The Biological Effects of Time: How Aging Affects the Body

The aging process brings about many changes in body composition that we cannot fight with. Normal aging in the absence of disease is a remarkably benign process. Physiologically, aging is essentially the gradual but steady erosion of the organ systems and of the body’s built-in capacity to repair itself. Eventually, the body reaches a critical point, usually in very advanced age, when changes like height, Body Composition, Skin, hair, muscles and bones, are coming in and we cannot stand against them.

The Aging Process

There are several processes involved in the aging of the body. The primary process is the gradual aging of the tissues. As we age, every system in our body changes in some way and the rate of change can be accelerated. As we age, the body loses the ability to repair itself. It also begins to manufacture more and more of the new protein that can no longer repair itself. Further, proteins involved in the fight against age-related diseases that would normally be produced are replaced by the dysfunctional ones that accelerate the aging process. When our body ages, the blood vessels become stiff and stiffer. This stiffening is irreversible and leads to the development of narrowing of the blood vessels called atherosclerosis.


Changes in Muscle Strength

Muscle strength is gradually decreasing as we age. We lose muscle mass, and as a result we cannot hold up our weight in the present but cannot possibly maintain it in the future. As a result, we become weaker and less capable of movement and sports.  As we age, we lose flexibility in our joints, muscles and tendons and we can no longer perform as well as we did when we were young. Our balance and coordination also decline as we age. Most people lose a substantial amount of muscle as they age. Broadly speaking, muscles decrease in strength, endurance, size, and weight relative to total body weight. 

Changes in Bone Structure

At first, these changes may not appear to be remarkable but in fact, they are. It starts with slight hardness with age and causes other changes, such as damage and fragility. As we get older, our bones become weaker. The cellular break-down of bone mass occurs at a much greater rate than it used to. When you think of the changes occurring in your bones, you probably don’t think of cancer. In fact, the cells that create new bone loss in aging are not cancer cells but regular bone cells.  As we age, our bones gradually get weaker, and the ability to heal breaks and fractures declines. This means that we gradually become injured and require more treatment and/or surgery to heal. Bone loss is a universal aspect of aging that occurs at highly individual rates. While bone growth and remodeling occur throughout life, as we age the growth of bone slows and the bone begins to thin and become more porous. The internal latticework of bones also loses its horizontal supports, which significantly compromises its strength.


What happens to our Skin?

The skin on our bodies is the most visible sign of aging. The thicker the skin, the younger we look; the thinner the skin, the older we feel. The skin becomes dry and itchy, scaly and thickened. Skin changes such as wrinkling are one of the physical alterations most readily associated with aging. It may surprise you that the outer layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, changes very little as we age. The main changes occur at a deeper level. Collagen, a basic chemical building block of skin and connective tissue, decreases with age. Its structure also changes which causes a loss of elasticity and produces wrinkles. In addition, as we age the contact area decreases between the dermis, the inner skin layer, and the epidermis, the layer that covers it. There are also reductions in the number of deeper basal cells and pigment-producing cells, the melanocytes.


Unfortunately, body changes that follow the aging process cannot be fully controlled. Good news is that we can take proper care of our overall well-being and health during our youth in order to have less problems regarding our health  in the future. 

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