There is a desire for immortality in every human and religion has helped to fuel it with the belief that we were not supposed to die. However, since this is not the case, man has settled for ways to at least prolong life as much as possible.
Aging is the combination of physical, psychological and social changes in a human being over time.
BIOLOGY OF AGING
There are different theories on aging which could be classified into 2. Programmed factors and Damage related factors.
This has to do with the genetic programming of an organism. As a matter of fact, researchers have found that selected alterations in specific genes can extend the lifespan of some organisms. Under Programmed Factors, various explanations exist and one of such is the Cellular Senescence Theory which relates aging to a state of cellular growth arrest i.e. the cells stop dividing thus setting in the process of aging.
Damage Related Factors
This happens to be the most common explanation for aging. Under this, we have the Wear and Tear Theory, the accumulation of Waste Theory which inhibits cellular metabolism, and Free Radicals theory among others.
What are some of the changes that occur as a result of aging?
Muscles and Fats
Muscle mass and strength begin to reduce as age advances and this process is worsened by certain diseases and inactivity. Due to reduction in muscle mass, the heat generated by muscle contraction needed to maintain the body temperature is reduced
The skin loses its elasticity, becomes drier and thinner due the to decrease in production of collagen.and elastin. The fat layer beneath the skin shrinks, the sweat glands decrease and nerve endings decrease resulting in decreased sensitivity to stimulus.
The changes differ across sexes. For men, the testosterone levels drop, the penis is less sensitive, sperm production decreases and the prostate may be enlarged.
In women, the ovaries stop producing oestrogen and progesterone, menstruation ceases, the vaginal linning become dryer making sex more painful.
The digestive system begins to slow down and process food slower than before. This, as such, increases tendency for constipation.
The immune system begins to decline and healing process is slower. With age, people become more vulnerable and auto immune diseases could develop.
Brain and Nervous System
Brain activity also begins to decline resulting in memory loss, blood flow to the brain decreases, the nerve cells lose some of its receptors for messages. All this contributes to old people responding to task slower.
WAYS TO SLOW DOWN AGING PROCESS
Almost all of the diseases that exist are linked to what we eat and drink. Eating healthy is very important in slowing down aging. As one ages, more of fruits, vegetables and water should be taken. Fats should be reduced and more of whole grains, lean sources of protein is recommended. Salt intake should also be reduced to help reduce the risk of heart diseases which is one of the leading cause of mortality globally.
It has been observed that the amount of sleep one gets affects longevity. People who do not have enough sleep have high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, too much sleep of over 8 hours have also been associated with mortality though not of cardiovascular origin.
Regular exercise help to reduce stress, improve cardiac activity and blood circulation and maintain body weight. A sedentary lifestyle has been associated with a lot of diseases including obesity and heart diseases. Activities like swimming, cycling and walking are good exercises to engage in.
Chronic stress results in hormonal imbalances that can lead to several disease conditions thereby facilitating aging. In our modern world stress has become a common experience and good ways to ease stress would be spirituality, social connection and marriage all of which have been linked to longevity.
Avoiding Overexposure to Sunlight
Over exposure to sunlight can damage the skin some of which are irreversibly. The use of sunscreen to could also help protect the skin from aging effect of sun rays.
Some drugs have been shown to slow down aging process in certain animals but non has been tested on humans.Research work is still ongoing in this area.