What does aging imply?
What are the consequences of aging?
Aging brings a number of changes in the body’s health. The main ones are the following:
– Digestive system: A number of anomalies in the gastrointestinal tract in the digestion and absorption of food:
– Reduction of acidity: This determines a greater difficulty in digesting food.
– Reduction of saliva: What produces increased difficulties in chewing and swallowing food.
– Reduction of efficacy of the liver: which leads to longer and heavy digestions.
– Decreased sense of taste and smell, which affects the pleasure of eating. It becomes less pleasant and often determines that the amount of food eaten is less than what would be required. The loss of these senses is the reason why older people tend to salt or sweeten food heavily.
– Circulatory system: Between the main anomalies that take place as a person ages we can find the following:
– Changes in the heart that determine the appearance of a slower heart rate and the habitual appearance of arrhythmias. The heart usually increases its size although it loses force in the pumping and the valves become more rigid. The cases of heart failure occur more frequently in old people that in the young.
– Changes in the blood vessels that become harder and less flexible, which makes circulation difficult. Arteriosclerosis leads to a greater risk of angina pectoris or myocardial infarction. Blood pressure rises and the lack of permeability of capillaries leads to less absorption of nutrients from food.
– Changes in the blood, which volume diminishes due to containing less water. The number of red blood cells decreases as the transport of oxygen to the cells is lower which results in increased fatigue. The number of white blood cells also decreases so that the elderly have lower defenses.
Poor circulation is usually responsible for the occurrence of abnormalities such as increased presence of varicose veins, intermittent claudication, etc
– Metabolism: During this period very characteristic metabolic problems appear. Among the main ones there are:
– Glucose intolerance: what determines higher possibilities of diabetes.
– Diminution in the effectiveness of the liver: which leads, besides longer and heavy digestions, to a lower filtering of toxins.
– Hormonal diminution, especially concerning sex hormones and the thyroid. Menopause is the main sign of aging in women, but during this period another series of anomalies related to the diminution of the estrogen can be produced, as the lack of sexual desire or other manifestations such as, for example, vaginal dryness or vaginal irritation. In men, changes do not occur as quickly as in women, but the aging leads to a gradual reduction of the testicles and can also produce lacking of sexual desire or lack of erection. It is during this time when usually problems of prostate appear. Thyroid is another very important hormone in the metabolism that is affected by the aging process.
– Increased body fat and redistribution of it. Body fat leaves evenly distributed and accumulates around the waist. In general, the proportion of total fat increases by ⅓.
– Water reduction in the body. This can lead to a greater risk of dehydration and makes the absorption of nutrients more difficult.
– Musculoskeletal system: Aging involves important changes in the bones and muscles as a result of a smaller absorption of proteins. Also the aging produces difficulties in the production of vitamin D, through the sun, that is necessary to fix calcium to the bones. Among the main ones we have:
– Loss of bone mass. Bones, as we get older, lose the ability to renew themselves so we are increasingly more likely to suffer loss of bone mass or osteoporosis, with consequent risk of breaking bones. Some very well known problems usually appear during this time in the bones and joints such as arthrosis, backache, etc. From 50 or 60 onwards the body decreases in height. Some nerves may be pinched by bones or joints causing diseases such as sciatica. Joints are deteriorated, they lose flexibility and they determine slower and less extensive movements.
– Loss of muscle mass. Muscle mass also decreases as the body loses strength and agility. The ability to move diminishes and old people become less flexible. As a result, aged people are more likely to suffer falls and traumas. Their muscles become thinner and shorter resulting in a stretch of bones resulting in curved forms, hence, as we get older, the legs are bent and back hunched. Part of the muscle is replaced by fat.
– Respiratory system: The bronchial tubes lose elasticity and respiratory muscles are not so powerful, so that pumping air into the lungs and air-holding capacity is diminished.
All this determines a smaller oxygenation of the organism, which leads to a greater effort and superior fatigue during the physical activities.
– Skin: It is the organ where the changes produced by the aging are easily seen. The skin over the year becomes finer, less elastic and much more fragile. The layer of fat beneath the skin also decreases. These changes are more intense in people who have sunbathed for longer and people with fair skin and lighter eyes.
The skin is less resistant, making it easier to produce bruises, chafing, scratches or cuts. On the other hand, the reduction of subcutaneous fat leads to a lower capacity to retain body heat which is an obvious risk for older people to suffer from hypothermia.
The face is the body part that best shows the changes produced by aging. Facial skin becomes flaccid and pendant and there are a lot of wrinkles. Some muscles of the face sag and sink to form the usual double chin. Ears become longer and hair appears in men. The nose also gets longer and stands on the thinner face much more than when the person was young.
Crow’s feet appear in the eyes and they sink deeper as a result of lower fat loss. Eyelids fall covering part of the eyes. In the white of the eye appears a senile arc, a halo of gray. Teeth fall so the upper lip appears sunken. Lower gums are worn-out and the lower jaw sinks.
Much more serious is the increased chance of developing skin cancers, as a result of the accumulation of solar radiations throughout many years.
– Hair: This is another part of the body that accuses much as we age. Eventually it starts to fall and becomes thinner, less thick and graying.
The process of hair loss, usually begins at the age of 30 and at 60 two-thirds of the male population are balding. Women are usually not affected by male pattern baldness (total baldness in the top of the head or temples), but the hair will become thinner and thinner.
The graying of hair is a result of the decrease of melanin produced by the hair follicle. Hair begins to turn white over 30 years. It’s normal for people age 40 present gray hairs. Body hair usually starts to go gray later. Pubic hair can turn white or not.
The nails of the feet become thicker, while finger nails are thinner and more easily broken. The color of the nails changes and they become yellow and less translucent.
– Nervous system: The lower efficiency of the nervous system responds with a poorer nerve transmission that manifests as memory loss, loss of reflexes and greater difficulty in learning. Although not as a direct consequence of aging, older people are more likely to have Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Aging implies a loss of the senses. People who are getting older need stronger external stimuli so they can appreciate them.
Of all the senses, sight and hearing are those who suffer higher losses. It is believed that, at 65 years, people have lost 35% of hearing. Besides greater deafness, it is necessary to add a loss of balance, as the organ of hearing has the control of this faculty, and there is a greater chance of plugs in the ears or tinnitus.
The degeneration of the eye or macular degeneration, produces a smaller visual capacity.Older people have more difficulty adapting to low light conditions which makes it difficult to perform some activities such as driving at night. Along with night blindness, it is necessary to emphasize that presbyopia or farsightedness is something habitual from the the age of 50. In addition, other anomalies are very common in this period, such as cataracts, floaters, tired eyes, irritated eyes, etc.
The loss of the senses of taste and smell leads to less interest in food, so that seniors generally eat little or have a too little varied diet which can produce a food shortage. The decline in the production of saliva must be added to these problems, which makes swallowing food very difficult.
Regarding to the sense of touch, during old age there is a decrease of tactile sensations, not only in the quality of touch, but in the broad sense of feeling sensations such as cold, heat, pain, pressure, etc. This implies an increased risk of certain accidents that younger people can avoid by noticing them through this sense. For example, older people are more likely to suffer cold, freezing or burning.
By unnoticing the pain of a concealed wound, as the lesions produced in one’s toes, they do not have a clear conscience of the actual degree of infection, so unconsciousness may worsen this problem.