Growing older is a natural facet of life. The ageing process is a journey that brings maturity and a wealth of experience. Many people find their senior years to be a time to relax, enjoy their accomplishments and spend more time in the companionship of friends and family. Most of the pressure to settle down to a nice home and generate the means for a better future has now passed.
The ageing phenomenon
By the age of 30, most of our age-related biological functions have reached their peak and will start to gradually decline. While we cannot stop the march of years, four key lifestyle factors can maximize our chances of leading a long and healthy life: not smoking at all (or, for smokers, reducing and finally quitting); pursuing regular exercise (of an aerobic type, at least 15 minutes three times a week); intake of fruits and vegetables for sufficient vitamins, minerals and valuable phytonutrients such as polyphenols; and a moderate intake of alcohol (two glasses of whiskey with soda for men and one for women per day is the suggestion from experts in the field). And during this period of life, a number of age-related health concerns need our particular attention, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, nutritional deficiencies and dementia that may lead to Alzheimer’s.
The ageing process starts at a cellular level. Environmental and genetic mechanisms play a complex, interrelated role. A stream of damaging substances, such as by-products of our normal metabolism, sunlight, dangerous chemicals and tobacco smoke toxins, can injure our cells, proteins and, ultimately, our DNA. This build-up of damaged materials affects cell function and is further complicated by imperfect defence and repair mechanisms. Our organ systems are also particularly affected by ageing. High blood pressure is the result of heart pumping capacity that is substantially reduced. Clogged arteries occur from repeated surplus fat intake over time, causing them to lose their elasticity. Hormonal changes due to ageing can also have a profound effect on our metabolism and body systems such as bones.
Age-relatedchanges in the digestive tract lead to a reduction in food intake, placing older people at risk of deficiencies due to difficulties in absorbing nutrients. Declining taste and smell sensations may further reduce food intake or alter normal food preferences. Lower body mass and deteriorating teeth also contribute to reduced food intake. This means that the intake of some essential nutrients is insufficient, contributing to a depressed immune system and functional cognitive decline. Nutrition plays a vital role in keeping the body running smoothly and preventing age-related complications.
Towards healthy ageing
A short quote from Associate Professor Dr Panya Kaimuk, president of the Sport Science Society of Thailand, is relevant to the preparation for ageing: “a healthy and strong body must be active at all times; in contrast, a strong mind must be still and calm; and doing exercise for all bodily systems will help streng then the fight against ageing”. For the mind in particular, if we are regularly frustrated, agitated and confused by various thoughts, the mind will haveless power to control the body, becoming less conscious and losing sharpness in decision-making when encountering problems. When issues arise, our spirits sink as a consequence, resulting in detrimental physical effects on our body.Therefore good preparation for both our physical and mental health must be complementary.
Staying mobile and active is very important for getting the most out of life as you age. Mobility affects how well we can get around; therefore it is recommended to keep up activities like visiting the market, light house workand exercise such as walking, swimming and aerobic exercise. The general decline in muscle mass from ageing is partly responsible for reduced mobility, and ailments such asarthritic joints, weaker bones and lower endurance also play a role.
William Shakespeare likened old age to a hideous winter, and humanshave long dreaded the downsides to longevity. Should we manage our lives properly by looking after our body and soul, though, and take in suitable nutrition as mentioned, our quality of life can be maintained even as we move into old age.