my "gun show?"
A. After the age of 30, you start to lose muscle mass and function. This is called sarcopenia, and those who are physically inactive can lose up to 5% of muscle mass per decade of life. These changes are caused by your diet; inactivity; changes in hormones, such as testosterone, human growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor; and the decreased ability of your cells to use the protein for energy. Even physically active people will notice some muscle loss, but you can continue to build muscle well into your 80s if you exercise using resistance training, eat a healthy diet, reduce alcohol consumption, and treat the associated problems of aging, such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Talk to your health care provider about your readiness for exercise, what types of training you're ready to begin and how your diet can help you get back on track.
Q. What's his name again?
A. Just like our muscles, joints and skin, your brain ages too. You may notice that you forget names or information from time to time, it may take longer to learn new things, your glasses seem to be misplacing themselves or you might forget it was a loved one's birthday. These usually are signs of normal aging. However, there can be lots of causes for memory loss, including medications, vitamin deficiencies, or metabolic conditions, such as a thyroid disorder, depression, anxiety, prior brain trauma or concussion, or ongoing infections. If you or others have noticed that memory is a problem for you, talk to your health care provider. Simple testing can be performed to determine whether your memory loss is normal or a sign of something more significant.
Learn more about aging to help you live your healthiest life.
Steven Perkins, D.O., is a Family Medicine physician in La Crosse, Wisconsin.