(Established in 1988)
A Neuro-Behavioral Medicine Clinic
Dr. Gautham's Neuro
Aging With Grace
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Mitochondriae are the
powerhouses of the human cell. During their functioning
Oxidative stress is
the main reason for accelerated senescence. Free radicals can result in
tissue degeneration and cause early programmed cell death. They attack
proteins that regulate the functioning of the cells and modify them,
disturbing protein function and accelerating the aging process. When
synthesized protein is modified incorrectly, its function alters. Such
errors lower vitality of organism and accelerate aging.
Aging is also related to stress through the body's stress response. Negative stress increases our body's production of free radicals. This is because the pituitary stimulates the adrenal glands, which in turn produce the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These chemical reactions set off a chain reaction resulting in still more free radicals. Therefore a life filled with negative stress inducing life events (death of a loved one, loss of job, strained relationship with loved ones, loss of a loved object e.g. money" etc) could hasten the aging process.
Mitochondrial metabolism stimulates oxidative damage, each cell also has
repair systems defeating it (reparative systems, apoptosis, etc.). The
first of these is the longevity gene. This gene is named gerontogene or
aging gene. These genes are concerned with the repair machinery components
of the cell. When gerontogenes are damaged, the organism ages much fast.
Some people are blessed with good genes that allow them to look younger
longer as long as they pursue a healthy lifestyle. Others are not so lucky
and develop gray hair and skin wrinkling earlier in life. The second
is the existence of undifferentiated stem cells that act as a depot in the
regeneration of damaged cells. The third are intracellular processes that
regulate growth and repair through cell division. Last, but not the least,
sex hormones play an important role in maintaining youthful skin
conditions. Adequate hormones result in skin moisture with
significant increases in the numbers of elastic collagen fibers.
Aging accelerates with decreased hormone production.
This aging and
renovation process is, strictly regulated. Some chromosomes carry parts at
their terminal portions called Telomeres. Telomeres are the "molecular
clock" of the cell. After each cell division (growth and repair)
telomeres get shorter. When the telomere shortens to the critical
stage, the intensity of cell division significantly decreases, causing the
cell to age.
However, the source
of the aging and renovation signals are of material nature (biomolecules).
These biomolecules change during the life cycle and these changes may be
related to factors such as
Diet & malnutrition
irritants and toxins
The two worst
environmental aging factors are smoking and sunlight. The third large
factor is nutrition. . Repeated exposure to UV radiation from the sun
causes premature skin aging. This photo aging is characterized by
wrinkles, mottled pigmentation, dry and rough skin, and loss of skin tone.
Photo aging is becoming more important as people live longer with
increased sun exposure associated with leisure time, outdoor
recreational sports, sun bathing and holes in the ozone layer. . Bad
food choices over a lifetime can accelerate skin aging and add a variety
of disease conditions that spoil skin appearance
The skin is also a
portal of entry for substances capable of causing injury. Of
particular importance is the hazard from occupational exposure to
pesticides (e.g., chlordane), cutting oils used by machinists,
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the soil, topical drugs, and poor
The other major factor is nutrition, A
generation that has devoted itself to eating right and keeping fit has a
far better chance of becoming centenarians than those who by circumstance
or decision eat poorly and get little or no exercise. Thus, longevity may
well be determined as much by our own desires as by our genealogy.
Middle-age men, who are not overweight, do not smoke cigarettes,
and who have low blood pressure and low sugar levels have the best chance
of aging well.
talking about "successful aging", attention inevitably turns to the
physical aspects of growing older, and how changes in diet or physical
activity may prevent age-related disease. However, researchers have known
for decades that psychological and social well-being are inextricably
linked to health and, as such, tied to quality of life. Three factors that
have proven to be strongly related to well being in the aged are
socioeconomic class, the extent of social networks, and the sense of
control retained over life.
