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Women’s Health Week - Effects Of “Normal” Aging

Posted May 10 2010 10:29am


Normal age-related decline affects most of our body’s organs and systems. How and when this happens is different for each of us. It depends on many factors, including our genes, lifestyle, and health history.

Brain structure changes with age, the effects of which are unclear. Healthy older people might notice some mild changes, such as needing new information repeated or more time to learn something new.

Heart and arteries
The heart muscle thickens, and arteries tend to stiffen with age. This makes it harder for the heart to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. It also becomes harder for the body to take out the oxygen from blood.

The amount of air the lungs can breathe in and out can decrease with age, causing shortness of breath while working hard or during brisk activities.

Over time, the kidneys don’t work as well at removing waste from the blood.

With age, the bladder cannot hold as much urine.

Body fat
Levels of body fat stay about the same from middle age until late life, when body weight tends to decline. Older people tend to lose both muscle and body fat. Fat also shifts from just beneath the skin to deeper organs.

The skin thins and loses elasticity as it ages, leading to wrinkles and sags. Loss of sweat and oil glands can lead to dry and flaky skin. Spots appear on sun-damaged skin.

Hair often grays and becomes brittle. Some women also notice hair loss or thinning.

Without physical activity, muscle mass declines up to 22 percent in women between age 30 and 70, affecting strength, flexibility, and balance.

Bone mineral is removed and replaced throughout life. Beginning in the 40s, bone may be lost faster than it can be replaced. Bone loss speeds up even more after menopause. Over time, bones can weaken and become brittle.

In midlife, it can become harder to focus on close-up items, such as a book. From 50 on, glare tends to interfere more with vision, and seeing in low-light and detecting moving objects become more and more difficult. Seeing detail can become a challenge in the 70s.

Higher pitched sounds become more difficult to hear with age. Understanding speech, especially if there is background noise, can be a problem, even for older adults with good hearing.

Reproductive system
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. She no longer has periods and she cannot become pregnant.

Hormones are chemical messengers that control the function of many organs and tissues. As we age, our bodies make less of certain hormones, such as estrogen and growth hormone, and more of others, such as parathyroid hormone (PHT). Estrogen and PHT affect bone health. Researchers are studying the effect of this change on aging.

Immune system
The organs and cells of the immune system work throughout the body to protect it from infection. With age, these cells become less active, making the body less able to defend against bacteria and viruses. Researchers think that this system might play an important role in the aging process.

Living with chronic health problems can be hard. You might be willing to try just about anything to feel betterincluding unproven remedies that promise a quick or painless cure. Be smart and talk to your doctor before buying a product that sounds too good to be true. Quackspeople who sell unproven remedies target older people. Those who fall victim to their scams waste money and put their health at risk

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