Old age and health: How inversely proportionate are they?

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Figuratively speaking, growing old is inevitable. That each day will add up to make months and years and that each progressing year will add up to an age older than the previous, is unavoidable. However, unlike common notion, it doesn’t have to be an unfortunate situation. The reason old age is also known as mature age is perhaps because it is much like any investment. The more effort you put in in the early stages, the more benefits you reap at a later age. Since ageing is a natural progress towards the life expectancy of humans, a degeneration of systems and organs is convention. This degeneration of the body and mind is the cause of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. However, the process of degeneration can be slowed down by many notches with the right habits at young and middle age. Therefore the nature of your old age is, more often than not, determined by how you choose to spend your early ages.

The body and the mind
When we look at a person and make a passing comment on how he or she has aged well, what do we actually mean? The human being constitutes primarily of the body and the mind, and therefore any change effected has a bearing on both these components. For your old age too, it is essential that you prepare to take care of both the body and the mind.
Starting with the body, here are some health issues that are commonly associated with old age that are also preventive:
Arthritis: If old age is all about a degenerating body, then arthritis is the most common manifestation of it. Constant wear and tear in the bones, cartilages and muscles, or injuries sustained by them due to prolonged bad posture or from playing sports or even wearing heels, make the joints weak and painful by the time we reach old age, as seen in osteoarthritis. Arthritis can also be inflammatory or metabolic in nature, that is, it can be caused due to poor immunity or a bad metabolic system that creates high levels of uric acid that in turn causes gout.
Preventive measures: Maintaining a healthy weight has known to cut down the risk of osteoarthritis by almost half. Regular exercises, a keen watch on body posture and avoiding repetitive movements can prevent arthritis. A diet free of alcohol and organ meat can also keep gout at bay.
Osteoporosis: Low bone mass is the next common ailment plaguing old age, with falls due to weak bones and joints making one of the most common causes of injury, immobility and death in seniors. However, according to the National Osteoporosis Association, osteoporosis, that is caused by low bone density, should not be taken as a compulsory old age disease. It is a perfectly preventable and manageable condition.
Preventive measures: Loss of calcium and deficiency of vitamin D are what cause low bone mass. Women experience osteoporosis also as a result of low levels of estrogen during and pos menopause, as well as because they have given birth to children, that uses up a lot of calcium from the mother’s body to develop the baby. A diet replenishing calcium needs and avoiding smoking and alcohol for better synthesis of the mineral is best to keep osteoporosis at bay.
Heart diseases: However, the topmost cause of death in older people is diseases of the heart, since the chances that the body falls prey to culprits like increased bad cholesterol and high blood pressure, grows with growing age. The higher the age, the more vulnerable the body is to having strokes and heart attacks.
Preventive measures: The importance of a good diet can’t be stressed enough on. Food sans trans fat, and those that are not loaded with fructose-based sweeteners or excess salt, are all necessary steps to ensure the body stays clear of blocked arteries or fluctuating blood pressure.
Diabetes: An increasingly common ailment in people of all ages in the present times, it becomes even more common in old age. The reason it is even more essential to address this problem is that people with Type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk of getting Alzheimer’s.
Preventive measures: Tracking down symptoms early on and making healthy changes in diet and lifestyle in the pre-diabetic stage can prevent the onset of diabetes and return the levels of glucose in the blood to normal.

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Image source: nohealthnolife.net

Obesity: In the modern society, obesity is fast becoming the norm in older people. People start getting obese as early as in their childhood and carry the weight forward into their old age, thus opening the floodgates for a variety of ailments like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart diseases, breast and colon cancers, gall bladder diseases, etc.
Preventive measures: The good news is that obesity is a completely reversible condition that can be realized with very small, simple changes in diet and lifestyle. For some people, who have a greater tendency of putting on weight than others, professional supervision best suits their needs.
Vision and hearing loss: Eye diseases as a result of advancing age is hardly news. So is a degeneration in high frequency hearing abilities. Moreover with a lifestyle of exposure to higher electronic screen time and loud music and sound pollution, the risks have increased many folds.
Preventive measures: Both are taken as inevitable, which might be true, but it is still possible to slow down macular degeneration by taking foods rich in antioxidants and certain vitamin supplements. Hearing loss too can be slowed down by avoiding earplug devices and exposure to loud thumping noises.
Oral health: Although much less threatening, oral healthcare is not to be overlooked, especially when advancing to an older age. And although artificial dentures have partially solved the problem of loss of teeth, it isn’t really a completely reversible problem.
Preventive measures: Regular visits to the dentist, flossing and washing should be a lifelong priority if you want to see your pearls intact.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind it doesn’t matter.”
—Mark Twain

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Image source: www.sciencedaily.com