status is a variable that has been extensively studied and has been shown
to have a pointed association with mortality rates. For persons above
retirement age, increases in mortality rates have been shown for those who
have the lowest levels of education, as well as those who are living at or
near the poverty level. It remains unclear how education may impact
mortality, and it may be that the association emerges due to a close
relationship between level of education and overall socioeconomic
position. The pathways between poverty and mortality have been more often
discussed, with researchers suggesting that financially restricted
individuals suffer from, among other things, poorer nutrition and lesser
access to quality health care.
living conditions with low exposure to the sun, adequate nutrition, timely
and appropriate health care, affordability of nutritional supplements that
battle the aging process, and less exposure to surface toxins can account
for longevity and slowed aging in the affluent.
who make it to old age, do so better than elderly people anywhere. One
probable explanation for older Americans' longevity is the quality and
availability of their health care. When people turn sixty-five, America
becomes a country with universal health care. Americans on Medicare get
virtually any care they need - new knees, coronary bypass surgery,
transplants, whatever-without long waits. Other countries hold down costs
by limiting the availability of expensive services and requiring patients
to queue up, sometimes for many months.
strength and extent of social networks has also been associated with
aging. Research has shown that individuals having little contact with
family or friends have shown slower rates of recovery from illness and
higher levels of stress. Studies have even suggested that extensive social
networks offer protection against aging.
factor that has been repeatedly implicated in the social psychology of
aging is a sense of control over life. It is
interesting to note that this is typically a measure of "perceived",
rather than objective, control. In other words, it is more important that
individuals believe that they exercise a sufficient amount of
influence on the events that occur in their life, rather than actually
differently and experience aging differently based on heredity, lifestyle,
and attitudes getting older usually signifies age-related discomforts such
Retirement is not the same for everyone. In general, those who foresee
retiring to meaningful activities age better than those who can only see
retiring from a job with no outside interests.
Changes in vision,
hearing, and other senses. All
of our senses tend to change with age. Our eyes have more difficulty
focusing on near objects and adjusting to changes in light intensity. Our
lenses gradually become clouded. We may have difficulty hearing tones that
have a high pitch. Such changes may be especially fearsome for those who
have cared for the elderly who experienced sensory loss.
As we grow older, we become more likely to develop chronic health
problems. Adjusting often depends on our prior health and how well the
conditions can be controlled. Someone who has been healthy most of his
life may struggle with the fear of health problems related to aging.
Those who have been active may fear decline in strength, endurance, and
mobility that may limit daily activities.
Aging is often associated with memory problems and this may causes a major
concern to a person who is aging.
of spouse, other family, and friends. One of the most difficult changes is
loss of significant people in one's life.
Incomes usually decline at retirement. Since older people don"t know long
they"ll live or what their expenses will be, they may be reluctant to
spend money and/or worry about their financial security.
changes that many older adults experience can affect how they see their
lives. Many may feel that they may lose their independence, and look upon
aging as a loss of self-esteem, with a lack of confidence in their ability
to live a meaningful life and continue to make valuable contributions to
aging also results from a fear of isolation. With age, sociologic changes
occur between aging individuals and family and friends due to the loss of
peers and contemporaries -- a spouse, siblings, other relatives, old
friends and neighbors. This can lead to isolation unless a concerted
effort is made to stay socially active. Aging is also feared due to the
physical infirmities of old age. Another fear is the fear of losing
does fear of aging develop? At some point in past, there was likely an
event linking old age and emotional trauma. Whilst the original catalyst
may have been a real-life incident like a grandmother who suffered through
her old age, the fear can also be triggered by myriad, benign events like
movies, TV, or perhaps seeing someone else experience trauma.
so long as the negative association is powerful enough, the unconscious
mind attaches a powerful emotion to any thought about aging. The
most important changes people reported negative emotions about were in
their physical appearance: hair color, amount of body fat, and vision.
aging, low self esteem, body image disturbance due to the external signs
of aging are all factors that lead to cosmetic surgery. Research shows
that majority of people who undergo age-masking cosmetic surgery are in
the age group 45 to 54 years. . According to a survey by the American
Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Americans spent $7.7 billion on 7
million cosmetic procedures, In 2002. This was more than triple the number
in 1997. Women accounted for 88 percent of these. Men more commonly
resorted to Rogaine and Viagra (2002 U.S. sales: $1 billion).
discovery at, say, 51 that age is catching up with them or that life has
disappointed, inspires some people to act as though they're 21. It's not
simply that the mass media celebrate youth, beauty and vigor -- the ideal
age seems to be about 26 -- and thereby taunt anyone younger or older.
