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Is This Normal Aging or Not?

Pain or sudden changes need a closer look.

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.

When should you worry? Get an immediate evaluation if you have chest pain, especially with dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, or fainting. Those are possible signs of a heart attack. Problems with your heart rate could cause lightheadedness, dizziness, or fatigue.

One in 10 people age 65 or older have anemia, or a low level of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. It can cause fatigue and can be treated with iron supplements or medications to spur the body to produce more red blood cells.

High Blood Pressure

Aging is not a disease, but our body’s changes make us vulnerable to some medical conditions. 

One example is essential hypertension, or high blood pressure. The exact cause of essential hypertension is not known.  There are several factors that play a role including genetic factors, obesity, salt intake and aging.  Blood vessels tend to become  less elastic with age, and this stiffness may contribute to high blood pressure.

More than half of people 60 and older have high blood pressure - a reading of 140 (systolic) over 90 (diastolic) or higher.

A low-sodium diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent high blood pressure.

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