Aging Well: What’s Normal and What’s Not?

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People of all ages tend to ignore symptoms that may indicate a more serious health problem. Men are usually much worse at recognizing these symptoms than women. And even though understanding what is normal and what is not normal is important for everyone, as you age, it takes on greater importance.

The aging process can gradually take a toll on virtually every system in the body. Mental cognition, eye sight, heart & kidney function and bone & muscle strength, just to name a few.

It’s often changes that seem rapid or out of the ordinary that should send up the red flag and may warrant a visit to your physician. The following are symptoms that you should pay attention to, especially as you or someone you love gets older:

Trouble with daily tasks – If you begin to have difficulties doing normal, daily tasks that you didn’t before, even small ones such as getting dressed, feeding yourself or holding on to objects, it may signal a larger problem with your motor skills and neurological system.

Depression – Everyone from time-to-time may have bouts of depression. When it happens as you age, it is something you or your care giver should pay close attention to. While some depression can be normal, extended periods of depression, withdrawing from interacting with others and certainly suicidal thoughts are symptoms to immediately discuss with your physician.

Changes to your eyesight – For most, our vision will continually change. Your optometrist will alter your glasses or contacts to accommodate. But, if you experience sudden changes to your vision it may signal a serious condition such as stroke. Other serious conditions could signal macular degeneration and cataracts. One important note, as visions changes with age, driving may become more difficult or even unsafe if not monitored.

Skin changes – Skin cancers such as melanomas can develop and be extremely dangerous. As we age our skin may begin to show various lesions. While most are not harmful, others need medical attention right away. Aside from cancers, aging skin can become brittle, tearing easier and making it a slower healing process. Wound care by a physician is recommended if openings are not healing to avoid infection.

Cognitive ability – Some slowing down of mental cognition is expected. This slowdown may include minor memory problems, slower processing of information or confusion. If these are becoming worrisome or if it seems to worsen quickly, your physician should be consulted. Early onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can be hard to diagnose, but the earlier it is caught the better it may be managed.

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