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BODY FUNCTIONAL SIGNS OF AGING

Regulatory Systems

As we age our ability to regulate our body functions decreases.

Blood Pressure Regulation

Progressive changes in the heart and blood vessels impair ones body’s ability to control blood pressure. Increases in blood pressure, in turn, may also impair blood pressure control mechanisms. Hence, you have the greatest risk for sudden drops in your blood pressure if you have high blood pressure. Changes in the brain and kidney with aging can amplify these effects.

Thermometer

Temperature Regulations

Our reducing ability as we age to regulate our temperature can result in hypothermia if the ambient temperature is low or hyperthermia (heat stroke) if the temperature is high. There may also be aging-related changes in ones ability to mount a fever in response to an infection.

Body Fluids

The regulation of the amount and composition of body fluids is diminished in healthy elderly people. Resting levels of the hormones that control fluid volume are unchanged, but abnormalities of fluid regulation frequently occur during illness or physiologic stress. Water regulation involves mechanisms in the central nervous system and the kidneys. The thirst response that follows water deprivation is decreased in elderly people.

 

System Functionality

A wide range of changes may occur in each of the following systems, much of which depends upon the health and lifestyle maintained in the earlier decades and by genetic propensity.

 

Consequences of Aging Physiology

The first implication of these age-related changes in our body systems is the increasing differentiation and biologic diversity. Essentially, this means we become less like each other, and health care must be individualized. At present, diagnostic investigation and the allocation of resources is largely based upon chronologic age criteria, and thus not optimal to cater to this diversity.

Secondly, we also need to consider how our biologic systems are influenced by lifestyle circumstances such as cigarette smoking, physical activity, nutritional intake, or economic advantage. Such environmental and lifestyle factors induce changes in body systems; some accelerating the aging process.

The potential interactions of environmental and physiologic conditions also need to be considererd, with decrements in maximum function potentially affected by various environmental factors such as cigarette smoking in youth, which may reduce optimal respiratory potential in later years.

The third consequence of aging physiology is the prospect of living with diminishing resources with which to meet increasingly complicated demands. The decline of functional capacity is often compounded by losses of social status, income, family support through death, and self-esteem. Diseases may reduce physical and mental capabilities, which are magnified by rapidly changing social expectations, especially for people who have accepted a self-reliant lifestyle.

 

Adjusting to Changes

Our capacity to learn and adjust continues throughout life, strongly influenced by interests, activity, motivation, health, and income. Fortunately, in most cases we reach a position of peaceful acceptance, commonly regarded as wisdom.

NEXT: Blood Supply



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