Deven Seetanah, team manager for AXA Health’s 24/7 health support line for members, explores how men are more likely to experience various physical and mental health challenges as they get older. With hormone levels changing, immune systems weakening, and bodies that become more susceptible to certain injuries or conditions.
For men, some of these changes can be fairly gradual. You may find that you have less energy or that your memory isn’t as good as it once was. You may notice that it takes longer to recover from an illness or injury. Or you may even experience fluctuations in your mood.
These are natural changes that happen as testosterone levels become lower and joints, muscles and bones weaken over time. It goes without saying that it’s important to look after yourself, but as you get older, it becomes more and more important to manage your health, adapt your exercise routine and take time to maintain good mental health.
What changes and health issues could affect me as I get older?
As you get older, you might expect your hair to turn grey and your skin to get wrinkled. But there are many other changes to be aware of, which can affect your physical and mental wellbeing and put you at a higher risk for certain conditions.
These changes can impact:
The cardiovascular system
Over time, your blood vessels and arteries may become stiffer and narrower. This can lead to high blood pressure and increase your risk of problems like coronary heart disease.
At the same time, the heart may need to work harder to pump enough blood around your body, which could weaken it over time.
>Read more on coronary heart disease in our men's health article.
Muscles, bones and joints
As we age, our bones may become weaker. They often lose density and can even shrink in size. Over time, this makes them more likely to fracture or break.
Likewise, muscles and joint ligaments tend to become weaker and less flexible, which means there’s an increased risk of injury, pain or a loss of stability.
Another inevitable change that happens as we get older, is that the metabolism slows down. Your metabolism determines how many calories you burn, so when it slows, fewer calories are used.
Your body stores unused calories as fat, so it’s important to adjust your calorie intake as you get older. Check out our article on maintaining a healthy weight for more information.
As you get older, your risk of experiencing complications with your prostate will increase. An enlarged prostate can lead to issues with urination, while prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the UK.1
According to Cancer Research UK, getting older is the number one risk factor for prostate cancer and one in six UK men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.2
Our article on prostate health and prostate cancer is a great source of further information and expert insight.
Digestion and the bowel
The ageing process also impacts the digestive system. Changes to:
- your appetite
- exercise routine
- and the overall efficiency of your bowels
can all have an impact on the digestive system and your bowel health. Issues can range from constipation and bloating to bowel cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer in the UK.3
It’s equally important to pay close attention to your mental health as you get older. Depression, mood swings, stress and mental fatigue are all common in older men. This can also lead to a loss of sex drive or impotence, which further impacts the mood.
There are multiple causes for mental health challenges, from hormonal changes to difficulty dealing with physical limitations or lifestyle shifts. It’s important not to ignore these feelings and to seek help if you’re struggling.
Check out our expert guide for details on how to get support and to learn more about why men find it difficult to ask for help.
Memory loss and dementia
Your brain will undergo physical changes as you get older, which can affect your cognitive function. The results can range from simple short-term memory loss to dementia, which develops over time and is caused by damage to the brain’s nerve cells.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease4, which causes severe long-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating, confusion and language or communication problems.