Knees get a little creakier. Vision gets a little blurrier. Memory gets a little foggier. We're plenty familiar with the negative ways our bodies can change as time marches on. But people, it's not all bad.
Turns out, some of the natural physical processes that happen as we get older can actually have some pretty sweet side effects. And that could mean that some of the annoying — and even straight-up debilitating — issues that plagued you in your younger years could well become a thing of the past.
So let's focus on the positive side of aging, shall we? Here's a look at six of the surprising ways your body gets better as the years go by.
1. You’re Less Sweaty
The structure of our sweat glands actually changes with age, causing us to perspire less, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
The upside isn't just fewer pit stains. Since the bacteria living under your arms converts sweat (which alone is virtually odorless) into stinky acids, you'll smell less too, says Tanya Kormeili, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Santa Monica, California. So if those natural deodorants didn't cut it for you in the past, it might be worth giving them a second shot now.
Just one thing to keep in mind: While sweating less can be nice, it also means your body isn't quite as efficient as cooling itself, Dr. Kormeili notes. That makes it more important now to take steps to avoid overheating.
2. Your Seasonal Allergies Ease Up
That sneezing and itching that used to flare up like clockwork every spring may go away. Seasonal allergy rates are lower in older populations compared to younger ones, concluded research published in May 2013 in the journal Allergy Asthma & Immunology Research. And reactions to year-round allergens like dust mites and cat dander drop too.
It all comes down to changes in your body's immune response.
"Allergies result from a patient's immune system over-responding to inert materials, such as dust molecules, tree pollen, weed pollen and grass pollen," explains Paul B. Anthony, MD, a geriatric medicine specialist with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Allen and Texas Health Adult Care. "An older person's immune system does not respond as well — it's not as brisk. So they are less likely to have much allergy trouble."
That means you can spend more time outside without being plagued by annoying symptoms, and may find that you no longer need to take meds to manage your allergies.
3. No More Acne
The oil-producing glands in women's skin tend to slow down after menopause, which for many means fewer opportunities for clogged pores and breakouts. (The decrease is less dramatic for men, who might not see a drop in oil production until their 80s, per the NLM.)
"This means that oily teenagers can have normal skin by age 60," Dr. Kormeili says. So for the first time in decades, your face might not be an oil slick by lunchtime. Plus you can experiment with skincare products and regimens that might've been way too heavy for you in the past. (Hello, coconut oil!)
On the other hand, decreased oil production means that normal skin can turn much drier with age, Dr. Kormeili says. Which doesn't necessarily have to be a negative — again, look at it as an opportunity to have fun switching up your skincare routine.
4. You Might Get Fewer Colds
Adults generally catch two to three colds per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But some anecdotal sources say that older adults could get even fewer than that. "It would make sense that older people may have fewer colds, probably due to less exposure in the environment," Dr. Anthony says.
Think about it: If you're retired and not going into work every day and are living either with just a partner or by yourself, you're likely around fewer people who are coughing or sniffling each day. And that translates to a lower chance of catching a cold virus.
That's not to say you shouldn't be careful when you are spending time with others. Since your immune system isn't as effective at fighting off invaders, colds you do catch have a higher chance of causing complications, says Anthony.
The takeaway? Enjoy more healthy days — but still be on alert for germs, especially during cold and flu season.
5. Headaches That Once Plagued You Aren’t as Much of a Thing
Migraines tend to hit their painful peak during your 30s, according to the Mayo Clinic. But after that, migraines start to improve, especially once you hit your 50s and 60s.
Overall, a whopping 40 percent of people with migraine stop having attacks by age 65, according to the Migraine Trust. And even if you still continue to experience headaches, there's a good chance they'll happen less often or cause less severe symptoms.
The decrease seems to happen thanks to structural changes to the brain that occur as we get older, including a decrease in certain signaling pathways, suggests April 2015 research published in the Journal of Neuroscience. For women, hormonal factors might also play a role: While migraines might worsen or intensify in the years leading up to menopause, once your periods stop altogether, the migraines often go away too, per the North American Menopause Society.
Regardless of why, more headache-free days means more time feeling your best — and energy to do the things you love.
6. You’ll Become an Early Riser
If you ever used to want more hours in the day to pack in all the things you wanted to get done, these days, you might get your wish. Changes in circadian rhythms and melatonin productions mean that as you get older, you're more likely to get sleepier earlier in the evening — but wake up early in the morning, per the National Sleep Foundation.
And the sleep you do get might feel more restful, especially as you get deeper into your golden years. A March 2012 study published in the journal SLEEP that looked at some 150,000 adults found that people in their 80s had the fewest complaints about nighttime disturbances or feeling tired during the day.
Despite this, it's worth noting that early waking can sometimes be a sign of a sleep disorder. "It can also be a symptom of depression," Dr. Anthony points out. So if you notice more sleep disruptions at night and are still tired when you wake up in the morning, you should talk with your doctor.
Is This an Emergency?
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Aging changes in skin"
- Allergy Asthma & Immunology Research: "The Age Impact on Serum Total and Allergen-Specific IgE"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Common Cold"
- Mayo Clinic: "Migraine"
- Migraine Trust: "Migraine in later life"
- Journal of Neuroscience: "Migraine: Multiple Processes, Complex Pathophysiology"
- North American Menopause Society: "My-Oh-Migraine: Hormonal Headaches & Menopause"
- National Sleep Foundation: "Aging and Sleep"
- SLEEP: "Age and sleep disturbances among American men and women: data from the U.S. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System"