What Really Happens to the Body as We Age?

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Guest Author: Kathy Lane, Retired English Teacher

Of all the remarkable aspects of the human body, the most fascinating is that it is always changing. From birth to physical maturity, the body constantly develops and restructures itself to become stronger, more agile and alert.

Despite reaching the peak of its growth, the body continues to change even beyond adulthood. As adults transition into their senior years, they begin seeing signs of decline – a decline in muscle strength, some loss in vision and hearing, etc. But exactly how does the body change as we get older?

What Happens to Joints, Bones and Muscles?

Ever notice how elderly people end up shorter than they were at their physical peak? There are several factors that cause that to happen. One such factor is osteoporosis, a condition where the body experiences a slow loss in bone size and density. The cartilage between bone joints can also wear out over time, causing a small reduction in overall height in some people. Additionally, older adults may experience a decrease in lean muscle mass, resulting in reduced muscle strength and a weaker overall physique.

Changes in the Cardiovascular System

With aging, the heartbeat becomes slightly slower due to a collection of fibrous tissue and fat deposits on the pathways leading to the heart's natural pacemaker system. The heart itself may also increase in size by a small degree due to thickening of the heart walls. The main artery also thickens and stiffens, making it less flexible and causing a moderate increase in blood pressure.

It’s normal for the cardiovascular system to undergo changes as a person's life progresses, but some changes may be warning signs of conditions that could lead to life-threatening situations if ignored. According to information from the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death among those 65 years of age and older.

Skin and Appearance

Another series of changes associated with aging involves the outward appearance. For instance, the outer layer of skin begins to thin, despite no change in the number of cell layers. The body’s layer of subcutaneous fat also thins, increasing the likelihood of skin injury while reducing the body's ability to maintain its temperature.

Meanwhile, cells containing pigment began to decrease in number, while the remaining cells increase in size. This causes older people's skin to appear more translucent. The National Institutes of Health notes that sun exposure is the greatest single factor in skin changes, especially for those with fair skin tones.

Living Your Life to the Fullest

Despite these significant changes, there’s plenty we can do to promote good overall health at any age. For instance, the CDC notes that older adults can benefit from activities focused on promoting muscle strength. Eating a healthy diet and managing your stress levels can also go a long way for maintaining health even as we age. As you seek senior communities in Phoenix AZ, you may want to look into ones that feature rehabilitative services. These services focus on mobility, exercise programs and other therapeutic treatment to help aging people preserve their health and well-being throughout their golden years. Rehabilitative services also provide wound care and pain management, as well as therapy for maintaining and improving cognitive health and memory.

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