It is said that since the definition and years marked as “old” vary culturally and historically, old age is a social phenomenon rather than a biological one. Ageing is associated with a declining mental vitality, but more and more researches and studies are showing that it is a myth. The vigor and passion you feel for life doesn’t necessarily have to be restricted to your youth. Old age doesn’t have to mean depression, anxiety, forgetfulness or having a static life, not able to learn anything new anymore. Experts say it’s all in the mind. First and foremost, acknowledge that with age, your physical form is going to wear out under the test of time. But ever take that as an absolute. Be informed that with the right kind of diet and lifestyle and a positive frame of mind, you can still live your best life for your age. With your body slowly losing its immunity and digestive powers, eat as close to fresh and unprocessed as possible. Make physical exercises and activities a part of our daily life. A healthy body will not be able to contain an unhealthy mind for long. Although this is a time where you will find losses to be a regular thing (you’ll probably retire from your job or your coveted position at your job, lose your spouse, or see your children moving away to settle down in their lives), it is imperative that you still see the brightest sides of your life and be grateful for what you have. Read a lot, take up new hobbies or old ones that you had left behind, to keep your mind sharp and active. Finally, do things that make you happy. Remember, your age isn’t just a number. It is testimonial of all that you have achieved in life, the family that you have raised and the difference you have made to the society, and this is the time you bask in the pride.

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Image source: www.alternet.org

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What happens when we Age

Eating a well-planned, nutritious and balance mix of foods every day is a necessity to age properly. It has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, some kinds of cancer, and anaemia. Healthy eating may also help you reduce high blood pressure, lower high cholesterol, and manage diabetes.

Eating well gives you the nutrients needed to keep your muscles, bones, organs, and other parts of your body healthy throughout your life. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats, and water.

Our body changes with aging because changes occur in all parts of the body starting from the smallest constituent of our body, namely the cell.

Body Organs and Cells

Body Cells age and their function also get reduced. Old cells die and get replaced by new cells and in some case as we age they don’t get replaced as part of the normal body processes.
Body organs also become old as we age, as the nos of cells in them reduces and thereby reducing their ability to function. Most internal functions also decline with aging. Most bodily functions peak shortly before age 30 and then the gradual but continuous decline begins. With this decline also, most functions remain adequate because most organs are capable of doing more than the functional capacity that the body needs For example, if half the liver is destroyed, the remaining tissue is more than enough to maintain normal function. Thus, disorders, rather than normal aging, usually account for most of the loss of function in old age. The number of cells in the testes, ovaries, liver, and kidneys decreases as the body ages. When the number of cells becomes too low, an organ cannot function normally. Thus, most organs function less well as people age.

Joints and Bones

Bones tend to become weaker (less dense) and more susceptible to breaking.

In women, bone density reduction increases after menopause as oestrogen production reduces by the body. Oestrogen is a hormone which helps in protecting bone breakdown during the normal processes of bone resorption.

Bones become fragile and weak partly because they contain less calcium (which gives bones strength). Calcium reduces as the body absorbs less calcium from foods. Vitamin D, which helps the body use calcium, also reduces.

Some bones weaken more than others. Most affected are end of the thighbone (femur) at the hip, the ends of the arm bones (radius and ulna) at the wrist, and the bones of the spine (vertebrae).

Cartilage in the joints gets thinner due to wear and tear of years of movement. The surfaces of a joint have reduced ability to slide over each other as they used to, and the joint is more susceptible to injury. Damage to the cartilage due to lifelong use of joints or repeated injury often leads to osteoarthritis, which is one of the most common disorders of later life.

Ligaments, which bind joints together, and tendons, which bind muscle to bone, tend to become less elastic, making joints feel tight or stiff. The tissues also weaken. Hence most people become less flexible. Ligaments tend to tear more easily, and when they tear, they heal more slowly. These changes occur because the cells that maintain ligaments and tendons become less active.

Muscles and Body Fat

The amount of muscle tissue (muscle mass) and muscle strength starts to decrease beginning around age 30 and continues throughout life. Some of the decrease happens due to reduction in growth hormone and testosterone, which drive muscle development.

Muscles cannot contract as quickly as more fast-contracting (fast-twitch) muscle fibers are lost than slow-contracting (slow-twitch) muscle fibers. However, aging’s effects reduce muscle mass and strength by no more than about 10 to 15% during an adult’s lifetime. More severe muscle loss i-which is loss of flesh) results from disease or extreme inactivity, not from aging alone.

Most older people retain enough muscle mass and strength for all necessary tasks. Many older people remain strong athletes. They compete in sports and enjoy vigorous physical activity. However, even the fittest notice some decline as they age.

Physical activity throughout is so important to be able to live when we age. Its not a great feeling if we will be inactive when we age.

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