Ageing is the process of becoming older. It is a gradual, continuous process of natural change.
A person’s age can be categorised in the following different ways:
Chronologic age: Chronologic age is based solely on the passage of time. It is a person’s age in years. Chronologic age has limited significance in terms of health. Having said that, the likelihood of developing a health problem increases as people age.
Biological age : Biological age refers to changes in the body that commonly occur as people age. Because these changes affect some people sooner than others, some people are biologically old at 65, and others, a little later. However, most noticeable differences in apparent age among people of similar chronologic age are caused by lifestyle, habit, and effects of disease.
Psychological age: Psychologic age is based on how people act and feel.
To understand the process of ageing from a scientific stand point, we can classify it as follows:
Cellular ageing: Cells age based on the number of times they have replicated. A cell can replicate about 50 times before the genetic material is no longer able to be copied accurately. The more damage done to cells by free radicals and other factors, the more cells need to replicate.
Hormonal ageing: Hormonal ageing is more pronounced in women than in men. Hormones play a huge factor in ageing, especially during childhood growth and adolescent maturity. Hormone levels fluctuate through life. During puberty the body goes through a lot of changes including acne, increase in body hair, etc. As women get older, hormonal changes lead to menopause.
Accumulated damage related ageing: These would include external factors that affect our body. Exposure to toxins, excessive exposure to sun, intake of processed and genetically modified foods, pollution, and smoke affects the body. Over time, these external factors can lead to tissue damage and hastens the ageing process.
We can turn this inevitable ageing process into one that is healthy and smooth. Our simple goal should be to remain active and independent while avoiding mental and physical disorders as much as possible.
Some of the ways in which we can age gracefully
Eat a well-balanced diet: A nutritious diet with the right balance of all macro and micro nutrients helps to keep the body healthy and fight diseases. Protein intake in particular should be adequate especially for old people as proteins contribute to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar levels and maintain bone health. Getting adequate nutrients from food becomes tougher as a person ages because the body becomes less efficient in absorbing nutrients. The body may fall short of several key nutrients and may need to be supplemented in addition to the diet after talking to a healthcare professional.
The table below shows some of the essential nutrients, their function in old age specifically and dietary sources.
|Vitamin B12||Healthy nerve function||Milk products, fish,egg, poultry|
|Folic acid / folate||Prevents Anaemia||Fruits and vegetables|
|Calcium||Deficiency leads to brittle bones and increases risk of fractures||Milk and yoghurt|
|Vitamin D||Aids in calcium absorption and prevents osteoporosis. Also helps in protecting against cancer, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases.||Vitamin D supplements|
|Potassium||Reduces high blood pressure and prevents kidney stones||Fruits and vegetables|
|Magnesium||Contributes to cardiovascular health and bone health||Whole grains, fruits and vegetables|
|Fiber||Healthy digestion and gut health||Whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables|
Exercise regularly: 30 minutes of moderate activity a day like walking to the supermarket, or walking the dog can increase longevity.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Avoid smoking, drugs and alcohol. Quitting smoking improves circulation and blood pressure, and drastically reduces the risk of developing cancer.
Minimise exposure to toxins in the environment: Apart from staying away from polluted places, it is wise to cut down the excess use of pesticides, insecticides, room fresheners, deodorisers, cleaning and personal care products. These products contain toxins that hasten the process of ageing.
Access to Health care: It is imperative to be in touch with a good health care practitioner who is abreast with the latest medical trends and who is also attached to a well-equipped health care facility.
Sleep: A good night’s sleep is the best tonic to keep all diseases at bay, lower stress levels and improve mental health.
Stay mentally active: Simple mental exercises like recalling phone numbers and remembering simple grocery lists improves memory by 50 percent. Intellectually challenging games like chess or sudoku also help the mind stay active and alert.