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Physical and Psychological Effects of Aging

February 21, 2022 | Dr.Amna Zubair

Aging is an inevitable and irreversible process that is bound to happen as the year's pass. No matter how much we want to avoid it, it is still a natural process that occurs over time. Aging is often assumed negatively because it can affect the way you look and how your social gatherings perceive you. Apart from that, it can have other physical and psychological effects on your overall health. But it entirely depends upon your subjective opinion on aging. There are people over the 80s or 90s and still living a healthy life. 

There is also no particular age from which aging begins. It depends on the health and lifestyle of a person. The earliest signs of aging can be seen from your late 20s or early 30s. These are usually manifested on your skin or hair. This causes an overdrive in using cosmetic products that promise anti-aging results. There is also a surge in demands for other medications as you age. For this reason, we will try to understand the physical and psychological effects of aging and what you can do to maximize the chances of a healthy life. 

Physical Effects

Researchers have indicated that aging can affect all of your organ systems over time. This includes your cardiovascular system, nervous system, respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, skeletal system, and others. There is a decline in the functional efficiency of your organs as you age. This occurs because the natural cell division process by which your tissues are made decreases over the years. Eventually, your cells become weaker and perform less efficient functions than at your young age. 

Let’s begin with your cardiovascular system. The muscle fiber of your heart starts to weaken over the age of 60. It can occur sooner in certain individuals. Pumping your blood across the body becomes more difficult, and some of the muscle groups even die due to lack of blood or oxygen. This is a major reason for heart attacks and other heart-related problems. Your arteries may thicken over time due to cholesterol deposits. This can raise your blood pressure and cause hypertension. Obesity may result in the early occurrence of these symptoms. 

Changes in your musculoskeletal system are visibly evident as you age. Your bones lose their normal thickness and density over time due to calcium loss. This is more frequent among females and begins to occur around menopause. Your muscles also become weaker, mainly if you are used to a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of physical activity can cause early loss of strength and efficiency from your bones and muscles. 

Your digestive system is also affected by aging. Digestive signs and symptoms may be difficult to distinguish because they may be occurring due to other factors such as diet, fluid intake, physical activity, etc. Constipation is a common complaint among older adults because your large intestines become less efficient. This may also occur due to lack of fiber in diet, dehydration, or lesser physical activity. The use of medications can also affect the digestive and reabsorption functions of your gastrointestinal tract. 

Hormonal fluctuations are also experienced as you age. These can manifest differently for males and females. A general outcome of this are changes in your sexual activity. Sexual drive decreases, especially in females, and the reproductive cycle is disrupted. The rest of your body's hormones, such as adrenaline, thyroid hormone, etc., can also fluctuate over time.

Other physical changes include weakening of skin cells, loss of hair, decreased vision and hearing, weight changes, weakening of gums and teeth, loss of immunity, and increased risk of other diseases. Much of these can be controlled by developing healthy habits and maintaining a good standard of life. 

Psychological Effects

Apart from physical changes, there are many psychological effects of aging that can lower the quality of your life. Psychological effects can start to exhibit as early as you experience the initial visible signs of aging. Men and women become more conscious about their looks and body shape because it influences their social and professional life. This may cause mild to moderate depression, anxiety, and increased distress. 

Depression is one of the most common effects of aging. It does not necessarily occur due to aging but rather personal and social factors. People who are over-concerned about their physical looks may experience depression as their features decline over time. Less social activity or abandonment from friends or family members can also contribute to this condition. 

On a broad scale, your mental health declines over time. This may also be attributed to the weakening of your nervous system. The risk of conditions like delirium, dementia, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, etc., increases. The intelligence and memory skills of a person may also be affected. Overall, these conditions are often multifactorial and occur due to many other factors accompanied by aging. 

What do You Need to Do?

The first step towards a better life is accepting that you will age as the year's pass. It is a natural process and not something to be ashamed of. Accepting this fact will also prevent you from certain psychological damages that you may experience otherwise.

The next step is to prioritize your physical and mental well-being. Often people ignore themselves amid personal and professional life. It is important to consider your health first to maintain a better quality of life. Exercise, walking or other physical activities are very beneficial in the long run. You can also try to engage in relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation, stretching, etc., which improve your physical and mental health. 
Improve your diet and fluid intake and avoid processed food and drinks. Smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse should be avoided as much as possible. Maintain a healthy social circle and engage in activities that boost your endorphin levels. Regularly visit your doctor or healthcare expert so chances of any disease or abnormality can be minimized at an early stage. 

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Our clinical experts continually monitor the health and medical content posted on CURA4U, and we update our blogs and articles when new information becomes available. Last reviewed by Dr.Saad Zia on April 20th, 2023.

 

References:

Behavioral and Psychological Factors and Aging | NIA (nih.gov)- https://www.nia.nih.gov/about/aging-strategic-directions-research/goal-behavioral-psychological-factors

Age-associated cognitive decline- https://academic.oup.com/bmb/article/92/1/135/332828?searchresult=1

Quality of life in older ages- https://academic.oup.com/bmb/article/85/1/113/291398?searchresult=1 Overview of Aging -  https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/older-people%E2%80%99s-health-issues/the-aging-body/overview-of-aging?query=aging

Aging changes in the female reproductive system- https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004016.htm

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