CHANGES WITH AGING: PHYSICAL
The key physical appearance changes with age are in hair,
skin height, weight, body fat, and body mass.
Changes In Hair With Age
loss is largely genetic but is also very impacted
by emotional and hormonal changes. Changes in body chemistry,
thermal damage, chemical processing, and harsh environmental
elements cause the hair to lose its youthful look and
feel, becoming dull, coarse, dry, and brittle. Hair
loss is common from the age of 50, but extrinsic factors
can make this occur much earlier. Certain drugs taken
for other purposes can cause hair loss as a side effect.
the hair is often the first physical sign of aging
to others and results from the loss of pigment cells
from the hair bulbs. The loss of these pigment cells
is more rapid in the hair than in the skin. Interestingly,
the greying of hair in the armpit is thought to be one
of the most reliable signs of aging.
Rate of Growth - The growth
rate of hair declines; possibly due to lowering hormone
levels. This also accounts for growth of facial hair
in elderly women. An increased growth of eyebrow and
nostril hair occurs in elderly men.
Changes In Skin With Age
The main changes in the skin
occurs at the deep cell level rather than at the outer
layer of the skin. The number of cells that come from
the bone marrow and provide assistance to the immune
system is also reduced. Blood supply and collagen product
to the outer skin layers is also reduced resulting in
a decrease of skin elasticity.
The end result in normally aged skin is thinning,
a loss of elasticity and the deepening of normal expression
Sun Damaged Skin - the reduction
of bone marrow cells is significant in skin that has
been over exposed to sunlight; contributing greatly
to the development of
sun-related skin cancers. The
sun damage to the lower levels of skin, a loss of
collagen, and a reduction in immunity cells results
in skin is characterized by wrinkled, yellowed, rough,
leathery, and spotted skin.
Area Specific Skin Changes -
The tissues in certain areas of the body may atrophy
or show enlargement. This mainly occurs in our face,
the back of our hands, our shins, and the soles of our
feet. It also accounts for the relative increase of
fat along the waistline in men and the thighs in women.
Changes In Height With Age
Generally our height increases until our late forties,
then by age 80, approximately two inches are lost. This
loss is attributed to several elements:
- Changes in the growth of vertebrae
- A forward bending of the spine
- Compression of the disks between the vertebrae
causing a loss in trunk length
- Joint changes in the feet and a flattening of the
- Increased curvature of hips and knees
Changes In Body Weight With Age
Men - body weight increases
until the mid-fifties; then declines; accelerating in
the late sixties and seventies.
Women - body weight increases
until the late sixties; then declines at a rate slower
Cultural Differences - Cultures
with higher physical labour do not show this sequence
of weight change, which suggests that reduced physical
activity and changes in eating patterns may be causes
of the change in body weight rather than the aging process.
Changes In Total Body Fat With Age
The proportion of body fat to total weight doubles
between the ages of 25 and 75.
Fat Distribution - The fat
lying just beneath the skin decreases with age, fat
accumulated in muscles and body organs must therefore
increase. The body does not lose fat with age but redistributes
it from just under the skin to deeper parts of the body.
Women are more likely to store it in the lower body;
the hips and thighs whilst men favor the abdominal area.
Impact - Drugs that are
dissolved in fatty tissues remain in our body much longer
than in a younger person's body.
Changes In Lean Body Mass With Age
body mass decreases in arm and leg muscle
mass, with some decrease in our bones and body organs.
This is caused by decreased
The decrease of estrogens at menopause is proportionally
much greater than the fall
of total androgens in men.
Our liver and kidneys lose about a third of their
weight between the ages of 30 and 90. The prostate gland,
however, doubles in weight between the ages of 20 and
Prevention - Exercise
programs may prevent or reverse much of the proportional
decrease in lean muscle mass and the increase in
total body fat.
NEXT: Skin Changes