These are powerful forces, which are sometimes nudged along by something
else -- a little old-fashioned "need to feel young".
is a common mental health problem among older adults. This is due somewhat
to the occurrence of aging related symptoms such as memory disturbances,
decrease in the acuity of the senses, disability, physical illness,
bereavement, loss of independence and security, etc.
how does one prepare to age gracefully? It isn't stressful situations that
age you or make you sick. It's how you react to them.
who grow old gracefully are the ones who maintain a positive self-image.
By contrast, an individuals who brood about the aging process and its
effects on their bodies find aging difficult and their self-esteem
suffers. The key element to successful aging, is how much emphasis people
give to the aging process when they think about themselves. Those who
handle aging successfully don't change their identity drastically as they
get older. They do alter their behavior in response to physical changes
brought on by aging, but basically, they don't start to think of
themselves as 'old,' even if others do. On the contrary, they take aging
in their stride, and prepare for it. Here is what they do:
financial resources are the
first condition. Retirement may bring financial hardship, and a
corresponding change in lifestyle, so it is wise to plan ahead for your
non-employment years. The key word in this condition is
"sufficient", and research has shown that having more than
enough money does not necessarily mean more happiness.
is another condition for happiness in seniors. While age does bring with
it a greater chance of illness, and diminished physical condition, it need
not mean a bed-ridden existence. Proper nutrition and regular exercise go
a long way in fighting age-related illness.
However, it is the perception of one's health that matters more than the
absolute condition. With the maintenance of a positive attitude, a person
with minor, or even major ailments can still live a vibrant and active
in the form of a project or passion, is another condition for happiness in
your retirement years. This may be something as simple as playing a
musical instrument, or as involved as running a business. The main idea is
to have an interest that fills you with a sense of purpose.
the most important determinant of happiness in old age is the maintenance
of good relationships. For many seniors, this primarily refers to a
relationship with a spouse. However, positive relations with family and
friends also go a long way in increasing life- enjoyment, and have even
been cited as a protective factor against dementia.
friends may never replace the lost closeness shared with someone who knew
you before your hair turned grey, or before your first child was born. But
the support network that comes with sharing life with peers can counter
loneliness and goes a long way toward dispelling feelings of isolation.
The more people you interact with daily, the more chance there is to form
new bonds. The more people there will be to bond, with in years to come.
are some tips for growing young:
Eat fresh. Greens and fruits provide
vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to boost your body's immune system.
Commit to exercise daily. Go for the
great outdoors or grow your own garden for healthy, organic vegetables and
fruits. You get exercise, fresh air and sunshine.
to lessen the strain on your nervous system. Meditate or pray for inner
peace and serenity. The healing power of meditation and prayer is both
psychological and physiological.
Adopt a pet.
You'll be saving a life. Pet therapy produces good emotions which increase
the endorphins in the body. Your immune system gets a boost.
Think positive. If you go around with a
frown, it may become a permanent feature on your face. Be thankful for
what you have and don't envy what you don't. Forgive and forget. This
reduces stress. Practice positive anger management.
If all this is too cumbersome to follow,
just remember that clean living and peace of mind helps you to age
gracefully into the twilight years. You'll have less healthcare costs and
thus less stress on money matters. Those whose self-esteem remains high do
not give age related changes a great deal of thought even when they have
significant health problems as well as normal age-related changes. They
keep themselves involved and busy, focusing on the present and future,
thereby keeping themselves mentally (and physically) young.