5 Most Surprising Age-related Health Changes

Metabolism and Sleep Woes

No matter how much food you can get away with eating in your youth, a slowing metabolism in your older years will stop you dead in your tracks. Surprisingly, a person's metabolism starts slowing down around the age of 20 [source: Medline Plus].

Torpid metabolism increases with age, which is why its effects accumulate over time. A slowed metabolism makes it easier to pack on pounds and bolsters risks for health problems associated with weight gain, such as heart disease and diabetes. This is why doctors monitor cholesterol and blood pressure frequently in older patients, even if they've been eating the same things for years without harm. As you can imagine, metabolism issues also make weight loss and gain harder for individuals who are overweight and underweight. Metabolism isn't known to be associated with urinary or bowel problems; rather these issues result from underlying health problems and muscles in the digestive system growing weaker with age [source: Mayo Clinic staff].

With age, you also might find it harder to get the sleep you need. Contrary to what some believe, older adults still need between seven and eight hours of sleep per day [source: American Academy of Family Physicians]. Our bodies' circadian rhythms and sleep cycles get thrown off with age for many reasons, including napping and insomnia.

But like other health-related changes we've discussed, hormones play a large role in metabolism and sleep-cycle adjustments. For sleep in particular, scientists think a decreased production in growth hormones and a sleep-related hormone called melatonin cause this age-related trend.

Oral health matters with age, too -- dentures or not. Head over to the next page to read more.