The aging process can be tough to deal with. However, knowing the difference in normal changes, and those that are caused by diseases is very important. Most common changes cannot be prevented, but knowing about them can assist you in dealing with the aging process.
As we age, our physical appearance suffers greatly. The loss of fat and water can cause wrinkling and sagging of the skin. The natural decrease in the production of oil causes hair to become dry and brittle. Many elderly people are plagued with diminishing capillaries. This can lead to a yellowish coloring of the skin and nails.
The circulatory system is significantly affected by the aging process. Corrosion of the heart muscle can cause an elderly person to become easily exhausted during any activity. The blood vessels in the heart also become more narrow and firm. The heart must work harder to accomplish its mission. This often leads to high blood pressure.
Lung capacity decreases as we age. This makes taking deep breaths more difficult. Many people have a reduction in kidney function which leads to a slower elimination of toxic wastes. Incontinence and bladder infections are common effects of these changes.
Aging causes nerve cells to die resulting in memory loss. The brain also functions less because of the decreased blood flow. Vision impairments are often triggered by the eye lens thickening, causing less light to enter the inner eye. Other nervous system changes can include slower reaction time, difficulty hearing, and decreased brain functioning.
Our muscles and bones change drastically as the years go by. Bones become more brittle, making them more susceptible to fractures. The changes in the vertebrae can cause problems with posture, height loss, and difficulty walking. Muscles lose their strength as the muscular walls weaken. The body’s joints become less flexible.
The reproductive system is affected in both men and women. A decline in testosterone can cause slower erectile functioning. Men also experience difficulty urinating because of an enlarged prostate gland. Women experience menopause because of the decrease in estrogen. This can also cause dryness, which leads to sexual difficulties.
While some changes are common, the aging body is also more prone to develop certain problems. An infection in the lungs, (pneumonia), is very common for older people. Blood clots can reduce blood supply to the brain, causing a cerebrovascular accident (stroke). Parkinson’s disease is a disease of the central nervous system. Some symptoms of this disease are tremors, rigid muscles, and a shuffling walk.
The process of aging can be difficult to understand. Knowing what is common and what is a much more severe condition can help you to make the right choices in caring for yourself or a loved one.