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Front Page » August 21, 2008 » Focus on health » What most people fear about their aging bodies
Published 2,606 days ago

What most people fear about their aging bodies

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Aging is something everyone around the world must face. Each year time ticks by and changes take place, some good, some less desirable.

Certain common fears arise over and over in studies conducted about the fear of aging. But thanks to simple steps most people can take, quality of life doesn't have to be compromised just because there are a few extra candles on the birthday cake.

Here are some common fears and how to combat them.

Memory loss. "I'm afraid that one day I will wake up and have little memory of the people around me or won't be able to remember what I watched on TV a few hours earlier," says Susan, a 65 year old woman. "I don't want to end up being put in a home because I cannot be trusted to care for myself."

According to a study conducted by Elizabeth L. Glisky, Susan R. Rubin, and Patrick S. R. Davidson, researchers from the University of Arizona, memory loss is not an inevitable part of aging. Despite the stereotypes of seniors walking around aimlessly because they can't remember anything, the study has found that only some people over 65 suffer greater losses in source (contextual) memory than in memory for facts and items. Source memory is memory for the broad contextual aspects surrounding an event, such as who was speaking, or whether they learned something from a book or TV.

The solutions include:

•Get writing. Write things down to reinforce memory.

•Make associations. Put medications next to breakfast cereals so you remember to take them.

•Challenge yourself. Do puzzles or other challenging games to help boost brainpower.

•Pay full attention to tasks at hand: Supposed memory loss may really be the result of being distracted.

Urinary Incontinence. "I fear that the incontinence issues I'm beginning to have will get worse and that soon my quality of life and freedom will be greatly compromised," says Bill, a man of 57.

Roughly 33 million Americans have urinary incontinence issues. This can happen both to men and women of all ages, but bladder problems have higher occurrence with advanced age. Frequent trips to the bathroom are bothersome and can impede sleep schedules and quality of life. Incontinence can be the result of illness, medications, childbirth or problems of the urinary system. While it's common for older adults, it's not a problem exclusive to the elderly.

The solutions include:

•Dietary changes. Some foods and beverages can be harder on the bladder than others. Citrus fruits, carbonated beverages and coffee are some of the more common offenders. A doctor may be able to suggest changes to your diet to improve health.

•Behavioral modifications: These may include Kegels, which are exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic floor; and other techniques such as bladder retraining, a behavioral technique that involves scheduling bathroom visits and gradually increasing the time between urination.

Lack of mobility. "I don't want to end up a couch potato because my legs just don't want to work as well as they used to," says Barbara, 72.

One of the biggest fears seniors have is a lack of independence. This can stem from reduced mobility, whether trouble walking or a decision to give up driving. While certain impairments to motor function may be a result of illness or injury, in general, a healthy senior may be his or her own worst enemy when it comes to mobility issues. That's because regular exercise and a balanced diet is essential to maintaining proper fitness.

The solutions are:

•Watch your diet. If you're on a special diet (for example, a diabetic one) maintain that diet. Eating the right foods will stave off excess weight gain, reduce the chances for edema and give you the fuel to make it through each day.

•Exercise. Check with your doctor about a fitness plan. If you want to start slowly, simply taking a walk each day (indoors or outside depending upon weather), and building up your distance can maintain a healthy heart and improve muscle tone.

•Supplementation. Bone loss and other skeletal problems may be the culprits behind mobility issues. Calcium supplementation and other suggestions from a doctor or pharmacist may be able to help.

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