Geriatric health: Do you still think age is just a number?

geriatric health aging

Last Updated October 11th, 2019

The age-old problem of aging

Aging is a genetically determined and environmentally modulated process of becoming older.Mostly, all multi-cellular organism, using energy from the sun, is able to develop and maintain their youthful identity for only so long.After which the deterioration of the physiological functions needed for the substances of life begins to occur.

The exact reason for why aging occurs is still debated upon and many deny that aging is a result of the genetic coding of an organism. Although, recent studies have indicated that there are genetic components to aging and that the genetically determined life span characteristic of a species can be modulated by altering genes or diet.

A gene has been discovered that helps determine the life-span of the fruit fly Drosophila. Called Indy (I’m Not Dying yet), the protein encoded by this gene transports and recycles metabolic byproducts. Defects in the gene may lead to the production of a protein that renders metabolism less efficient so that its body functions as if the fruit fly were dieting, even though its eating habits are unchanged. But when the gene is mutated it is seen to actually increase the lifespan of the fly and almost double it.Thus mutations in Indy, appear to create a metabolic state that mimics caloric restriction that has been shown to extend lifespan.

Signs of aging

As you age, you can expect certain changes in your body and its pace.How this happens depends in part on your family’s (genetic) patterns of aging.That being said your lifestyle choices have a more powerful impact on how well your body ages. Fortunately, you can control your lifestyle choices. Some of the signs that indicate the beginning of aging are:

  • With age, your skin may become less elastic, and more lined and wrinkled. Fingernail growth also is seen to slow down. The skin becomes drier as a result of the oil glands gradually producing less oil.
  • Your hair will begin to gradually thin on the scalp, pubic area, and armpits. And as a result of hair pigment cells declining in number, gray hair growth increases.
  • With time the changes in the ear make it harder to hear high frequency sounds making speech less clear.
  • geriatric health visionOver time the lenses in your eyes tens to become less flexible. As a result, it becomes common in people in their 40s to start needing glasses.
  • As you grow older, your body typically needs less energy, and your metabolism hormone changes in your body result in a shift to more body fat and less muscle mass.
  • When you are reaching the later part of your life, the brain’s weight, the size of its nerve network, and its blood flow decrease.
  • To make up for this, the brain adapts to these changes, growing new patterns of nerve endings. As a result, memory changes are a normal part of the aging process-it’s common to have less recall of recent memories and to be slower remembering names and other details.
  • Both men and women start to exhibit lower levels of the hormone as a result of aging. Men produce less sperm and women stop ovulating with menopause.

 

Challenges of aging

With people in the USA, today can expect to live longer than ever before, one has to be aware and be prepared for the chronic conditions that are to be expected, to stave them off at their old age. This can range from making healthy lifestyle choices, re-analyzing the already present health problems and the medications associated with them, are just some of the factors that should be taken into consideration.

Some of the chronic disorders that are to be expected are

Metabolic Problems

geriatric health diabetesWith over a third of adults over 60, being either overweight or obese, obesity-related problems pose a considerable risk.

These include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, breast or colon cancer, diseases concerning the gallbladder, and high BP (Blood Pressure). It is common for adults over 60 to have a combination of risk factors known as metabolic syndrome that puts people at increased risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even certain cancers.

The detection of these possible problems can be characterized by:

  • A waist measurement that is greater than 40 inches in men and 35 in women
  • Triglyceride levels of 150 mg/dL or higher
  • Blood pressure of 130/80 or higher
  • Fasting glucose level of 110 mg/dL

Both men and women tend to accumulate fat around the waist, with women it resulting in the loss of their figure and in men getting a “gut”. The best remedy for this is to exercise, reduce alcohol consumption, increase your healthy fat intake, and avoiding sweet foods with usually contains high fructose corn syrup.

