Are you Getting Old?
Many of us are not comfortable with the idea of getting old. But old age is a bitter reality which we can’t escape so it is a better idea to accept it. When we accept it then it can be a normal process for us; rather we can have healthy aging. The definition of aging or getting old is not consistent but almost every definition of old age revolves around the number of years spent. Old age or senescence refers to the final stage of the human life span or the later years of one’s life.
Germany was the first nation to set a retirement age of 65 years. Since then, generally, most nations of the world have adopted the same retirement age limit, and the age of 65 was widely considered as old age but now there are significant variations in retirement age throughout the world. But still, 60 or 65 years of age or older is considered as old in almost every country of the world.
Age can have varied definitions. The first one is chronological age. Chronological age is referred to a person’s age in years. As people age, they may be more prone to develop health problems. Next is the biological age. Biological age refers to the changes occurring in the body as people age. With age, people may experience functional loss but however, this functional loss is not intense enough to impair the routine activities. Finally, the last one is psychological age which has nothing to do with physical health rather it is related to the psyche of individuals. For example, an older adult may be psychologically young if he is optimistic about the future and actively participates in many social activities.
What Happens to Our Bodies as We Get Older?
While the psychological age has nothing to do with general health but the other two-chronological and biological age- definitely affect the bodily functions. Generally, as people age, their bodily functions start to decline and this process starts at a quite young age, usually after 30 years- bodily functions peak somewhere before 30 years. The same is true for biological age; after middle age, destructive changes occur in the human body with each passing day. Though these undesirable changes manifest themselves in some individuals earlier than others because of changes in lifestyle, habit, and genetic makeup however they definitely reduce the body’s ability to cope with the challenges as it was once able to do at a young age.
With age, changes occur at the cellular, tissue, and organ level which manifests them in the functional change. Here is what happens to our bodies as we get older.
Protecting Ageing Cells and Organs:
With age, normal cell functioning is affected and eventually it dies. The process of cell death is known as apoptosis. Apoptosis is a normal biological process that is controlled by genes. With age, output, and dividing capacity of the cells are reduced so old cells must die for making room for new ones. In some instances, cell death also occurs due to physical injury or damage by harmful chemicals like free radicals.
The health of the cells within an organ determine its functional performance as a group of similar cells forms a tissue and various tissue group together to form an organ. In some organs like reproductive organs, kidneys, and liver; cells are lost due to apoptosis and they are not replaced by new cells.
Therefore functions of these organs decline overtime. While in other organs like brain, the lost cells are compensated by new ones and by forming connections with reserve nerve cells, and therefore with age, functions of these organs are least affected although they also face some decline.
Strengthen the Musculoskeletal System:
With age muscle strength is reduced and bones become fragile leading to more fractures. Also, older people tend to become a bit shorter. After 30 years, we begin to lose muscle mass as the level of growth hormone and sex-related hormones-testosterone in males and estrogen in females- is lowered.
Normally, fast-contracting muscles are lost more quickly than slow-contracting muscles. On average, 10-15 percent of muscle mass is lost over the entire lifespan.
Similarly, bones become less dense with age due to low calcium levels, and a reduced amount of vitamin D. Spine bones, ends of the arm and hip are the most affected bones. Cushion discs in-between the vertebrae of the spine lose fluid due to age-long wear and tear which results in height loss. Also, tendons and ligaments become weak and they tear up more frequently and heal slowly.
Replenish the Nervous System:
In old age, nervous system function is somewhat reduced due to several reasons like reduced blood flow to the brain, loss of neurotransmitter receptors, low production of neurotransmitters, and neuron loss.
Though neuron loss is compensated by forming connections with reserve nerve cells however the signal conducting capacity is slowed down. Also with time, spinal nerves are lost and consequently, older people do tasks slowly as compared to young ones.
Clean out the Circulatory System:
As people age, fatty materials are deposited inside the blood vessels and also walls of the arteries become stiffer which often leads to hypertension (high blood pressure). Similarly, heart muscles adapt to pumping blood through stiffer arteries and consequently, its muscles also get stiffer. An old heart will function well at rest but it can’t tolerate the strenuous physical activity as it was once able to handle a couple of decades ago. Also, with age, the amount of active bone marrow-site of blood cell production- is decreased so the body can’t make as many blood cells as it was producing in its young age but however, these reduced blood cells can still meet the requirements of the body.
