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Understanding aging

Understanding aging starts by recognizing that the body will not function as well as it once did. Several organs decrease in mass and become less functional with age. It is possible to fight many of the challenges attributed to old age through lifestyle choices. A thorough understanding of aging and ways to counteract it can make the senior years golden.

Understanding the Effects of Aging
Subtle changes in the body during the aging process can hamper one’s lifestyle. As the body grows older, the skeletal system and digestive system deteriorate. Bone may look static, but it is actually dynamic living tissue. It is continuously breaking down and reforming. The bones of elderly people don't reform as quickly as they break down. This results in the progressive decline of bone density and increasing risks of bone fractures. Problems in the digestive system also emerge with age. The smooth muscles of the digestive system get weaker, which can lead to difficulty swallowing and making bowel movements.

An elderly person may notice changes in the body. The senses become less acute with age. Invisible damage to blood vessels can trigger cardiovascular diseases. A weaker cardiovascular system can also leave extremities feeling cold and make it difficult to recover from physical stresses such as walking up a hill. A declining respiratory system is another reason why physical exertion could be a challenge for older individuals. Muscle mass peaks in the 20s and drops for the rest of life.

Skin loses its youthful qualities as the decades roll by. It can tear and bruise more easily, and take longer to heal. The skin becomes thinner and less elastic. It has more difficulty bouncing back from facial expressions. Wrinkles develop mostly as a result of lower collagen levels.

Combating the Effects of Aging
Lifestyle choices can minimize the effects of aging. Regular exercise strengthens the muscular system, skeletal system, and cardiovascular system. A healthy diet supports every organ in the body. Medical checkups can catch sensory problems early enough to address or moderate them. With good lifestyle choices, it's possible to stay fit throughout the golden years.

Effects of the Aging Process
Muscular System Weak Muscles
Skeletal System Fragile Bones and Joints
Cardiovascular System Slow Circulation, Brittle Blood Vessels
Sensory System Loss of Hearing, Vision, and Smell
Digestive System Constipation, Difficulty Swallowing
Skin Reduced Collagen, Thinner Skin, Less Elasticity, Wrinkles

Old age is typically associated with declining health, but there are things one can do proactively. It begins by understanding the aging process. Aging affects the skeletal system, digestive system, cardiovascular system, sensory organs, and skin. Understanding aging, plus exercise, nutrition, and medical checkups can help keep you active and looking young, no matter what your age.


1. The Aging Process. Discovery Health

2. The Aging Process. North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services