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.
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
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
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
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
are available to anyone. Socio-economic status is not
as significant as is education and self control.
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