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Starting at what is commonly called middle age, operations of the human body begin to be more vulnerable to daily wear and tear; there is a general decline in physical, and possibly mental, functioning. In the Western countries, the length of life is often into the 70s. The upward limit of the life span, however, can be as high as 120 years. During the latter half of life, an individual is more prone to have problems with the various functions of the body and to develop any number of chronic or fatal diseases. The cardiovascular, digestive, excretory, nervous, reproductive and urinary systems are particularly affected. The most common diseases of aging include Alzheimer's, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, depression, and heart disease.


Human beings reach a peak of growth and development around the time of their mid 20s. Aging is the normal transition time after that flurry of activity. Although there are quite a few age-related changes that tax the body, disability is not necessarily a part of aging. Health and lifestyle factors together with the genetic makeup of the individual, and determines the response to these changes. Body functions that are most often affected by age include:
  • Hearing, which declines especially in relation to the highest pitched tones.
  • The proportion of fat to muscle, which may increase by as much as 30%. Typically, the total padding of body fat directly under the skin thins out and accumulates around the stomach. The ability to excrete fats is impaired, and therefore the storage of fats increases, including cholesterol and fat-soluble nutrients.
  • The amount of water in the body decreases, which therefore decreases the absorption of water-soluble nutrients. Also, there is less saliva and other lubricating fluids.
  • The liver and the kidneys cannot function as efficiently, thus affecting the elimination of wastes.
  • A decrease in the ease of digestion, with a decrease in stomach acid production.
  • A loss of muscle strength and coordination, with an accompanying loss of mobility, agility, and flexibility.
  • A decline in sexual hormones and sexual functioning.
  • A decrease in the sensations of taste and smell.
  • Changes in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, leading to decreased oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.
  • Decreased functioning of the nervous system so that nerve impulses are not transmitted as efficiently, reflexes are not as sharp, and memory and learning are diminished.
  • A decrease in bone strength and density.
  • Hormone levels, which gradually decline. The thyroid and sexual hormones are particularly affected.
  • Declining visual abilities. Age-related changes may lead to diseases such as macular degeneration.
  • A compromised ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight.
  • A reduction in protein formation leading to shrinkage in muscle mass and decreased bone formation, possibly leading to osteoporosis.

Causes and symptoms

There are several theories as to why the aging body loses functioning. It may be that several factors work together or that one particular factor is at work more than others in a given individual.
  • Programmed senescence, or aging clock, theory. The aging of the cells of each individual is programmed into the genes, and there is a preset number of possible rejuvenations in the life of a given cell. When cells die at a rate faster than they are replaced, organs do not function properly, and they are soon unable to maintain the functions necessary for life.
  • Genetic theory. Human cells maintain their own seed of destruction at the level of the chromosomes.
  • Connective tissue, or cross-linking theory. Changes in the make-up of the connective tissue alter the stability of body structures, causing a loss of elasticity and functioning, and leading to symptoms of aging.
  • Free-radical theory. The most commonly held theory of aging, it is based on the fact that ongoing chemical reactions of the cells produce free radicals. In the presence of oxygen, these free radicals cause the cells of the body to break down. As time goes on, more cells die or lose the ability to function, and the body soon ceases to function as a whole.
  • Immunological theory. There are changes in the immune system as it begins to wear out, and the body is more prone to infections and tissue damage, which may finally cause death. Also, as the system breaks down, the body is more apt to have autoimmune reactions, in which the body's own cells are mistaken for foreign material and are destroyed or damaged by the immune system.


Many problems can arise due to age-related changes in the body. Although there is no one test to be given, a thorough physical exam and a basic blood screening and blood chemistry panel can point to areas in need of further attention. When older people become ill, the first signs of disease are often nonspecific. Further exams should be conducted if any of the following occur:
  • diminished or lack of desire for food
  • increasing confusion
  • failure to thrive
  • urinary incontinence
  • dizziness
  • weight loss
  • falling


For the most part, doctors prescribe medications to control the symptoms and diseases of aging. In the United States, about two-thirds of people 65 and over take medications for various complaints. More women than men use these medications. The most common drugs used by the elderly are painkillers, diuretics or water pills, sedatives, cardiac drugs, antibiotics, and mental health drugs.
Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) is commonly prescribed to postmenopausal women for symptoms of aging. It is often used in conjunction with progesterone. ERT functions to help keep bones strong, reduce risk of heart disease, restore vaginal lubrication, and to improve skin elasticity. Evidence suggests that it may also help maintain mental functions.

Expected results

Aging is unavoidable, but major physical impairment is not. People can lead a healthy, disability-free life well through their later years. A well established support system of family, friends, and health care providers, together with focus on good nutrition and lifestyle habits and good stress management, can prevent disease and lessen the impact of chronic conditions.

Key terms

Alzheimer's disease — A condition causing a decline in brain function that interferes with the ability to reason and to perform daily activities.
Antioxidants — Substances that reduce the damage of the highly reactive free radicals that are the byproducts of the cells.
Senescence — Aging.
Vata — One of the three main constitutional types found under Ayurvedic principles. Keeping one's particular constitution in balance is considered important in maintaining health.

