Ageing: A Biophysiological Manifestation
By:-Dr Col Jatish Kumar Nath (Retd)
Ageing and ‘old’ age
In life, there is only one eternal truth i.e. once a person is born he/she has to die. This can occur at any age due to disease, accident or any other cause. We will refer to a person ‘old’ at the age of 65 years and onwards for our discussion. Normal ageing individual’s experiences are not necessarily harmful. The ageing process happens during an individual’s lifespan. We all are involved in this process and none can escape it. When one is young ageing is associated with growth, maturation and development. Many human abilities peak before age of 30, while other abilities continue to grow throughout life. The great majority of those over age 65 today are healthy, happy and fully independent. In spite of this, some individuals begin to experience changes that are perceived as signs of deterioration or decline.
The changes that are experienced by ageing individuals are not necessarily harmful. With age hair thins and turns grey, skin thins; becomes less elastic and sags, showing wrinkles. There is a slowing down of functions which go forward throughout adulthood resulting in loss of functions of body organs. In the gastrointestinal system for example production of digestive enzymes diminishes, thus reducing the body’s ability to break down the ingested food materials. These changes may not be noticeable until later life. Based on the same theory eyesight and hearing may also be affected. The arteries stiffen with age and are associated with fatty deposits leading to hardening of arteries. Similar changes can take place in the heart muscles reducing the individual’s heart pumping action resulting body’s ability to extract oxygen from the blood. Similar changes result in less oxygen supply to the brain and may damage and reduce the functional ability of the affected cells. In the lungs, the tissues begin to lose their elasticity and affects the maximum breathing capacity (vital capacity) and gaseous exchange.
Other Changes In Body
Other noticeable changes are in the Kidneys, various metabolisms, muscle atrophy and weakness. Brain cells are very sensitive and by losing some streaks of connective tissue may result in the dullness of the mind and activity. Hormones play a very important role in sexual health. As the age advances women go through Menopause with both mental and physical changes whereas in men, sperm production decreases and prostate enlarges causing increased frequency of urination. One of the most common changes in the ageing process is osteoporosis and demineralization of bones. The process decreases the absolute amount of bone mass. This is by far the commonest form of bony change prevalent in aged people leading to fractures following minimal trauma. Age-related bone loss is greatly accelerated in women after the onset of menopause. Fractures of the wrist bones, hip joints (neck of the femur) and vertebral columns are all related to osteoporosis. Another important manifestation of the old age is a gradual and progressive onset of osteoarthritis due to the ageing of the bones and joint cartilages’ making the movements restricted and painful. The ageing process also brings social and emotional changes and loss into our lives. Inevitably as we age, older relatives die, then some of our friends may grow frail and die. Loss of spouse at old age affects many. Nowadays with the concept of nano families and opening up of many intercontinental job availabilities, families are faced with harsh realities. One will find that children are going away and working outside their own homes and many of them are settled in different cities and countries. Old parents though happy otherwise for the children’s achievements feel lonely and miss their children/grandchildren. Under any of the above circumstances, the old and the fragile parents develop a sense of insecurity and often go into depression
Following are the routine precautions that should be taken by a senior citizen:-
- A disciplined life with proper food habits.
- Avoid greasy/fatty food.
- Do not overeat.
- Indulge in routine exercises like walking in a park and practice yoga routine.
- Ensure regular intake of vitamins and on antioxidants.
- Avoid anger and do what brings you and your companion happiness and satisfaction.
- Maintain a stable financial status with an extra amount for unforeseen emergencies and rainy weather.
- Be social and helpful.
- Follow medical advice ardently and religiously. Do not skip essential medicines prescribed by your family doctor.
Be a Boon and Not a Bane to the Society
It is correctly said, “You are only as old as you think you are.” Growing older brings with it some natural changes – like those creaky knees, diabetes, chronic harassing cough with sinusitis, frequent nocturnal visits to the toilet etc. But folks who see good years ahead and who don’t accept stereotypes of ageing such as ‘YOU’ are a boon and not a bane to the society and may actually live longer. Rather than thinking about mundane things such as low/high BP and cholesterol if you can see the glass half full and refillable instead of half empty, it could play an even bigger role in living a better, longer and productive life. Extensive researches on such action have shown an increase in lifespan by about 4 years. We must try to forget the stereotypes and look at other individuals as unique individuals each with a particular set of resources and challenges. I must congratulate, ‘Biolir Chora’ for offering such a platform and a plethora of opportunities to showcase our individual capabilities. So be happy and be content with whatever you have got and keep yourself happy and blessed. Enjoy each and every day of your life that God has given you as a bonus.
Remember as Bollywood guys say it…‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.’
About The Author
The author, Dr Col J. K. Nath (Retd) is an Army Veteran, who after premature retirement had worked in prestigious institutions like escorts heart institute and currently also sees patients in Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi. Even at 82, he is maintaining his schedule and is an active medical practitioner. Though at times his age tried to catch up with him and pull him down he fought with all his grit and willpower and sprang back to his feet. A role model for many he is a personality to reckon with.
We at AZKS are indeed grateful that he consented to write an article for us.
Hoping to have many more such interactions with him in future too.