Sourced with thanks from medicalnewstoday.com
It is expected that the world’s population over 60 years will double from about 11% to 22% in the next 30 years. Given that this is as good a time as any to dispel the many medical myths that surround ageing. The author, in the article below, has tackled myths associated with exercise, cognitive ability, sex, and more. Team RetyrSmart
Busting medical myths associated with ageing
- Physical deterioration is inevitable
This is not entirely untrue. As we age, our body does experience wear and tear from decades of use. However, physical deterioration does not have to be complete, and people can often slow it down.
Increased physical activity and improving diet can effectively tackle many of the problems frequently associated with old age. These problems include reduced strength, increased body fat, high blood pressure, and reduced bone density.
So, although some deterioration is likely, managing expectations will help individuals make better life choices to maintain physical health and fitness later in life.
In short, keeping active, eating right, and maintaining a positive outlook can often slow the physical deterioration associated with older age.
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- Older adults should not exercise
From the previous section, it is clear that this is a myth. Keeping active can boost muscle strength, reduce fat, and improve mental health.
Some people think that, once they reach a certain age, there is no point in exercising, as they believe that it will provide no benefit. This is another myth.
There is also good evidence that regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
However, people should consult their doctor before embarking on a new exercise regime if they have a medical condition. However, the vast majority of older adults can indulge in some form of physical activity.
- Older adults need less (or more) sleep
Some people believe that older adults need more sleep than younger adults, perhaps because of the stereotype that older people enjoy a nap. Others say that older adults need less sleep, which might stem from the stereotype that older adults rise early in the morning.
These myths are relatively difficult to unpick because there are many factors involved. It is undoubtedly true that older adults have more difficulty getting to sleep and that their sleep tends to be more fragmented.
People aged 61–64 need 7–9 hours, and people aged 65 or older need 7–8 hours of sleep each night. It just might be more difficult for them to get that all-important shut-eye.
As a silver lining, some research suggests that older adults can handle sleep deprivation better than young adults.
- Only women get osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones gradually become weaker. Some people believe that it only affects women. This is not true; it can affect either sex and people of any age. However, osteoporosis is indeed much more common in older people and females.
Another related myth is that osteoporosis is inevitable for women as they age. As the figures above attest, two-thirds of women over 50 do not have osteoporosis. To minimize risks, people are advised to eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D and exercise regularly.
- As you age, your brain slows
The term cognitive decline refers to a gradual decrease in mental functioning with age, but before we tackle the facts of the matter, we dismiss a couple of associated myths:
Dementia is inevitable as you age
According to the WHO, the risk of developing dementia increases with age, but it does not affect all older adults. Worldwide, an estimated 5–8% of people over 60 have dementia. That means that 92%–95% of people aged 60 or older do not have dementia.
In the United States, an estimated 13.9% of people over 71 have dementia, meaning that 86.1% of people over 71 do not have dementia.
Cognitive decline leads to dementia
Contrary to popular opinion, cognitive decline does not necessarily signal the start of dementia.
People who go on to develop dementia tend to experience cognitive decline first. However, not everyone who experiences cognitive decline will develop dementia.
Maintaining regular physical activity and managing classic cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure were strongly associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline. There is good evidence that a healthful diet and lifelong learning or cognitive training also reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
- There’s no point giving up smoking now
Whether this is a genuine myth or merely an excuse, some older adults say that there is no point in giving up smoking at “their age.”
This is not true. No matter how long you have smoked for and no matter how many cigarettes you smoke a day, your health will start to improve as soon as you quit. Some health benefits are immediate, some are longer-term, but what matters is that it’s never too late.
- Sex is rare or impossible as you age
Some people believe that older adults lose their ability to enjoy sex and that their sexual organs become unfit for purpose. This, thankfully, is a myth.
It is true that the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) and vaginal dryness increases as people age, but for most individuals, these are not insurmountable problems. Sildenafil (Viagra) and lubricants or hormone creams can work wonders in many cases. Before taking Viagra, though, it is essential to speak with a doctor, as it is not suitable for everyone.
Around 0.4% of men aged 18–29 experience ED, compared with 11.5% of men aged 60–69. However, flipping that statistic on its head makes it much less daunting — almost 9 out of 10 men in their 60s do not have ED.
Intercourse between older people may be less fast and furious, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Growing old does not necessarily discontinue a healthy sexual life, but it does call for redefining its expression.
Overall, most of the myths surrounding age seem to centre on inevitability. People believe that it is inevitable that they will gradually crumble into dust as their lives become increasingly unbearable, boring, passionless, and painful.
Although certain aspects of health might decline with age, none of the above is inevitable for everyone. As we have discovered, a positive psychological outlook on aging can benefit the physical aspects of aging.