Ways You Didn't Know Your Body Changes After 50 Gallery

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With age, you gain wisdom, strength, and experience. You develop meaningful relationships and watch those around you grow. You begin to discover what you find most important, and let go of some of the rules that governed your younger days. But along with those immaterial things, your body goes through some changes, as well.

Many of the changes that come with old age you probably already know. Your metabolism slows down, for instance, and you become more susceptible to high blood pressure and heart disease. You know not to overdo it on the salt, and limiting foods that could send your cholesterol flying might already be on your mind. But what other, more subtle changes are about to happen?

You may get wrinkles or see your hair turn gray. Every person experiences aging differently, but there are things happening biologically that cause these visual changes. Other changes are completely invisible, happening in your brain or at a cellular level. As you pass through to the second half of a century, you will likely start to feel different. You may find yourself becoming tired more easily. Here are some of the lesser-known ways your body changes after you turn 50.

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Slow collagen production

As you age, your body begins to slow the production of collagen, a protein responsible for keeping your skin firm and elastic. Lack of collagen is one of the reasons your skin becomes wrinkled as you get older. Some companies have devised collagen supplements, rumored to slow down skin aging. But do these pills and powders really work? The science is still relatively underdeveloped on that front; most of the studies, according to Mark Moyad, MD, are at least partially funded by the industry.

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Dry skin

Your skin actually becomes thinner as you get older, becoming drier and more fragile as a result. People who are older can develop skin that breaks more easily, causing cuts and scabs. The good news is that you can counteract skin dehydration fairly simply - for instance, by drinking enough water and eating hydrating foods.

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Menopause and andropause

Around age 50, women start experiencing menopause. Women's ovaries begin to produce lower amounts of estrogen and progesterone and higher amounts of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). The symptoms of these hormonal changes vary from person to person, but many women experience side effects such as insomnia, hot flashes, decreased sex drive, depression, and mood swings. Some men (not all) actually experience hormonal changes, as well. According to the Rush University Medical Center, approximately 20 percent of men over 60 experience andropause, characterized by a decrease in testosterone production. The symptoms include lowered energy levels, depression, decreased muscle strength, and decreased sex drive, among others.

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Lower bone density

This is an especially prevalent risk for women - dips in estrogen can cause a loss of bone density, putting women over 50 at greater risk for osteoporosis. Low bone density is quite common; it affects 54 million Americans, with one out of every two women over the age of 50 likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Smoking, inactivity, and high alcohol consumption can also adversely affect bone health, but one of the most impactful lifestyle choices that can reduce the risk of osteoporosis is committing to a well-balanced diet. Incorporating certain foods that are rich with the right nutrients can help lower your risk.

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Thinning hair

In addition to turning gray, hair may become thinner and more brittle. Hair pigment cells are not as efficiently produced after you turn 50 as they were when you were younger, and neither is collagen (one of the proteins used to build hair, nail, and skin cells). Eat foods with the nutrients your hair needs to stay strong and healthy to delay this effect.

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Difficulty sleeping

Can't sleep like you used to? Don't panic: According to the National Sleep Foundation, changes in sleep patterns are a totally normal part of the aging process. As you age, you're likely to sleep less soundly and less consistently. Many older adults report having difficulty falling asleep and waking up multiple times throughout the night.

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Slower heart rate

You just can't walk up the stairs as easily as you used to! There's a reason for that. As you age, your maximum heart rate (the fastest speed your heart is able to go) decreases. Some studies suggest that your normal heart rate decreases, as well, which might play a role in your capacity for aerobic exercise. Your days of intense cardio are numbered. But that's OK! There are other, lower-intensity ways to exercise that still have great benefits.

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Decreased bladder control

The muscles in your pelvis become weaker as you get older, which may result in urinary incontinence. This is especially common in women, and can be socially inhibitive. However, the good news is that there are ways to prevent and treat this condition - talk to your doctor if you experience small bladder leaks.

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Shrinking stature

You really do shrink with age, and not just because of your posture. Starting at age 40, the disks between the vertebrae of your spine begin to dry and thin out. This results in compression of your spine and some very real shrinkage. It's really nothing to freak out over, though - people typically only lose about a tenth of an inch every decade.

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Worsened night vision

In addition to needing reading glasses, you may also need more light to see once you reach age 50. According to the American Optometric Association, seeing in darkness becomes more difficult with age. This may be especially of concern for people who are used to driving at night.

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Dry eyes

The tear glands in your eyes produce fewer tears as you get older, according to the American Optometric Association. This can cause itchy, dry eyes for some. Women are especially likely to experience this effect of aging, largely due to hormonal changes.

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Limited color perception

Even if you were never colorblind, you might lose your ability to distinguish between certain hues once you pass 50. According to the American Optometric Association, the clear lens in your eye may begin to discolor, interfering with your perception of colors through the eye.

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Different-smelling sweat

There's actually some biological reasoning behind that rumored "old people" smell. As you age, your hormonal changes can cause a difference in your sweat composition. Additionally, some studies show that age increases the production of 2-nonenal, a compound that contributes to body odor.

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Diminishing sense of taste

According to the National Institute of Aging, your taste buds might dull over time - but not because of your taste buds themselves. This change is largely due to your sense of smell, which plays a large role in your ability to taste food. Medications can have side effects that interfere with taste, as well. Even more of a reason to enjoy all your favorite foods to the fullest while you still can!

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Weight gain

You're likely to put on a little bit of weight as you age. But don't panic! Some studies show that older adults considered overweight by the BMI scale actually live longer than their thinner counterparts. A few extra pounds may be protective against age-related disease. Additionally, it's important to keep in mind that while healthy lifestyle habits (including eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly) will likely be beneficial, attempting to lose weight through other methods may do more harm to your health than good. There are some weight loss tactics you just shouldn't try if you're past a certain age.

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