Ways of Aging

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We invite you to make an impact. When you give , advocate or volunteer to help older adults, you're strengthening your entire community. OK, got it Give me more info. Donate Take Action. The changes may sound small, but the impact is huge. Elderly who leave the hospital are now connected to people and programs that can community support them.

United Way of Baroda in India coordinates monthly utility payment services. Volunteers help anyone who's eligible to apply. So far, senior volunteers have screened more than 1, people for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and helped almost apply -- connecting a record number of seniors to health and financial benefits. This decline also means that older people are more likely to experience side effects from drugs. Some organs are more likely to malfunction under stress than others.

These organs include the heart and blood vessels, the urinary organs such as the kidneys , and the brain. Bones tend to become less dense. Moderate loss of bone density is termed osteopenia and severe loss of bone density including occurrence of a fracture due to loss of bond density is osteoporosis. With osteoporosis, bones become weaker and more likely to break.

The effects of aging: can they be reversed?

In women, loss of bone density speeds up after menopause because less estrogen is produced. Bones become less dense partly because they contain less calcium which gives bones strength. The amount of calcium decreases because the body absorbs less calcium from foods. Also, levels of vitamin D, which helps the body use calcium, decrease slightly. Certain bones are weakened more than others. Those most affected include the 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.

Changes in vertebrae at the top of the spine cause the head to tip forward, compressing the throat.

Three Ways Aging Biases Your Post Brain

As a result, swallowing is more difficult, and choking is more likely. The vertebrae become less dense and the cushions of tissue disks between them lose fluid and become thinner, making the spine shorter. Thus, older people become shorter. The cartilage that lines the joints tends to thin, partly because of the wear and tear of years of movement. The surfaces of a joint may not slide over each other as well as they used to, and the joint may be slightly 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. These tissues also weaken. Thus, most people become less flexible. Ligaments and tendons 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. The amount of muscle tissue muscle mass and muscle strength tend to decrease beginning around age 30 and continuing throughout life. Some of the decrease is caused by physical inactivity and decreasing levels of growth hormone and testosterone , which stimulate muscle development. Also, muscles cannot contract as quickly because more fast-contracting fast-twitch muscle fibers are lost than slow-contracting slow-twitch muscle fibers.

More severe muscle loss called sarcopenia, which literally means 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. To make up for the muscle mass lost during each day of strict bed rest, older people may need to exercise for up to 2 weeks. Regular exercise to strengthen muscles resistance training can partially overcome or significantly delay loss of muscle mass and strength. In muscle-strengthening exercise, muscles contract against resistance provided by gravity as in sit-ups or push-ups , weights, or rubber bands. If this type of exercise is done regularly, even people who have never exercised can increase muscle mass and strength.

Conversely, physical inactivity, especially bed rest during an illness, can greatly accelerate the loss. During periods of inactivity, older people lose muscle mass and strength much more quickly than younger people do. For example, to make up for the muscle mass lost during each day of strict bed rest, people may need to exercise for up to 2 weeks. By age 75, the percentage of body fat typically doubles compared with what it was during young adulthood. Too much body fat can increase the risk of health problems, such as diabetes. The distribution of fat also changes, changing the shape of the torso.

A healthy diet and regular exercise can help older people minimize increases in body fat. Loss of near vision: During their 40s, most people notice that seeing objects closer than 2 feet becomes difficult. This change in vision, called presbyopia , occurs because the lens in the eye stiffens. Normally, the lens changes its shape to help the eye focus. A stiffer lens makes focusing on close objects harder.

Ultimately, almost everyone gets presbyopia and needs magnifying reading glasses. People who need glasses to see distant objects may need to wear bifocals or glasses with variable-focus lenses. Need for brighter light: As people continue to age, seeing in dim light becomes more difficult because the lens tends to become less transparent.

A denser lens means that less light passes through to the retina at the back of the eye. Also, the retina, which contains the cells that sense light, becomes less sensitive. So for reading, brighter light is needed. On average, year-olds need 3 times more light to read than year-olds. Changes in color perception: Colors are perceived differently, partly because the lens tends to yellow with aging. Colors may look less bright and contrasts between different colors may be more difficult to see. Blues may look more gray, and blue print or background may look washed out.

These changes are insignificant for most people. However, older people may have trouble reading black letters printed on a blue background or reading blue letters. The pupil of the eye reacts more slowly to changes in light. The pupil widens and narrows to let more or less light in, depending on the brightness of the surroundings. A slow-reacting pupil means that older people may be unable to see when they first enter a dark room.

Or they may be temporarily blinded when they enter a brightly lit area. Older people may also become more sensitive to glare. However, increased sensitivity to glare is often due to darkened areas in the lens or to cataracts.

