Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

The human body is composed of more than 37 trillion cells, with two trillion cells dividing every day. Skin cells, for example, are continuously regeneratinga simple cut regenerates with new tissue and new skin cells form over that. Such cell division and regeneration slows markedly in aging bodies. As we age, the ends of chromosomes, known as telomeres, get shorter and shorter, becoming so short that the cell dies off. This process is not merely normal, it is universal and wholly unavoidable. That doesn't mean it's easy to accept. Understanding the biology and mechanics of aging can make it easier to weather these transitions in one's own body, and to stave of some of the more common illnesses associated with aging.

The Changing Body
Digitalskillet Shutterstock

The aging body fights oxidative stress, whereby oxygen splits into single atoms. At the most basic level, the body contends with free radicals that age the human body over time. These unstable atoms seek out other electrons to become a pair that then causes damage to proteins, DNA, and cell membranes. And this damage can build up over time. In addition, waste in the form of fatty brown pigment, known as lipofuscin, builds up in tissue. The body’s connective tissue is impacted, changing and becoming stiffer, in turn affecting organ function.

How does heart health change in aging people?

As we age, the overall heart gets rigid and different parts of the heart get thicker. It can also increase in size, which means that this vital organ pumps more slowly, with less blood circulating. You may notice a shortness of breath, fatigue, a faster or irregular heartbeat, swelling in your legs and feet, or bloating from fluid retention. All this from an aging heart.

Is cardiovascular disease a problem for older adults?

Getting older does hasten atherosclerosis, with plaque build-up that hardens the arteries, resulting in restricted blood flow. The plaque may well burst and lead to a blood clot. Atherosclerosis can cause a heart attack, a stroke, and or vascular disease. Cardiovascular disease, a poor heart and or blood vessels, affects more adults in their later years, age 65 and older, than younger people.

Aging and Disease
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Our immune system can get compromised with age. Now more than ever, we need a healthy immunity to fight diseases and viruses and poor health. But in general, the aging body heals more slowly and it cannot protect you as well as it once did. Aging means a reduction of B and T cell production in the bone marrow and the thymus, which is a lymphoid organ important for the immune system. Compromised B and T cells can mean inflammation and all sorts of infectionspneumonia, bronchitis, meningitis, the common flu, and much more.

At what age is Parkinson’s disease a problem?

This neurodegenerative disorder is rare in young adults, and is found more in adults aged 60 and older; and the risk increases with age. Parkinson’s is a nervous system disorder that affects movement. People who have this disease shake with tremors, and have difficulty with balance, coordination, and walking. If left untreated, the person’s condition may include speech difficulties and deteriorating brain function, and it can even alter mood and personality.

Why is osteoporosis an older person’s disease?

A healthy young body builds new bone tissue rather quickly. However, the body loses bone mass as it ages. In fact, older adults lose inches in height, and a stooped posture can be common. Essentially, normal bones contain tiny holes, but these holes get bigger in aging bodies. Such brittle bones can lead to problems such as weak teeth, bone deformation, weakened joints, spine curvatures, and possible hip fractures.

Essential Reads
Recent Posts