How to Grow Old Successfully

Manila Bulletin, February 4, 2013 | Go to article overview

How to Grow Old Successfully


Q: When does aging start? When is one old? What body changes are associated with normal aging? Is there anything we can do to prevent or retard aging? - iona1973@gmail.com

A: Aging, the gradual but progressive development of degenerative structural and functional changes within the body that invariably leads to death, actually starts at birth.

From birth, the cells of the body are subjected to various genetic and hostile environmental factors that result in damage and abnormality. Body cells have the capacity to regenerate, but this capacity is limited and decreases with age. Hence, with the passage of years, our physical and intellectual capabilities decline, and we become more susceptible to disease and more vulnerable to the effects of stress and disease.

There is no specific age at which a person becomes "old." In fact, people "age" at different ages; some grow "old" faster than others. Also, the various organs and tissues of a person age asynchronously. Hence, a person's heart could be "older" than his kidneys, etc. In any case, the term "elderly" usually refers to people who are 65 years old or older.

The aging process affects all cells, organs and systems of the body and the impairments that accompany aging usually start to manifest after the age of 35.

In the skin, muscles and bones, aging manifests as decrease in muscle mass and strength, loss of bone mass, increase in body fat, pain and stiffness of joints, thinning and wrinkling of the skin, and graying and/or loss of hair.

Aging dulls the sensory and motor organs: reading glasses become necessary; the ear is unable to hear high pitch sounds; food taste blander; the sense of smell becomes less discriminating; reflexes become sluggish, and motor responses get delayed.

Aging's effect on the heart and lungs manifest as increasing difficulty to perform strenuous activities and reaches a point when climbing stairs becomes an ordeal.

With age, the immune system becomes less active and the person becomes more susceptible to infection. …

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