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Fine details, including differences in shades and tones, become more difficult to discern. The reason is probably a decrease in the number of nerve cells that transmit visual signals from the eyes to the brain. This change affects the way depth is perceived, and judging distances becomes more difficult. Older people may see more tiny black specks moving across their field of vision. These specks, called floaters , are bits of normal fluid in the eye that have solidified. Floaters do not significantly interfere with vision. Unless they suddenly increase in number, they are not a cause for concern.

The eyes tend to become dry.

This change occurs because the number of cells that produce fluids to lubricate the eyes decreases. Tear production may decrease. The whites sclera of the eyes may turn slightly yellow or brown. This change results from many years of exposure to ultraviolet light, wind, and dust. Random splotches of color may appear in the whites of the eyes, particularly in people with a dark complexion. A gray-white ring arcus senilis may appear on the surface of the eye. The ring is made of calcium and cholesterol salts. It does not affect vision. The lower eyelid may hang away from the eyeball because the muscles around the eye weaken and the tendons stretch.

This condition called ectropion may interfere with lubricating the eyeball and contribute to dry eyes. Most changes in hearing are probably due as much to noise exposure as to aging see also Hearing Loss. Nonetheless, some changes in hearing occur as people age, regardless of their exposure to loud noise. As people age, hearing high-pitched sounds becomes more difficult.

This change is considered age-associated hearing loss presbycusis. For example, violin music may sound less bright. Articulating consonants clearly may be more helpful than speaking more loudly to older people who have trouble understanding speech. The most frustrating consequence of presbycusis is that words become harder to understand.

As a result, older people may think that other people are mumbling. Even when other people speak more loudly, older people still have difficulty understanding the words. The reason is that most consonants such as k, t, s, p, and ch are high-pitched, and consonants are the sounds that help people identify words. Because vowels are lower-pitched sounds, they are easier to hear. Understanding what women and children say may be more difficult than understanding what men say because most women and children have higher-pitched voices.

Gradually, hearing lower pitches also becomes more difficult. Many older people have more trouble hearing in loud places or in groups because of the background noise. Also, earwax, which interferes with hearing, tends to accumulate more. Generally, when people are in their 50s, the ability to taste and smell starts to gradually diminish.

Both senses are needed to enjoy the full range of flavors in food. The tongue can identify only five basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salt, and a relatively newly identified taste called umami commonly described as meaty or savory. The sense of smell is needed to distinguish more subtle and complex flavors such as raspberry. As people age, taste buds on the tongue decrease in sensitivity.

This change affects tasting sweet and salt more than bitter and sour. The ability to smell diminishes because the lining of the nose becomes thinner and drier and the nerve endings in the nose deteriorate.

In Your 20's

However, the change is slight, usually affecting only subtle smells. Because of these changes, many foods tend to taste bitter, and foods with subtle smells may taste bland. The mouth tends to feel dry more often, partly because less saliva is produced. Dry mouth further reduces the ability to taste food. As people age, the gums recede slightly. Consequently, the lower parts of the teeth are exposed to food particles and bacteria. Also, tooth enamel tends to wear away.

These changes, as well as a dry mouth, make the teeth more susceptible to decay and cavities caries and thus make tooth loss more likely. The skin tends to become thinner, less elastic, drier, and finely wrinkled. However, exposure to sunlight over the years greatly contributes to wrinkling and to making the skin rough and blotchy. People who have avoided exposure to sunlight often look much younger than their age. The skin changes partly because collagen a tough, fibrous tissue that makes skin strong and elastin which makes skin flexible become chemically changed and less flexible; also,the aging body produces less collagen and elastin.

As a result, the skin tears more easily. The fat layer under the skin thins. This layer acts as a cushion for the skin, helping protect and support it. The fat layer also helps conserve body heat. When the layer thins, wrinkles are more likely to develop, and tolerance for cold decreases.

The number of nerve endings in the skin decreases. As a result, people become less sensitive to pain, temperature, and pressure, and injuries may be more likely. The number of sweat glands and blood vessels decreases, and blood flow in the deep layers of the skin decreases. As a result, the body is less able to move heat from inside the body through blood vessels to the surface of the body.

Less heat leaves the body, and the body cannot cool itself as well. Thus, the risk of heat-related disorders, such as heatstroke, is increased. Also, when blood flow is decreased, the skin tends to heal more slowly. The number of pigment-producing cells melanocytes decreases. As a result, the skin has less protection against ultraviolet UV radiation, such as that from sunlight. Large, brown spots age spots develop on skin that has been exposed to sunlight, perhaps because the skin is less able to remove waste products.

The skin is less able to form vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. Thus, the risk of vitamin D deficiency increases. The number of nerve cells in the brain typically decreases. However, the brain can partly compensate for this loss in several ways:. Levels of the chemical substances involved in sending messages in the brain tend to decrease, but some increase.

