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CAUSES OF AGING - Behavioural Factors

The choices we make in life contribute to how we age. We really can choose the way we age!

These are all choices in life we each can make; all behavioural factors contributing to how you will age.

 

Syndrome X

Of all the antiaging choices we adopt, diet and exercise, have a major impact on the number of changes common with advancing age. These two factors alone, can control levels of fats or lipids in the blood, levels of blood sugar and insulin, avert a tendency toward obesity. These three factors are known collectively to result in what the medical fraternity call “Syndrome X”. The reason they are so important is their direct relationship to heart and other cardiovascular diseases, the focus of many studies.

 

Aging and Nutrients

Syndrome x is not the only aspects of nutrition that may influence life expectancy. Gerontologists have been scrutinizing a wide range of nutrients that impact the aging processes.

Calcium and vitamin D, for example, help reduce the thinning of bones that accompanies aging in almost everyone but particularly in older women, many of whom are at high risk for osteoporosis. Vitamin E, may be critical to the immune system, while beta carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E appear to fight oxidative damage.

Studies are finding that most older people are not getting the recommended daily allowances of some nutrients. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging found deficiencies among elderly people in calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, vitamins B6, B12, D, and E, and folic acid, a finding confirmed at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. It does not help that nutritionalists still do not have a clear definition of what RDA’s are required, and even if RDA is the most appropriate measure.

 

Aging and Exercise

Exercise as a behavioral factor impacting on how long we live and how healthy we are in old age is also central to many aging studies. Exercises that put weight on bones, such as jogging, walking, and weight-lifting, have been shown to strengthen them. Further studies are exploring the potential of exercise to reduce the risk of osteoporosis; a condition which is a major cause of fractures among older people leading to long term disability.

One significant study by Maria Fiatarone of the USDA Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University, has shown that exercise can strengthen muscles, improve mobility, and reduce frailty even among 90-year-olds.

In her report on findings to the House Select Committee on Aging in February 1991, Fiatoarone said:

"Starting with a small group of ten 90-year-old residents of the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for Aged in Massachusetts, we demonstrated that the muscle weakness and atrophy of aging were in fact not at all immutable. These residents increased their leg muscle strength by 174 percent and their muscle size by 9 percent after only 8 weeks of weight-lifting exercise. More importantly, as we have expanded this research to a much larger group of volunteers through the support of grants from the National Institute on Aging and others, it is clear that such training can improve walking speeds, mobility, independence in daily activities, and reduce dependence on canes, walkers, and wheelchairs in some individuals. At a cellular level, we now have preliminary evidence that this increased muscle function is accompanied by the actual growth of new muscle fibers, a finding never before demonstrated after strength training."

Rose Karsh, a participant in the study, described it from her point of view: "When I finished the study I was able to life 50 pounds with each leg which surprised me very much at my age. After the test was over I was able to walk around the center without any assistance, and it made me feel very proud that I could do that. It made me feel younger and gayer. I use my cane to protect myself from falling only when I walk outside. I don't have to use a walker."

 

The Choice is Yours

Behavioural choices such as diet and exercise are available to anyone. Socio-economic status is not as significant as is education and self control.

Next: How Smoking Impacts Aging

Aging Causes Index | Why Skin Ages | Behaviour | Free Radicals | Exercise | Smoking | Cancer

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