How to Identify the True Effects of Aging

 

What is normal aging? 

A question most people ask, at least the folks over the age of 55.  

You may be someone who prefers not to think about it and pretend it doesn't exist. The fact that you're slowing down, can't multi-task as well, have less energy, forgetful at times, or not sleeping as well, all point to it. 

What can a gal or guy do about it?  You could continue to ignore it.

But if you're into a proactive and prevention lifestyle, and want to get ahead of the down-side of aging, I can help by giving you reliable and useful information that flips uncertainty and denial, to clarity and action. More on that later.

According to the Pew Research study, they found varying assumptions, depending on the age group.

The generation gaps in how one perceives old age and when it begins ranges from 60 years to 74.

When asked, "What chronological number does old age begin," survey respondents ages 18 to 29 said 60. Middle-aged respondents put the threshold at 70, and those 65 and above say a person does not become old until 74.

Other potential markers such as forgetfulness, retirement, becoming sexually inactive, experiencing bladder control problems, getting gray hair, having grandchildren are the subjects of perceptions. Nearly two-thirds of adults ages 18 to 29 believe that when a person frequently forgets a familiar name that marks the person old. 

Additional markers such as failing health, an inability to live independently, an inability to drive, difficulty with stairs, across all age groups, indicate to a certain degree as old age. (Pew Research, Growing Old in America)

The Longest Study on Aging

The research scientists looks for answers to the question, "What is normal aging?" It's the longest running study on human aging, the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging.

It appears to be a simple query, but the answers are complex. The research goal is to identify the true effects of aging and to separate factors such as disease, socioeconomic disadvantage, or lack of educational opportunity from the underlying mechanisms common to human aging.

Predictors of Aging 

If you ever asked a physician, "How do I know if I'm aging well?" She'll likely look for answers (signs) via:

  • recent blood work,
  • prevention tests,
  • stiffening of blood vessels and arteries,
  • weakening bones, joints, and muscles,
  • frequent constipation, 
  • urinary incontinence
  • memory changes
  • and other signs and changes in hearing/vision/skin, etc.

The Findings in the Baltimore Longevity Study 

Several indicators about how well a person ages were discovered via the longest longevity research project in America. The findings are useful for those who want to know, "how well am I aging, and how can I know?"

Getting tired while walking can indicate one's future mobility - scientists found that how fatigued a person gets while walking is a better predictor of future problems with mobility compared to reports of overall low energy or tiredness. The ability of mobility performance predicts future function. An example, two people who walk quickly, the one who does not feel tired has better future mobility.

Cognitive changes in normal aging are different for genders - in the absence of cognitive impairment or dementia, cognition changes with aging but differs by sex. Men have better visual-spatial ability at baseline, women do better on most other measures of cognition. Over time, men decline more rapidly in overall mental status, perceptuo-motor speed and visual-spatial ability. Women do not decline faster than men in any aspect tested. Women may have greater resilience to age-related cognitive decline compared to men.

Decreasing sense of smell is an early sign of changes in brain health. Since motor functions are strongly affected by brain health, the study found the smell ability was associated with all measures of mobility and hand function, even after accounting for other factors affected by brain health such as age and cognitive function.

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