Sunday, November 18, 2012
Article # 65. What is Aging?
What is Aging?
What is Aging? If we go by the dictionary definition of ageing, it can be said that ‘aging is the process of growing old.’ However, the aging process is much more complex than this simple definition of aging. When you say old, your mind instantly draws a picture of human being with wrinkles all over face and body, bent body posture, visibly looking weak and depressed but old is not always meant to be like that! Why do we then call a kid to be eight years old or ten years old! We can ourselves be 20 years old or 40 years old but then we do not look what you saw in your mind’s picture! In fact, we also do not feel like being old.
What is aging then? Aging is a set of changes seen and felt in a person over time. It is not a single attribute but aging occurs at multiple levels- physical, psychological, hormonal, cellular and even at social level. Some of the impacts of aging are positive and some others are negative. For example, human beings while aging get wrinkles, loss of memory and muscles, diseases, slower reaction times etc. On the positive end though, with age, a person gets more knowledgeable and mature in responding to worldly situations.
Why We Age?
Just like aging is a multi dimensional process, the reasons for how and why do we age too are multiple.
We age because body cells and tissues wear out.
We age because biologically our bodies are programmed through genes. Our body responds to these biological calls, diminishes our energy and makes us prone to various factors that make us old.
We age because various hormones in our body change and facilitate aging process.
We age because our immune system becomes less efficient over time and we become prone to various diseases.
We age because free radicals damage our cells whose functions are impaired in the process.
We age because telomeres- the structures on the end of DNA- eventually get depleted causing cells to stop replicating.
We age because various body organs including muscles, bones, lungs, kidney, bladder, eyes, ears, etc. lose their efficiency over time and due to hormonal changes.
We age because of environmental damages caused by external factors like sun rays, pollution etc. This is called premature aging. When this premature aging is due to UV radiations, it is called photo aging.
We age because we think that we don’t have good health. Researches have proved that every human being has a belief in his/her own health. They might think their health to be excellent, average or poor. This belief in one’s own health is correlated with well-being and mortality in the elderly people.
How We Age?
While we can slow down our premature aging by controlling the environmental factors, the natural aging process cannot be exactly prevented. There are many signs of aging that can be seen in our bodies. There are some other signs and symptoms of aging that can only be felt by us in our bodies. These factors combine to tells us how we age!
Aging causes degeneration of the components of our skin- collagen and elastin. This leads to wrinkles, creases, furrows and folds in our skin.
As we age, the muscles in our body start shrinking and losing mass. The muscles, therefore, become less responsive. Thus, we fall victim of slow reactions.
With aging, bones lose their density due to decreased mineral content in them. It leads to various bone diseases like osteoporosis and arthritis.
As we reach the age of 40, our vision is affected. The taste buds too start decreasing at the age of 40 in women and at 50 in men.
As we celebrate our 50th birthday, we might feel our hearing capacity declining, even if in negligible measures.
After age of 50, our stomach too secrets lesser acids resulting in digestive problems.
When we age more and reach 70, our smelling capacity can diminish too.
Aging makes our heart muscle less capable and thus we get tired more easily.
With aging, the flexibility of joints diminish thus making movement of joints more difficult. We thus suffer from joint pains.
Our height grows when we are children. Similarly, it starts decreasing after the age of 40 though not in such measures that can be noticed by anyone. We lose about 0.4 inches of height every ten years after we become 40 years old. In our whole lifespan after this age, we might lose 1-3 inches of height.
There is nothing to fear about the facts that clarify our curiosity regarding the questions like what is aging, how we age and after all why do humans age! Aging is a normal, natural and inevitable process that we cannot prevent in any way. However, we can slow down our aging process so that we can age gracefully and live healthy till the time we are here on this earth!