Nerve cells may lose some of their receptors for these chemical messages. Blood flow to the brain decreases. Because of these age-related changes, the brain may function slightly less well. Older people may react and do tasks somewhat more slowly, but given time, they do these things accurately. Some mental functions—such as vocabulary, short-term memory, the ability to learn new material, and the ability to recall words—may be subtly reduced after age After about age 60, the number of cells in the spinal cord begins to decrease. Usually, this change does not affect strength or sensation.

As people age, nerves may conduct signals more slowly. Usually, this change is so minimal that people do not notice it. Also, nerves may repair themselves more slowly and incompletely. Therefore, in older people with damaged nerves, sensation and strength may be decreased. The heart and blood vessels become stiffer.

The heart fills with blood more slowly. The stiffer arteries are less able to expand when more blood is pumped through them. Thus, blood pressure tends to increase.


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Despite these changes, a normal older heart functions well. Differences between young and old hearts become apparent only when the heart has to work hard and pump more blood—for example, during exercise or an illness. An older heart cannot speed up as quickly or pump as fast or as much blood as a younger heart.

Thus, older athletes are not able to perform as well as younger athletes. However, regular aerobic exercise can improve athletic performance in older people. The muscles used in breathing, the diaphragm and muscles between the ribs, tend to weaken. The number of air sacs alveoli and capillaries in the lungs decreases. Thus, slightly less oxygen is absorbed from air that is breathed in.

The lungs become less elastic. In people who do not smoke or have a lung disorder, these changes do not affect ordinary daily activities, but these changes may make exercising more difficult. Breathing at high altitudes where there is less oxygen may also be harder. The lungs become less able to fight infection, partly because the cells that sweep debris containing microorganisms out of the airways are less able to do so.

Cough, which also helps clear the lungs, tends to be weaker. Overall, the digestive system is less affected by aging than most other parts of the body. The muscles of the esophagus contract less forcefully, but movement of food through the esophagus is not affected.

Food is emptied from the stomach slightly more slowly, and the stomach cannot hold as much food because it is less elastic. But in most people, these changes are too slight to be noticed. Certain changes cause problems in some people. The digestive tract may produce less lactase, an enzyme the body needs to digest milk. As a result, older people are more likely to develop intolerance of dairy products lactose intolerance.

People with lactose intolerance may feel bloated or have gas or diarrhea after they consume milk products. In the large intestine, materials move through a little more slowly. In some people, this slowing contributes to constipation. The liver tends to become smaller because the number of cells decreases.

Less blood flows through it, and liver enzymes that help the body process drugs and other substances work less efficiently. As a result, the liver may be slightly less able to help remove drugs and other substances from the body. And the effects of drugs—intended and unintended—last longer.

The kidneys tend to become smaller because the number of cells decreases. Less blood flows through the kidneys, and at about age 30, they begin to filter blood less well. As years pass, they may remove waste products from the blood less well. They may excrete too much water and too little salt, making dehydration more likely. The maximum volume of urine that the bladder can hold decreases. Thus, older people may need to urinate more often. The bladder muscles may contract unpredictably become overactive , regardless of whether people need to urinate.

The bladder muscles weaken. As a result, they cannot empty the bladder as well, and more urine is left in the bladder after urination. The muscle that controls the passage of urine out of the body urinary sphincter is less able to close tightly and prevent leakage.

Thus, older people have more difficulty postponing urination. These changes are one reason that urinary incontinence uncontrollable loss of urine becomes more common as people age. In women, the urethra the tube through which urine leaves the body shortens, and its lining becomes thinner.

The decrease in the estrogen level that occurs with menopause may contribute to this and other changes in the urinary tract. In men, the prostate gland tends to enlarge. In many men, it enlarges enough to interfere with the passage of urine and to prevent the bladder from emptying completely. As a result, older men tend to urinate with less force, to take longer to start the stream of urine, to dribble urine at the end of the stream, and to urinate more often. Older men are also more likely to be unable to urinate despite having a full bladder called urinary retention.

This disorder requires immediate medical care. The effects of aging on sex hormone levels are more obvious in women than in men. In women, most of these effects are related to menopause , when the levels of female hormones particularly estrogen decrease dramatically, menstrual periods end permanently, and pregnancy is no longer possible.

The decrease in female hormone levels causes the ovaries and uterus to shrink. The tissues of the vagina become thinner, drier, and less elastic a condition called atrophic vaginitis. In severe cases, these changes can lead to itching, bleeding, pain during intercourse, and a need to urinate immediately urinary urgency. The breasts become less firm and more fibrous, and they tend to sag. These changes make finding lumps in the breasts more difficult. Some of the changes that begin at menopause such as lower hormone levels and vaginal dryness may interfere with sexual activity.



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