BODY FUNCTIONAL SIGNS OF AGING
As we age our ability to regulate our body functions
Blood Pressure Regulation
Progressive changes in the heart and blood vessels
impair ones body’s ability to control blood pressure.
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
blood pressure. Changes in the brain and kidney
with aging can amplify these effects.
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.
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.
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
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