Osteoarthritis and Injuries

As you grow older, the water content of the cartilage increases and degeneration of the protein makeup of cartilage occurs as a function of biologic processes. Eventually, cartilage begins to degenerate by flaking or forming tiny crevasses.geriatric health arthritisIn the case of advanced osteoarthritis, there is a total loss of the cartilage cushion between the bones of the joints.

Repetitive use of the worn joints over the years can mechanically irritate and inflame the cartilage, causing joint pain and swelling. Loss of the cartilage cushion causes friction between the bones, leading to pain and limitation of joint mobility. Inflammation of the cartilage can also stimulate new bone outgrowths (spurs, also referred to as osteophytes) to form around the joints. Osteoarthritis is therefore felt to be a result of a combination of each of the above factors that ultimately lead to a narrowing of the cartilage in the affected joint.

Preventing osteoarthritis

  • Stop smoking
  • Watch your alcohol intake
  • Get a lot of calcium
  • Avoid or limit foods with acidic content.
  • Avoid sodas- avoiding sodas is a good idea as they encourage the erosion of calcium.
  • Increase Vitamin D consumption. Also known as ‘’the sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D is produced in our body in the presence of sunlight.

Degradation of mental health

geriatric health agingStaying mentally active is as important as staying physically active.Thinking the decrease in brain function and mental energy is an inevitable part of old age is not quite true.According to the vice president for mental health and substance abuse services for Mental Health America in Alexandria, Raymond L. Crowel, keeping your mind active by joining a book club solving puzzles is a good start at keeping your mind sharp even in your later years.One of the more challenging problems with aging is Alzheimer’s disease.

92,604 deaths of people over age 65  in 2014, according to the CDC is a result of Alzheimer’s.It is difficult to know exactly how many people are living with this chronic condition, but one thing that most experts agree on is that this cognitive impairment has a significant impact on senior health across the spectrum, from issues of safety and self-care to the cost burden of care, either in the home or a residential facility.Though dementia has other types, it’s commonly seen as a result of Alzheimer’s.

Simply put, is a memory problem significant enough to affect your ability to carry out your usual tasks and daily activities. Tests can help determine whether someone has this problem and maybe identify the type it is. If so, treatment is available that improve function and slow down memory degradation.

Heart Diseases

A cardiovascular disease affects more than 30% of men and women in the 45- to 54-year age group, and the frequency of incidence increases with age. The leading cause of death in the U.S. is diseases of the heart or blood vessels. They include arteriosclerosis, coronary heart disease, arrhythmia, heart failure, hypertension, orthostatic hypertension, stroke, and congenital heart disease. As people age, they tend to be more at risk from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, that can increase the chances of a stroke or developing a heart disease. Some ways to forestall this are exercising, eating, getting enough sleep.

Deterioration of vision

Age-related eye diseases – macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma are common in people in age groups of 40 and over.The incidence of these is expected to increase in the next few decades according to the census. It happens over time as the lenses in your eyes tens to become less flexible with old age.Few effective methods to reduce such vision loss are – eating foods with high antioxidant content, taking vitamin supplements, and going for regular eye exams.

Hearing loss

The incidences of hearing loss can be quiet common with the advance of age. And in fact, being unable to hear high-frequency sounds at old age is a common occurrence in people who are 65 or older and is made worse by noisy environments, like airports and factories. Hearing loss can take quite a toll on your life leading to depression and withdrawal from society. Only known remedies are prevention by decreasing the use of earbuds, and multimedia devises that are plugged into the ear canal and can cause risks to your ear.

Emotional health

geriatric health depressionDepression is another real threat of old age.According to the reports of The American Psychological Association, 15-20% of Americans have experienced depression.It poses a serious threat to senior health by lowering immunity and compromising a person’s ability to fight infections.

Remedies for this include physical exercise active social interactions and involvement. But according to CDC more than half of the adults who are 65 and over don’t meet the recommended standards. And according to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, adults tend to only spend only a tenth of their daily life with friends or family. This leads to social isolation and further levels of emotional unrest.


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