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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

Hair 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.

Greying - of 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 lines.

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 arches
  • 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 than men.

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

Lean body mass decreases in arm and leg muscle mass, with some decrease in our bones and body organs. This is caused by decreased hormone levels.

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 90.

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 With Age

 

 
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