Getting older: so what's in the natural order of the ageing process - and what isn't?

Siski Green / 13 January 2015

Find out what kind of health problems are age-related, which aren't and what you can do to help yourself.



What happens to muscle strength as you get older

What’s natural:

As you age, your muscles shrink, literally becoming smaller in terms of mass. This means that you’ll experience a drop in strength. Even simple tasks such as being able to open a jar of jam can become more difficult than it used to be, for example.

What’s not:

If you sit around a lot, your muscles will shrink even more than another person’s of the same age. Doing strength-building exercise such as resistance-band training or lifting weights, for example, can help fight muscle loss.

Read our guide to home muscle-strengthening exercises

What happens to bones and cartilage as you get older?

What’s natural:

The mineral content of bone decreases as you age, which means they become less strong. If they lose mass as well, as is the case with women with osteoporosis, fractures are more likely if you fall. Cartilage becomes worn after a lifetime of use, too, which can cause stiff joints and pain.

What’s not:

Losing bone mass is usually gradual and needn’t result in osteoporosis. You can prevent excessive loss by eating a diet rich in calcium and getting sufficient vitamin D (which aids calcium absorption), and strength-building exercises will help build muscles to support your bones, thereby helping to prevent fractures.

Being overweight puts added pressure on your joints, too, so make sure you maintain a healthy weight.

Read our guide to preventing osteoporosis

What happens to you skin as you get older

What’s natural:

Unfortunately, some wrinkles are a natural part of growing older. Your skin is less elastic because you lose fatty deposits under the skin, and it’s less able to retain fluid. Cartilage and muscle support also diminishes, allowing gravity to do its thing.

Your earlobes will become longer, your eyebrows and eyelids tend to droop, and you may develop jowls or saggy skin under your chin and jaw.

It’s not just superficial, though, your skin is also more fragile so you’ll find it bleeds and bruises more easily. It also takes longer toheal.

What’s not:

Smoking and sun exposure hasten skin ageing, so by quitting smoking and staying out of the sun when it’s highest in the sky, as well as wearing protective clothing and/or sunscreen, you’ll keep your skin looking younger for longer.

Also try to observe what causes your wrinkles – some people frown while trying to read because they need different glasses or because of glare from the sun, and these are aspects of your life you can change making your wrinkles less pronounced.

Read our guide to getting rid of wrinkles naturally

What happens to your metabolism as you get older

What’s natural:

You might notice that your appetite isn’t as big as it was, or that it takes you longer or more difficulty to digest fatty foods, for example.

What’s not:

If you’ve piled on quite a few pounds and are having trouble shifting them, consider changing your diet. Continuing to eat as you always did doesn’t just make you put on weight, it can put you at risk of diabetes and other health disorders.

Instead, cut down on processed foods high in salt, fat and sugar, and focus on eating fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and healthy fats such as those in olive oil, nuts and cold-water fish.

Read our guide to metabolism and find out what's true and what's myth

What happens to your energy levels as you get older

What’s natural:

Your heart is a muscle and so it’s not as good at pumping blood around your body as it once was, which means that a morning spent walking or gardening may see you napping in your armchair in the afternoon, where before you might well have done something else.

What’s not:

If you’re overweight, eat an unhealthy diet or don’t exercise much your blood vessels will thicken because of fatty deposits left in the lining, and they will stiffen too, making it harder for the heart to pump blood aronud your body.

The harder it is for your heart to work, the less energetic you’ll feel. This is the result of your body not getting enough oxygenated blood.

Read our guide to boosting your energy levels












The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.