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Aging and It's Effect on the Body

The Human Body and Aging

Summary: The body is made of several different systems. Age effects all parts of the body: skin, hair, height, weight, the cardiovascular system, respitory system, eye sight. This article lists some of the common occurences with primary and secondary aging processes. As well as links to other sites that go into further details.

This article will go through the body systems and list some general things you can expect with aging due to primary and secondary aging. This article also has links to other sites that may interest you with more in depth information.


-between 30-50 years of age, most wrinkles are caused by secondary aging (non-biological) such as sun exposure and smoking.

-After the age of 50, wrinkling is due to secondary and primary aging (biological) such as age related reduction of sebum ( a naturally occuring skin oil)


for more information on skin aging click here




-Gradual graying and hair loss due to primary aging.

-Men tend to bald faster and in distinct pattern, whereas women bald and thin over their whole head.

- Early hairloss and graying due to genetics.

-There is no connection between mother and father and hair loss. As much as we want to believe it, there is no "I won't be bald if my mother's father isn't bald" excuse.

for more information on male and female hair loss click here.




-Full height is is reached by the mid-20's, there are slight declines after 50 due to loss of fluids seperating the vertebrea and spinal compression due to loss of bone strength.

-These effects are greater in women due to having less less bone mass than men and estrogen depletion of bone mass associated with menopause.

for more information on height loss click here




-Weight gain begins in the 30's with the slowing of metabolism which influences speed and quality of food digestion.

-Weight gain between age 25-50 is concentrated in waist and hips (also known as the middle-aged spread)

-After age 50 there is a loss of weight due to bone loss and lean muscle tissue degradation.

-Increase in sour stomachs and indigestion.

for more information on weight gain in women due to aging click here


Cardio Vascular System:
Primary Aging effects:
- Gradual accumulation of lipid (fatty) deposits
-Heart muscle wear down; muscle replaced with tangled connective tissue which causes a less functional heart.
-Arterial Sclerosis which causes the arteries to be less flexible.
-Build up of atheromas and plaques which are dead areas in the arteries and veins.
Heart disease is realey caused by aging alone.
Secondary Aging Disease Processes:
-Chronic Atherosclerosis: Chronic build up of plaques, semi-blockages, and hardening of arteries.
-Ischemic Heart Disease: Heart muscles gradually die due to sever oxygen depravation and gradual artery blockages.
-Congestive Heart Failure (Heart Attack): Sudden destruction of heart muscle resulting from sudden loss of blood supply and lack of Oxygen.
-Cerebrovascular Accident (Stroke): Sudden destruction of brain tussue from sudden loss of blood.
These secondary aging and disease processes have a higher risk factor when:
-you smoke
-have a bad diet
-low excercise level
-psychologically fragile

Click here for more information on the Cardio Vascular System and aging.


Respitory System:
Primary Aging Effects:
-Ribcage is less flexible due to bone loss causing less capacity
-Lungs appear more gray due to carbon build up
-Air Sacks also known as aveoli become smaller and the connective tissue that connects them begins to deterioate.
After age 40:
-less capacity; less organ reserve that leads to shortness of breath
After age 70:
-40% less capacity than at age 40 if you are not active
-20% less capacity if you are highly active
-70% less capacity if you are a smoker
-if you quit smoking by age 40 and excercise regularly you will have 20% less capacity
-if you quit smoking by age 50 and excercise regularly you will still have 70% less capacity so QUIT SMOKING NOW!

For more information on the Respitory system click here


Perception, Vision Changes:
Primary Aging:
-External parts of the eye:
  -Lens- becomes harder and less transparent due to its inablility to shed dead cells over time.This hardening makes it difficult for the lens to change shape when focussing. Problems with glare and ecessive lens clouding (cataracts). This clouding may also be caused by excessive sun exposure and high blood surgar.
  -Pupils - becomes smaller so need more light to see, and they become slower to react.
  -Eye Muscles- become less flexible therefore less able to bend the lens for focusing.
-Internal parts of the eye: 
  -Loss of receptors around the retinea due to arteriosclerosis. This distruction is usually located around the optic nerve, so the normal blind spot becomes larger.
  -fluid in the posterior chamer fo the eye becomes thinner and shreds causing possible blurred vision and floaters.
Secondary Aging:
-Disease processes:
  -Glaucoma: Abnormal pressure of eye fluid which can cause tunnel vision.
  -Diabetic retinopathy: Severe deterioration of retina resulting in blindness, no known way to reverse the process. 

For more information on vision and how aging affects it click here


Primary aging:
-Problems sorting out competing sounds usually around the mid 40's
-Problems detecting less intense sounds
-Problems detecting high pitched sounds
Primary vs. Secondary aging:
-Huge variablitiy in hearing loss
-Men are more affected then women
-Noisy environments cause more hearing loss
-Cultural Differences are apparent in the fact that industrial nations tend to have higher hearing loss
-Fairly resilent sense
-Losses not noticed until late 50's or early 60's
-Very large individual differences, most apparent loss is among smokers.
-Very large individual differences, most apparent in smokers also.
-Age related declines in the ability to taste salty, bitter and sour sensations
-No decline in the ability to taste sweet. This is of course why we always keep our sweet tooth.

For more information on hearing loss and ways to treat it click here.

For more information on aging and how it effects taste and smell click here

All information in this Article came from Notes from 10-18-04 to 10-27-04 Psych 303 Adult Development and Aging. Taught by Dr. Gary Creasey PhD. Illinois State University.

This article contributed by Ben Clyde

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