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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Is This Normal Aging or Not?

Pain or sudden changes need a closer look.

Eye Trouble continued...

If you notice you have worse peripheral than central vision, or the reverse, you could have a serious eye condition that requires treatment. Glaucoma occurs when the pressure in the eye increases and causes damage to the optic nerve. Two forms of macular degeneration affect the center of the retina, leading to a loss of central vision.

The bottom line: “If you feel you’re having blurred vision or vision loss, you should get your eyes examined,” says Hilary Beaver, MD, associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Weil Cornell Medical College at The Methodist Hospital in Houston. It’s a good idea to have preventive checkups, too, especially if you have diabetes or a family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration, she says.

Hearing Loss

About a third of people who are 60 or older have some hearing loss. This condition, known as presbycusis, may be due to the loss of sensory receptors in the inner ear. At first, some sounds may seem muffled, and high-pitched voices may be harder to understand. Men tend to have more hearing loss than women.

Pain, drainage from the ear, or a rapid loss of hearing could be a sign of a tumor or infection, cautions Robert Dobie, MD, professor of otolaryngology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. If the hearing in one ear is noticeably worse than the other, that is also a reason to have it examined, he says.

“If people just notice, ‘I’m not hearing quite as well as I did a few years ago,’ that’s the aging process,” Dobie says. “If I don’t hear as well this week as I did last week, that’s not the aging process.”

Decrease in Strength or Stamina

With age, we lose muscle tissue and our muscles become more rigid and less toned. Weight training and stretching improve strength and flexibility, though we can’t completely counteract this natural course of aging.

Our organs lose their extra reserve, too. The walls of the heart become thicker, the arteries are stiffer, and the heart rate slows as we age. Aging of the heart is a major reason it may be harder to exercise vigorously when we are older as we could when we were 20. Yet maintaining regular aerobic activity -- even just walking -- can improve our stamina.

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