The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Know Your Aging Body
Change is the only permanent thing in this world, says the old adage, and the same applies to us, humans. As we age, changes in our body become more evident: we become easily tired, our sleeping pattern changes, our teeth get crooked, our hair turns gray, and our skins wrinkles. Because these physical manifestations of aging, we tend to be less and less active, which adds more stress in our body over time.
To be more specific, one of the first system of our body that gets affected is our skeletal system. With age, our bones tend to shrink in size and density, making it unable to support the weight of our body and more susceptible to injuries. Joints in our body also become weaker and elastic, which why older people have difficulties on extending some part of their body as well of loss of balance.
Next to our bones and joint that gets weaker as we age is our muscles. In fact, people aged as young as 30 years old might already feel some difficulties lifting heavy objects because the ability of our muscles to contract are also starting to diminish during this time. Older people are also more susceptible in gaining more weight because the metabolic rate of our body slows down as we age. This then increases the risk of heart-related diseases such as hypertension and aneurysm.
These are just some of the things that happen to our body as we grow older. This infographic from Back on Track Fitness will take you on a journey on the most significant changes that takes place in our body as we age.
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CHANGES IN THE AGING BODY
As we grown older, the cells, tissues, organs, and systems inside our body grows tired and old too. Here are the changes your body goes through as you grow older:
BONES AND JOINTS
Bones tend to become less dense, becoming weaker and more likely to break easily. Aging women lose bone density faster after they experience menopause because of the less production of estrogen.
Ligaments and tendons become weaker and less elastic, which results to a stiffer or tighter joints. This is why older people are less flexible and more out of balanced.
MUSCLES AND BODY FAT
Muscle mass and muscle strength proportionally decrease starting around the age of 30. Also, muscles lose the ability to contract as quickly because fast-twitching fibers are lost as the body ages.
By the age of 75, the percentage of body fat typically doubles compared with what it was during young adulthood.
This increase the risk of health conditions such as diabetes and heart ailments. The distribution of fat also changes, changing the shape of the torso, visible around the waist and on the arms.
A change in vision is usually the first sign that your body is starting to age. During their 40s, most people notice that seeing objects closer than 2 feet becomes difficult. This is because the lens stiffens, which makes focusing on closer objects become a hard task. They also become denser, making it harder to adjust in dim light.
As people continue to age, seeing in dim light becomes more difficult because the lens tends to become less transparent. Both pupils also react slower to changes in the light.
The lens also turns yellowish, affecting the colors perceived. 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.
Less fluid is also supplied in the eyes, making it prone to irritation and dry feeling.
Most changes in hearing are possibly caused by noise exposure as to aging. Exposure to loud noise over time damages the ear’s ability to hear. As people age, hearing high-pitched sounds becomes more difficult.
Earwax tends to accumulate more as well as thick hairs, which blocks sounds more and interfere with the hearing.
MOUTH AND NOSE
People at 50s start to gradually lose their ability to taste and smell. As people age, taste buds on the tongue decrease in sensitivity. This change affects tasting sweet and salt more than bitter and sour. The mouth tends to feel dry more often, partly because less saliva is produced.
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 ability to smell diminishes because the lining of the nose becomes thinner and drier and the nerve endings in the nose deteriorate.
Because of these changes, many foods tend to taste bitter, and foods with subtle smells may taste bland.
The skin tends to become thinner, less elastic, drier, and finely wrinkled because of the less production of collagen and elastin, which is responsible for making the skin strong and flexible, respectively. As a result, the skin tears more easily.
Another thing that thins is the fat under the skin. Nerve endings under it also decreases, causing older people to become less sensitive to pain, temperature, and pressure. There is higher risk for injury too.
Age spots are caused by exposure to sunlight and UV rays, which older skin can’t block as much as before.
BRAIN AND NERVOUS SYSTEM
The number of nerve cells in the brain typically decreases. But, new connections between the surviving cells are made. At the same time, the brain can regenerate new nerve cells in other parts. Nevertheless, some signals are delivered more slowly.
Levels of the chemical substances involved in sending messages in the brain change. Nerve cells may lose some of their receptors for messages. Blood flow to the brain decreases. 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 70.
After about 60 years old, the number of cells in the spinal cord begins to decrease.
HEART AND BLOOD VESSELS
The heart and blood vessels become stiffer, and are filled with blood in a much slower pace. Because the arteries are stiffer, they are less able to expand as blood flows through them, making the blood pressure climb up.
Despite these changes, a normal older heart functions well. Although an older heart cannot speed up as quickly or pump as fast or as much blood as a younger heart.
The muscles used in breathing, such as the diaphragm, tend to weaken, while the air sacs and capillaries decrease in number too. The lungs become less elastic, making deep breathing difficult as you age. Breathing at high altitudes (where there is less oxygen) may also be harder.
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