There are many strange things that come with getting older. When we go into a department store, we’re treated with deference and respect rather than being ignored, or worse, treated like we’re about to steal all the merchandise. People start calling us ‘sir” and “ma’am.” We get a lot of mail inviting us to join organizations for senior citizens, even if we’re not actually a senior citizen. Outside of the way we’re treated socially, though, there are also some major things that happen to our body as we age. It’s tempting to ignore those issues, but they have to be dealt with sooner or later, and so it might as well be sooner. After all, we’re not getting any younger.
In our teens and twenties, we could stay up until 3 a.m. and then sleep until noon with no lasting health effects. That doesn’t fly when you get older, and not just because you probably have a boss who expects you to be at your desk at 8 or 9 in the morning. When we deviate from a semi-normal sleep schedule, it’s easy to get cranky and frustrated. Waking up as the sun is setting isn’t as much fun at thirty-five as it was at nineteen. We feel more pressure to be productive members of society, and it’s hard to be productive if you sleep past noon.
Some sleep disorders are also more likely to pop up as we age. One of the biggest is sleep apnea, which is more common in older people and men. If you’re snoring a lot and waking up tired even after what should have been eight hours sleep, you may want to talk to your doctor about a sleep study. If the sleep study shows that yes, you do have sleep apnea, you’ll probably be asked to sleep with a CPAP machine. It can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but it regulates the way you breathe when you sleep, which is tremendously helpful if your breathing is stopping and starting dozens of times a night.
You need more drugs
We’re talking about legal prescription drugs here, not the illegal stuff. Your body can’t get away with the stuff it did a few years ago. If you’re eating too much sodium, your doctor may want you to get on blood pressure medication (as well as a low-salt diet). Food can be harder to digest as we age, so you may have gastrointestinal issues that pop up as well. How’s your cholesterol? If it’s not good, your doctor may want you to try and get it under control via a better diet and prescription meds.
Your relationship with your doctor is going to be very important as you get older, but so is your relationship with your pharmacist. If you don’t have a pharmacist you know and trust, then now’s the time to find one. A good pharmacist will ask if you have any questions or concerns about the medication; they won’t just hand you a bag full of pills and send you on your way. It’s important to be just as friendly with your pharmacist as you are with your primary care physician.