While I relayed yesterday, aging is complex; arguably a process no one quite agrees upon, but in essence will happen no matter what the professionals believe or do not believe. What they all agree upon is the fact that aging affects different people in different ways in different parts of their bodies.
Many gerontologists, people who study aging, believe that the interaction of our lifelong influences are the determining factor in who we age. Heredity, environment, culture, diet, exercise, past illnesses, leisure and a variety of other factors are all set in this equation. As each person is unique in these characteristics, so they age at a unique rate as well.
According to the NIH website, there is really no way to predict exactly how you will age, but they have included a few terms for us caregivers to study and be able to use when times arise. Keeping up with medical terms is just another method to prove that With Age Comes Respect. The terms are:
- Cells shrink. If enough cells decrease in size, the entire organ atrophies. This is often a normal aging change and can occur in any tissue. It is most common in skeletal muscle, the heart, the brain, and the sex organs (such as the breasts).
- The cause of atrophy is unknown, but may include reduced use, decreased workload, decreased blood supply or nutrition to the cells, and reduced stimulation by nerves or hormones.
- Cells enlarge. This is caused by an increase of proteins in the cell membrane and cell structures, not an increase in the cell’s fluid.
- When some cells atrophy, others may hypertrophy to make up for the loss of cell mass.
- The number of cells increases. There is an increased rate of cell division.
- Hyperplasia usually occurs to compensate for loss of cells. It allows some organs and tissues to regenerate, including the skin, lining of the intestines, liver, and bone marrow. The liver is especially good at regeneration. It can replace up to 70% of its structure within 2 weeks after an injury.
- Tissues that have limited ability to regenerate include bone, cartilage, and smooth muscle (such as the muscles around the intestines). Tissues that rarely or never regenerate include the nerves, skeletal muscle, heart muscle, and the lens of the eye. When injured, these tissues are replaced with scar tissue.
- The size, shape, or organization of mature cells becomes abnormal. This is also called atypical hyperplasia.
- Dysplasia is fairly common in the cells of the cervix and the lining of the respiratory tract.
- The formation of tumors, either cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).
- Neoplastic cells often reproduce quickly. They may have unusual shapes and abnormal function.