Alternative treatment

Nutritional supplements

Consumption of a high-quality multivitamin is recommended. Common nutritional deficiencies connected with aging include B vitamins, vitamins A and C, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, chromium, and trace minerals. Since stomach acids may be decreased, it is suggested that the use of a powdered multivitamin formula in gelatin capsules be used, as this form is the easiest to digest. Such formulas may also contain enzymes for further help with digestion.
Antioxidants can help to neutralize damage by the free radical actions thought to contribute to problems of aging. They are also helpful in preventing and treating cancer and in treating cataracts and glaucoma. Supplements that serve as antioxidants include:
  • Vitamin E, 400-1,000 IUs daily. Protects cell membranes against damage. It shows promise in prevention against heart disease, and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
  • Selenium, 50 mg taken twice daily. Research suggests that selenium may play a role in reducing the risk of cancer.
  • Beta-carotene, 25,000-40,000 IUs daily. May help in treating cancer, colds and flu, arthritis, and immune support.
  • Vitamin C, 1,000-2,000 mg per day. It may cause diarrhea in large doses. If this occurs, however, all that is needed is a decrease in the dosage.
Other supplements that are helpful in treating agerelated problems including:
  • B12/B-complex vitamins, studies show that B12 may help reduce mental symptoms, such as confusion, memory loss, and depression.
  • Coenzyme Q10 may be helpful in treating heart disease, as up to three-quarters cardiac patients have been found to be lacking in this heart enzyme.


The following hormone supplements may be taken to prevent or to treat various age-related problems. However, caution should be taken before beginning treatment, and the patient should consult his or her health care professional.
DHEA improves brain functioning and serves as a building block for many other important hormones in the body. It may be helpful in restoring declining hormone levels and in building up muscle mass, strengthening the bones, and maintaining a healthy heart.
Melatonin may be helpful for insomnia. It has also been used to help fight viruses and bacterial infections, reduce the risk of heart disease, improve sexual functioning, and to protect against cancer.
Human growth hormone (hGH) has been shown to regulate blood sugar levels and to stimulate bone, cartilage, and muscle growth while reducing fat.


Garlic (Allium sativa) is helpful in preventing heart disease, as well as improving the tone and texture of skin. Garlic stimulates liver and digestive system functions, and also helps in dealing with heart disease and high blood pressure.
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) supports the adrenal glands and immune functions. It is believed to be helpful in treating problems related to stress. Siberian ginseng also increases mental and physical performance, and may be useful in treating memory loss, chronic fatigue, and immune dysfunction.
Proanthocyanidins, or PCO, are Pycnogenol, derived from grape seeds and skin, and from pine tree bark, and may help in the prevention of cancer and poor vision.
In Ayurvedic medicine, aging is described as a process of increased vata, in which there is a tendency to become thinner, drier, more nervous, more restless, and more fearful, while having a loss of appetite as well as sleep. Bananas, almonds, avocados, and coconuts are some of the foods used in correcting such conditions. One of the main herbs used for such conditions is gotu kola (Centella asiatica), which is used to revitalize the nervous system and brain cells and to fortify the immune system. Gotu kola is also used to treat memory loss, anxiety, and insomnia.
In Chinese medicine, most symptoms of aging are regarded as symptoms of a yin deficiency. Moistening foods such as millet, barley soup, tofu, mung beans, wheat germ, spirulina, potatoes, black sesame seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds are recommended. Jing tonics may also be used. These include deer antler, dodder seeds, processed rehmannia, longevity soup, mussels, and chicken.


Preventive health practices such as healthy diet, daily exercise, stress management, and control of lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking, can lengthen the life span and improve the quality of life as people age. Exercise can improve the appetite, the health of the bones, the emotional and mental outlook, and the digestion and circulation.
Drinking plenty of fluids aids in maintaining healthy skin, good digestion, and proper elimination of wastes. Up to eight glasses of water should be consumed daily, along with plenty of herbal teas, diluted fruit and vegetable juices, and fresh fruits and vegetables with high water content.
Because of a decrease in the sense of taste, older people often increase their intake of salt, which can contribute to high blood pressure and nutrient loss. Use of sugar is also increased. Seaweeds and small amounts of honey can be used as replacements.
Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine all have potential damaging effects, and should be limited or completely eliminated from consumption.
A diet high in fiber and low in fat is recommended. Processed foods should be replaced by complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains. If chewing becomes a problem, there should be an increased intake of protein drinks, freshly juiced fruits and vegetables, and creamed cereals.