Protect Digestive Health:
Generally speaking, the digestive system is least affected by age but however the digestive process is also slowed down and older people face constipation problems frequently. The liver also becomes small due to continuous cell loss and therefore detoxifying capacity-removing harmful substance from the body- of the liver is decreased.
Kidneys also lose cells continuously and they can’t purify the blood completely at an older age. Similarly, muscles of the urinary bladder also lose their contracting strength and as a result, older people face more urinating issues with time.
Strengthen the Immune System:
Finally immune response in elderly people is not as robust as it is in young people. With the low production of B and T cells due to reduced active bone marrow and low activity of mature lymphocytes, the identifying and fighting capacity of the immune system is lowered.
Therefore it is no wonder that cancer and some infections like pneumonia and influenza are more common in elderly people as compared to young individuals.
Taking a plant based supplement can give your body the extra support it needs!
With almost 30 percent of the population falling into the old age bracket; health complications associated with old age have become a public health concern in England.
Normally health problems associated with old age are osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, low mental faculties, heart complications and high blood pressure, digestive complications, urinary incontinence, diabetes, loss of near vision, difficulty in hearing high-pitched voices, reduced taste sensitivity, lowered capacity of the body to regulate temperature and dry skin.
How to Reduce the negative Impacts of Old age?
However as stated earlier old age is inevitable and with most of its undesirable consequences, we still can adapt to it as we can lessen its unwanted repercussions by adopting better strategies. Some of these strategies are remaining mentally active, regular exercising, and eating the right food. Though the first two strategies are surely helpful in minimising the harmful impact of old age but however eating healthier food will go a long way in minimising most of the old age-associated health problems. A healthy old age diet must contain the following foods.
Eat more Vegetables and Fruits:
Switch to a healthier plant-based diet as you age. Dark green and leafy vegetables will give you a wide variety of vital nutrients like folate, carotenoids, vitamins, dietary fiber, and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and much more.
The antioxidant chemicals of these vegetables will neutralize the harmful free radicals which are produced as by-products of energy metabolism. Spinach, lettuce, members of cabbage family like kale, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and cauliflower are especially beneficial for old age.
Similarly, fruits abound in vitamins and minerals especially citrus fruits like oranges, citron, clementine, grapefruit, and the like are rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C increases natural immunity. All other fruits are also helpful in naturally increasing immunity besides other vital functions. So go vegan and include vegetables and fruits in your daily diet.
Eat more Protein-rich Foods:
Protein is a very important nutrient. Proteins are almost part of every organ-system and therefore they are required for the healthy maintenance of these vital body organs. But the point is to remember is that you must get protein without any fats.
Therefore you must include plant-based protein sources. Lentils, beans, green peas, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are some of the high protein vegan foods, you may consider. But don’t rely on one protein source and instead, keep varying your protein sources.
Consume More Fibre and Less Fat for a healthier digestive system:
Dietary fibers improve digestion and help remove waste from the body. Include fiber-rich foods in your diet like avocado, beans, broccoli, whole-grain, apples, and dried fruits in your daily diet.
Similarly, with age, heart complications arise and therefore cut your fat intake and make sure that you are eating healthy fats. Nuts, chia seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados are excellent sources of healthy fats. Also, reducing sugar and salt intake can help control diabetes and hypertension.
Increase the Whole Grains as you age:
Whole grains are not only good source carbohydrates but they also contain several B-vitamins and dietary fibers. You can add oatmeal, whole wheat, and quinoa in your daily diet plan.
Take extra Calcium and Vitamin D to strengthen your bones:
Bone fragility is an obvious sign of old age. Therefore taking extra calcium and vitamin D will help control excessive bone damage. Calcium-rich foods like Bok choy, figs, oranges, broccoli, kale, and vitamin D rich foods like almond and mushrooms are therefore a must in the diet plan for elderly people.
Stay Hydrated to protect your health as you age:
Finally keep yourself hydrated as water is a vital nutrient. Water carries out various vital functions in the body like; it lubricates the joints, it forms mucus and saliva, helps in oxygen transportations, regulates body temperature, facilitates healthy digestion, maintains blood pressure, flushes waste out of the body, helps in weight loss and provides a favorable environment for chemical processes to occur in the body.
Eating the right food in the old age is the key to attaining health and wellness in the later years of your life and the above information will help you live the active life till your last day.