SciTech

Health Talk: Aging

Some may view aging as a curse; others see it as a sign of wisdom or a symbol of respect. One thing is for certain: The aging process is constant, ongoing, irreversible, and will affect everyone.

Aging in humans is commonly associated with a change in appearance, an increase in frailness, and a general loss of efficiency in bodily functions.

However, these external indications are the result of gradual changes in the cellular processes of our bodies.
One of the most noticeable changes in the body is the appearance of the skin. The skin is made of many different layers of cells. According to www.health-cares.net, skin cells divide more slowly with age, and an inner layer of skin called the dermis becomes thinner over time. In addition, a protein called collagen, which provides structural support, loses elasticity. Skin changes can be exacerbated with repeated sun damage. Ultraviolet rays, which bombard the skin during tanning or general sun exposure, work to weaken collagen. Other factors that affect collagen elasticity include cigarette smoke and ozone.

As we grow older, the amount of bone we produce decreases. Bones are made of many different kinds of cells. Although bones seem rigid, the old cells are constantly being replaced by new cells, but aging decreases the rate of replenishment, leading to frailer bones. According to an article on www.howstuffworks.com, bone loss can be aggravated by habits such as smoking, lack of certain nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, and taking certain medications. However, while loss of bone strength is inevitable, it can be slowed through normal exercise and a non-sedentary lifestyle.

Getting shorter as we age is related to spongy disks between vertebrae in the spine, which lose water over time, causing a greater amount of compression. Becoming weaker is a result of deterioration of muscle tissue, causing decreased endurance, size, and strength. However, being inactive is a greater contributor to muscle weakening than aging is.
Simple habits like regular exercise and good posture may reduce weakening of muscles over time.

The aging process also causes changes in the body’s metabolism, or the ability of the digestive systems to process food efficiently.

Older people generally have slower metabolisms than younger people, meaning that fat deposits are created more easily. This is why many older people seem to gain weight at a faster rate than their younger selves. Other factors may also be involved with weight gain. Becoming less active as we grow older can also accelerate weight gain. In addition, because people lose cells as they grow older, they expend less energy, but may still eat the same amount of food. However, an article on www.healthinaging.org notes that people who live in less technologically advanced societies do not show weight gain patterns, suggesting that an individual’s activity or eating habits, not the aging process, may be the direct cause of weight gain.

The heart also loses its effectiveness with age, decreasing the amount of blood that flows through the body. This causes people to feel colder and to take longer to recover from exercise.

While aging is a normal biological process, there are ways to remain healthy as we age and ways to slow the effects of aging. Research has shown that eating fruits and vegetables will supply the body with various nutrients that are necessary to maintaining normal functioning. According to www.dailycomet.com, berries supply the body with antioxidants such as vitamin C. These antioxidants are important because our bodies’ cells use oxygen to perform regular cellular processes, and free radicals are created as byproducts. Free radicals can damage the body slowly through a chemical reaction called oxidation. Over time, damage will build up. However, antioxidants can sequester free radicals so they are not harmful the body anymore.

While youth is often desired, with a healthy lifestyle, biological age can fall far behind chronological age.