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Do healthy habits matter as you grow older? reviewed 9/19/2018

9 Facts and myths about aging

Myths about aging never get old. One generation after the next goes through life with preconceived notions of what it means to grow older and what life will be like as we age. But often, those notions are incorrect.

To help you gain a better understanding of life after 60, here's the breakdown on nine aging myths and facts.

Genetics predetermines how long you'll live.

MYTH

Genetics plays a big part in lifespan. But environmental factors are significant too. Certain behaviors may help increase life expectancy. Among them:

  • Not smoking.
  • Exercising.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Choosing a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
  • Coping effectively with stress.
  • Maintaining a positive outlook.

Healthy habits still matter as you grow older.

FACT

A healthy lifestyle will have positive effects at all stages of life. Eating well may delay or help control diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Exercise can strengthen the heart, lungs and muscles, making it easier to perform daily activities. If you quit smoking, breathing will get easier and your chances of having a heart attack or stroke will go down.

Seniors are typically depressed and dissatisfied with their lives.

MYTH

Most older adults are not depressed, and can enjoy active, rewarding lives. There are certain life events—such as illness or the death of a spouse—that happen later in life and can make people sad. Depression can affect anyone at any age, but it is very treatable.

Seniors shouldn't expect to have a sex life.

MYTH

The desire or ability to have sex doesn't end at a certain age. In your 60s, 70s and beyond, a satisfying sex life is possible. That said, sexual response does slow as we age. And physical changes, certain health conditions and medications may affect sexual performance. But often, problems like these can be addressed with your doctor's help.

There's nothing you can do about the aches and pains that come with aging.

MYTH

Pain shouldn't be expected—or accepted—as a normal part of aging. When you have pain, there's a reason. The sooner you bring discomfort to your doctor's attention, the easier it's likely to be for you to get relief.

Forgetting things as you get older does not mean that you're developing Alzheimer's

FACT

As people age, their thinking tends to slow somewhat and they may have problems remembering certain things. But symptoms of Alzheimer's disease are more serious than occasionally misplacing your keys or forgetting someone's name. They can include:

  • Confusion about time or place.
  • Struggling to complete familiar daily tasks or remember familiar driving routes.
  • Difficulty managing a budget or remembering to pay monthly bills.

There's no specific age at which all people should stop driving.

FACT

A person's ability to operate a vehicle safely depends on factors such as vision, hearing, flexibility and strength. Getting adequate sleep and regular hearing and eye exams can help ensure that seniors drive safely for as long as possible.

Having trouble sleeping is a normal part of growing older.

MYTH

Older adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Seniors may not sleep as deeply as they once did, and often they report problems falling or staying asleep. But poor sleep habits, inactivity, illness, and the inappropriate use of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine often carry more responsibility for sleep problems later in life than age. Anyone having sleep problems should discuss them with their doctor.

Older people are destined to fall.

MYTH

Falls are common for seniors. But there are many things people can do to prevent them. Staying active and getting regular vision and hearing checks are all key. Because certain medicines can affect balance and coordination, talking with your doctor about potential medication side effects is beneficial too.

You'll find lots more facts and tips about healthy aging in our health topic center.

Get info on healthy aging

Sources: Alzheimer's Association; American Academy of Family Physicians; American Cancer Society; American Geriatrics Society; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Helpguide.org; National Institute on Aging

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