5 health myths about age busted

Becoming older does NOT inevitably lead to cognitive decline, sickness or frailty. Carolyn Tate investigates the health myths about ageing so you can live your best life (and know when you need to get help from your doctor or healthcare professional).

Ageing is a natural part of life, we admit, but it comes with its fair share of scary stories, myths and misconceptions. Sure, our bodies naturally change as we get older, but a lot of things you hear about ageing and health are not entirely accurate. And some are downright wrong. Let’s take a look at 5 of the most common myths, and set the record straight once and for all.

Ageing myth 1: Ageing means inevitable weight gain

Many believe that as we age, our metabolism inevitably slows down, leading us to put on weight and have less energy. And, while metabolic changes can come along with age, they aren’t the only reason you could be gaining weight. Eating the wrong types of food or slowly (and accidentally) eating portions that are too large can also be culprits. We can also become more sedentary and do less incidental exercise. There's plenty of evidence-based ways to avoid weight gain - read more in Citro's 10 lifestyle swaps for longevity gains guide.

Myth busting: A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the reduction in metabolic rate with age is mainly due to changes in our body composition, such as decreased muscle mass. And guess what? Muscle mass doesn’t have to decrease if you keep working at it. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help maintain muscle mass and support a healthy metabolism, proving that age doesn't have to equate to a sluggish metabolism and a bigger pair of pants.

Ageing myth 2: You can't build muscle after 50

Further to our point above, if you don’t have a good amount of muscle mass, that doesn’t mean it’s game over. It’s a common belief that building muscle becomes nearly impossible as we age, and that strength training is only for youngsters, but that’s – to use a scientific term - codswallop.

Myth busting: Clinical trials have shown that older adults can make significant gains in muscle mass and strength by doing progressive resistance training at least twice a week – even if they’re frail and over 75. It's never too late to start building and maintaining muscle strength to improve your health and mobility, and keep your metabolism in check.

Read more on 10 benefits of strength training.

Ageing myth 3: Mental decline is inevitable

If you’ve seen a friend or loved one lose their memory or ability to care for themselves, it can be scary to think it might happen to you one day. And while a lot of people think it will happen to us all some day, cognitive decline isn’t just another part of ageing, and there are things we can do to try to keep our minds as healthy as our bodies. Read more about the difference between dementia and cognitive decline, and then discover 3 ways to reduce your risk of dementia.

Myth busting: Our brains have an extraordinary ability to adapt and continue growing throughout our lives, and some adults retain their cognitive function well into their 70s and 80s, and beyond. And while some health conditions we relate to ageing, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, may be be entirely preventable, we can engage in mental exercises, stay socially active, and maintain a healthy lifestyle – all factors that can help protect cognitive function and potentially reduce our risk of developing those conditions. We can also treat hearing loss to reduce our risk of dementia. Read more on how to prevent age-related hearing loss.

Ageing myth 4: Getting older means getting sick more often

It’s true that our immune system weakens with age, making us somewhat more susceptible to infections and illnesses, but that’s not the whole story. While it may sometimes seem like we’re picking up more bugs or spending more time in bed with a box of tissues, it’s not necessarily about age.

Myth busting: While some aspects of the immune system may decline with age, it’s also true that some lifestyle factors are also big contributors. There are still plenty of things we can do to stay as healthy as possible, including eating a balanced diet with plenty of leafy greens, omega-3s and lean proteins, exercising regularly, talking to our doctor about prescription medications and their risk factors, staying on top of blood sugar levels if we have diabetes, and seeing a doctor early if we’re concerned about anything out of the ordinary.

Ageing myth 5: Ageing means putting up with chronic pain and discomfort

Are you grabbing your back and groaning every time you sit down on the couch? Or finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning? Many of us think this is normal as we get older, but this kind of chronic pain can see you suffering unncecessarily, and start to limit your enjoyment of life.

Myth busting: Common causes of chronic pain as we get older include arthritis, disease infections and injuries, and research has found that older people can be undertreated for pain because even some medical professionals think some pain is inevitable. But we can take preventative steps to avoiding these types of pain by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly (including mobility and strength workouts), and eating a balanced diet. And when pain does occur, we can pursue a proper diagnosis and a doctor who listens and takes your pain seriously. Read more about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.
The information on this page is general information and should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Do not use the information found on this page as a substitute for professional health care advice. Any information you find on this page or on external sites which are linked to on this page should be verified with your professional health care provider.

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