"Anti-Aging-Nutritional Program." December 28, 2000.
"Effects of Hormone in the Body." December 28, 2000. 〈〉.
"The Elderly-Nutritional Programs." December 28, 2000.
"Evaluating the Elderly Patient: the Case for Assessment Technology." December 28, 2000. 〈〉.
"Herbal Phytotherapy and the Elderly." December 28, 2000.
"Pharmacokinetics." Merck & Co., Inc. (1995–2000). December 28, 2000.
"To a Long and Healthy Life." December 28, 2000.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the gradual changes in the structure of any organism that occur with the passage of time, that do not result from disease or other gross accidents, and that eventually lead to the increased probability of death as the individual grows older. See also aged and senescence, and see the Atlas on Aging.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


(ā'jing), [MIM*502000]
1. The process of growing old, especially by failure of replacement of cells in sufficient number to maintain full functional capacity; particularly affects cells (for example, neurons) incapable of mitotic division.
2. The gradual deterioration of a mature organism resulting from time-dependent, irreversible changes in structure that are intrinsic to the particular species, and eventually lead to decreased ability to cope with the stresses of the environment, thereby increasing the probability of death.
3. In the cardiovascular system, the progressive replacement of functional cell types by fibrous connective tissue.
4. A demographic term, meaning an increase over time in the proportion of older people in the population.
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


The process of growing old or maturing.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


Dermatology Changes in the skin and subcutaneous tissues associated with growing older.  Ageing effects (e.g., patchy hyperpigmentation, fine wrinkles, telangiectasias) result from intrinsic and extrinsic processes and reflect the physicaleffects of the passage of time. Ageing skin is usually associated with a sagging face, in which deeper tissues (i.e., subjacent soft tissue) and structural landmarks lose their resiliency.
Geriatrics A multifaceted process in which bodily structures and functions undergo a negative deviation from the optimum. Ageing phenomena include decreases in memory, muscle strength, muscle mass, manual dexterity, cardiac output, and auditory and visual acuity, as well as loss or thinning of hair. Other ageing phenomena include increased body fat, and increased risk of cancer, diabetes, infections, osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis accompanied by a decrease in height due to decreased intervertebral space.

Intrinsic ageing The immutable effects of chronologic ageing, e.g., atrophy-attenuation of epidermis, retraction of rete pegs, decreased number of Langerhans’ cells and melanocytes, general decay of structural dermal and epidermal components
Extrinsic ageing Effects of external factors, e.g., sunlight, smoking, gravity and gravidity, keratinocytic dysplasia, solar elastosis, and possibly carcinogenesis; intrinsic & extrinsic ageing are intimately linked and thus not divided 
Ageing phenomena
Inevitable & immutable Cataracts, decreased skin elasticity, farsightedness, fibrous replacement of muscle, greying, poor recall, slowed intestinal transit, prostatic hypertrophy, wrinkling 
Inevitable but modifiable Baldness, cancer, reduced cardiac reserve, slow erection and ejaculation, decreased hearing, immunity, and vision, increased weight, liver spots (age spots), osteoporosis, decreased short-term memory, decreased stamina
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.


A multifaceted process in which bodily structures and functions undergo a negative deviation from the optimum; aging phenomena include ↓ memory, muscle strength and mass, manual dexterity, cardiac output, auditory and visual acuity, loss or thinning of hair, ↑ body fat, ↑ risk of CA, DM, infections, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis accompanied by ↓ in height due to ↓ intervertebral space. See Geriatrics, Life-extending diet Dermatology Changes in the skin and subcutaneous tissues of those whose future is shorter than their past; aging effects result from intrinsic and extrinsic processes See Aging, Aging skin, Sagging face.
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. The process of growing old, especially by failure of replacement of cells in sufficient number to maintain full functional capacity; particularly affects cells (e.g., neurons) incapable of mitotic division.
2. The gradual deterioration of a mature organism resulting from time-dependent, irreversible changes in structure.
3. In the cardiovascular system, the progressive replacement of functional cell types by fibrous connective tissue.
4. demography An increase over time in the proportion of older people in the population.
5. The process, analogous to the setting of glue, by which the bond between a nerve agent and acetylcholinesterase becomes refractory to disruption by an oxime antidote.
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


(ājing) [MIM*502000]
The process of growing old, especially by failure of replacement of cells in sufficient number to maintain full functional capacity; particularly affects cells (e.g., neurons) incapable of mitotic division.
Medical Dictionary for the Dental Professions © Farlex 2012

Patient discussion about aging

Q. I would like to know the best age for pregnancy? Hi I am Deontae; I got married before 1 year. I and my wife planned to have a baby after 3 years. But now she is 25. I would like to know the best age for pregnancy? Which will help us to change our plan?

A. actually there is no best age for pregnancy (as far as i know), but some studies and research had shown that after 35 years old, a pregnancy is categorized as high risk, because there are some abnormalities and labor complication that are tend to happened (statistically) along with the increase of mother's age (such as: down syndrome, genetic disorder, post-partum bleeding, miscarriage, etc.)

so if your wife is now 25, i think you guys still have another 5-10 years to "accomplish" your family plan, hehehe...
Good luck, and stay healthy always..

Q. when is the most common age to get any kind of cancer? is there is such age?

A. no, not really. but i guess the older you get the older something can pop out. the cells are dividing and multiplying all of our life, and cancer can occur because of mutation happened in the cells.

Q. Does eyesight always decrease with age? I am 45 years old and never had glasses. All my friends are starting to wear reading glasses. Should I expect this too?

A. This is what usually happens; your eyesight deteriorates as you get older. Here is a link to a few things you can do in order to protect your eyesight:

More discussions about aging
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