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Basic Concept about Aging
Aging is the process of growing older and includes changes in both biology
and psychology. Biology refers to the way the body functions. Psychology
describes how the mind functions. How people age has to do with genetics,
environment, and lifestyle over a lifetime.
What Cause Aging?
Experts do not fully understand why the body ages as a person gets older.
The average life span in 1900 was 47 years. Now, life expectancy is age 76.
This increase is due to improvements in sanitation, medical care, and the
discovery of antibiotics. The increase in the number of older people is
changing the makeup of society.
The aging process can be divided into three parts:
There are two major theories on aging. People who follow the program theory
think that aging is based on a biological timetable. Others who believe in
the damage or error theory say that aging occurs as the environment assaults
the body and causes it to age. Many people believe it is both biology and
environment that causes aging. The major beliefs for each theory are listed
- genetic, which means it is influenced by the factors and conditions
that are passed on from parents to offspring
- biochemical, which refers to activities in the cells, tissues, and
organs of the body
- physiological, which means how the body and all of its components
- Genes switch on and off in turn, causing different things to happen
at different times. Organ systems in each person can age at different
- Hormones act as a biological clock controlling the pace of aging.
- The immune system breaks down, later leaving a person more and more
prone to infection and disease.
Error Theory About Aging
The major beliefs of the damage or error theory are:
Experts used to believe that chronic disease and disability were always part
of aging. Now it is known that much disease can be prevented or controlled.
Living a healthy lifestyle can have a huge positive impact on aging and
preventing disease. The three leading causes of death among people in
developed nations are heart
and cancer. Medical
experts know a great deal about how to prevent death from these causes.
While a person's genetic makeup cannot be changed, there are things that one
can do to improve his or her lifestyle:
- Cells and tissues have vital parts that wear out.
- If a person has a high metabolic rate, his or her life span will be
- Proteins in the body build up. This slows down the body's processes,
and the body begins to age.
- Oxygen radicals collect in the body and damage it. The organs
eventually stop working.
- The system in the body that synthesizes proteins stops working well.
Faulty proteins are developed and cause damage to cells, tissues, and
- Genes mutate as the body ages, causing cells to malfunction and
These specific practices have been linked with both the prevention of
diseases and a person's quality of life as he or she ages.
- Stay active. Without exercise, muscle mass declines about 23%
between the ages of 30 and 70. Exercise can prevent muscle mass decline.
- Maintain a healthy weight. People who are as little as 11 pounds
over the healthy weight range for their height and build have more risk
of disease. Eating fewer calories may work by preserving cells,
moderating a decline in growth hormone, and keeping the immune system
- Do not smoke
and avoid being around smoke
- Maintain active personal relationships. People who are married or
who have healthy, supportive relationships with others live longer.
- Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Follow the
food guide pyramid. Fruits and vegetables have naturally
occurring antioxidants that prevent free radicals from damaging cells in
- Avoid getting too much sun. Frequent, long exposures to the
ultraviolet light in sunshine can age the skin and increase the risk for
- Keep fat in the diet under 30% of total calories. Also, get the
nutrients needed for a healthful diet.
- Have routine physical
exams as recommended by the doctor.
- Limit stress
and practice stress-reduction techniques.
- Limit alcohol
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