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Thursday, December 12, 2013
Aging is a constant, predictable process that involves growth and development of living organisms. Aging can't be avoided, but how fast we age varies from one person to another. How we age depends upon our genes, environmental influences, and life style.
Were it not for disease, we might not notice age creeping up on us other than the changes we see in the body (like wrinkles, loss of muscle tone, hair loss or graying). Aging involves the steady decline of organ function and body systems. Except in times of exertion or stress these changes may or not be noticeable. As one ages, it may take longer to respond to stimuli. After an illness, it may also take longer to return to feeling your best.
Body changes associated with aging usually make us more vulnerable to various diseases, and to side effects and complications of medical treatment. Because the aging process slows our response time, it may take us longer to adjust to environmental changes.
Aging can also be defined as a state of mind, which does not always keep pace with our chronological age. Attitude and how well we face the normal changes, challenges and opportunities of later life may best define our age.
Growing older cannot be prevented. We begin aging at the time of conception and continue aging one day at a time. However, some of the effects of aging can be slowed and even prevented. Prevention in later years requires participating in health education and health promotion activities designed to reduce the risk of disease. Prevention also involves engaging in interventions that improve outcomes in the event an illness does occur and includes efforts that reduce the risk of progressive disability and decline of function. In later life the goals of prevention also include maintaining function, vitality and quality of life
Life style strongly determines how well we age. One long-term study shows that engaging in seven health practices improves the quality of life, prevents decline in function and contributes to longevity.
7 Health Practices for a Long Healthy Life
Exercise has been shown to be an important means of preventing cardiovascular disease, falls, and depression. Walking is recommended to all persons who are physically able. It is readily available and costs are limited beyond a good pair of walking shoes.
Dietary excesses should be controlled. The recommended diet includes calorie intake that is balanced against the amount of energy expended. Saturated fats should be limited to less than 10 percent of the total calories. Using the recommended daily allowances, one should make sure to have an adequate intake of fiber, minerals, vitamins and fluids (approximately 8 glasses or 64 ounces).
Maintaining positive relationships throughout our lifetime contributes significantly to our sense of well being. Research shows that the quality of our social supports has direct positive effects on our health and can buffer or reduce some of the health-related effects of aging.
This article written by Elizabeth Joyner Gothelf, BSN, MAG, Assistant Director, Office of Geriatric Medicine, and Field Service Professor of Family Medicine, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, is based on information taken from Aging Successfully, John Rowe, M.D., and Robert L. Kane, Ph.D., Pantheon Books, New York, 1998.
Last Reviewed: May 01, 2001
Elizabeth Joyner Gothelf, BSN, MAG
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati