Aging: a natural process every living organism goes through. For centuries, humans have been searching for the fountain of youth to reverse old age. However, up until the development of science and modern medicine, we knew very little about this phenomenon.
Gerontologists focus on understanding the physical, mental, and social changes that occur as people become older. Due to its multidisciplinary approach, gerontologists practice across different fields, including Biology, Genetics, Sociology, and Psychology. David Sinclair , believe that old age can be cured in the near future. They also regard old age as a disease. Though others in the scientific community may disagree, more people certainly want to live longer, healthier lives.
Thanks to dedicated experts, we now know a little bit more about the causes old age. And more importantly, how to potentially slow it down. According to the World Health Organization, aging is caused over time by a variety of accumulated cellular damage. This continuous damage affects organ function and leads to poor physical health, as well as slow cognitive function.
A cell ages when it divides and replicates to repair itself. Throughout one's life, cells divide many times before its genetic material can no longer be replicated accurately. When this happens, cellular damage occurs. In fact, studies show more genetic abnormalities can be observed in older patients. Most organisms have chromosomes , which are strand-like material with protein and nucleic acids that carry genetic information. At the ends of these chromosomes are telomeres which act like protective caps that do not carry genetic material.
When cells divide and replicate, a portion of the telomere gets transferred to another end of the chromosome. Over time, the telomere erodes and shortens with repeated replication, until it's almost gone. This leaves the genetic material bare, which can cause cell death apoptosis. When cells can no longer divide, they become senescent cells and eventually die.
In other cases, the anomaly may create cancer cells. This is why research shows telomere shortening makes people prone to degenerative diseases. To cure cellular damage and telomere shortening, scientists do advanced gene therapy research, which involves the addition of new genes to cells in order to replace malfunctioning genes and help correct genetic disorders.
An example of a biotech company that has done successful testing on telomere shortening is Bioviva USA. According to Bioviva CEO Elizabeth Parrish, gene therapy can prolong the lifespan of an old telomere by up to 20 years. Parrish notes:. Apart from the genetic level, other factors such as hormonal and metabolic processes contribute to aging. The endocrine system regulates several bodily processes, such as metabolism and sexual reproduction.
For instance, studies show that older men have lower testosterone levels, while women tend to have lower estradiol and estrogen levels after menopause. These hormones contribute to healthy sexual reproduction, a function that deteriorates as you age. More over, as you gain more years, your metabolism slows down.
Metabolism is basically a combination of chemical reactions that keep your body functioning. When metabolism slows down, you tend to be less active, making you lose more muscle. While aging happens at the cellular level, other elements that contribute to its damage include environmental and lifestyle factors. Consider immediate factors like your diet, stress levels, pollution in your surroundings that can affect your health and lifespan.
Taking care of your body involves making conscious decisions, such as having a nutritious diet and a clean lifestyle, to improve your health. Gene therapy may address this problem in the cellular level, but we need to wait for more breakthroughs in order for medical authorities to approve the treatment. Throughout life, men and women undergo various developmental changes until they mature as adults.
To understand how growing old greatly impacts physical and psychological health, here is a summary of stages with corresponding biological changes for both men and women. Puberty spells growth spurts and the onset of sexual development due to hormonal changes. It is made up of a series of stages which influence the development of muscles , bones, and other bodily functions.
For this reason, parents may feel that childhood may pass quickly. Most people might think puberty starts when children reach their teens, but it can actually occur earlier below 10 years old. Puberty does not happen to girls and boys at the same time; it happens a year earlier in girls than in boys.
The teenage years are also referred to as adolescence. Adolescence is a time for social growth and self-exploration. During those years, boys and girls experience a range of mental and social changes before the grow into young adults.
Some of these changes include:. Note that these changes generally occur to both boys and girls. However, how they feel about situations or handle issues still vary. For instance, adolescent boys may start to engage in masculine activities and join sports teams to feel accepted. Others may even take part in bullying to feel a sense of acceptance or superiority.
Girls may also engage in sports and other group activities, and still value close friendships to feel a sense of belonging. These are just some of the psychological and social changes that occur during adolescence. For these reasons, coping with stress can be tough on teens.
According to the State Adolescent Health Resource Center , people from ages 18 to 24 years old are in their late adolescence or young adulthood stage. However, other sources say early or young adulthood ranges from 20 to 35 years old.
Despite the differences in range, it is basically a crucial process that comes before fully maturing into an adult. At this point, physical and sexual changes are mostly complete in both men and women. However, some men may continue to grow and develop until the age of Without rapid changes triggered by hormones, at this point, men and women begin to feel more comfortable with their physical appearance.
Since most people at this age have sexual experience, they develop a clearer sense of sexual identity. Today, young people take a while to achieve economic and psychological maturity. This is partly because the process has become more gradual compared to the past as a greater emphasis is placed on education and family planning.
Experiences also differ widely by gender, ethnicity, race, and social class. This is the time where people experience major changes in their capacity to analyze and make decisions. Women's bodies go through a series of transformations once they bear children. Many of these changes are apparent, including weight gain, a larger belly, and experiencing morning sickness.
A woman's body adapts in many ways to make way for new life. According to an article by C. Nierenberg on Live Science , here are other physical changes women encounter during pregnancy:. Physical Changes, Post-Pregnancy :. It's common for women to experience depression after giving birth. New mothers usually go through "baby blues," which means having crying spells, mood swings, and insomnia.
After a few weeks, things should go back to normal. However, there are mothers who experience long-term depression known as postpartum depression. It also inhibits women from being able to function and care for their baby. With treatment, women with postpartum condition eventually recover. This stage is characterized as the period after young adulthood before the beginning of old age. The Oxford English Dictionary defines middle age between 45 and 65, though other sources may argue it starts during the mid-thirties.
According to Psychology today, it can be a restless and stressful time because many people may feel dissatisfaction as they cope with the reality of aging, death, and sense of purpose in life. Women in particular start to experience menopause , which is characterized by the absence of the menstrual cycle. The body starts to produce less estrogen and progesterone, resulting in hot flushes. This is a stressful transition for women, as is signals growing old and not being able to bear children.
Keep these tests in mind the next time you visit the doctor. Prevention is always better than cure, so make it a habit to get regular checkups from your doctor.
The elderly are referred to as people ages years old and above, according to the World Health Organization. It's described as the later part of life after youth and adulthood, which is closer to the the average life expectancy of human beings. It's described as the later part of life after youth and adulthood, which is closer to the the average life expectancy.
Most people within this period are known to be weaker, with signs of deterioration seen on their skin and their overall physical fitness. At this stage, the elderly are prone to all sorts of illness and are advised to take better care of their health.
While growing old is regarded as a natural process, several factors can actually speed it up. They also pose as significant health risks that can impact longevity. Some of these lifestyle problems can be as simple as lack of quality sleep and poor stress management. Too much alcohol and even technology addiction, which is detrimental for mental health, can aggravate aging. However, the main factors that accelerate it include:.
According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine , people who are not physically active have a increased risk for aging-related disease and premature death.