Aging is a natural part of human development, which scientists continue to learn more about. While the reasons behind aging remain somewhat inexplicable, the scientific community has made significant progress in the discovery of the effects of aging on the human body. The purpose of this paper is to examine how aging impacts human cells, organs, and body systems to gain an in-depth understanding of the changes one might experience as one gets older.
The Effect of Aging on Cells
Although there are different types of cells, they all have the same basic structure and merge into similar layers to perform a specific function (living tissue). With aging, cells grow in size and become less able to perform basic functions such as cell division and multiplication (National Institute of Health, 2020). In addition, cell membranes transform, which makes it harder for the tissues to fill the body with the necessary nutrients as well as remove carbon dioxide (DiLoreto & Murphy, 2015). Thus, as a person grows older, their cells lose their ability to function properly or even entirely. Inside the cell, the amount of pigments and lipids increases substantially due to aging (National Institute of Health, 2020).
Apart from lipids and pigments, according to Pamphlett et al. (2018), trace metals also accumulate in various tissues, which can lead to certain mutations and the development of cancer. Connective tissue becomes stiffer, which results in organs and blood vessels turning more rigid (National Institute of Health, 2020). Moreover, the majority of tissues are likely to lose mass and become lumpy (National Institute of Health, 2020). Due to the aforementioned changes in cells, organs struggle to function to their fullest ability, which amounts to an extra workload for the body.
The Definition and Role of Apoptosis
Aging is accompanied by a significant decline in physiological functionality and general health of the body. Moreover, during low-level chronic stress, such as in aging, the body’s resistance to apoptosis increases. Apoptosis can be defined as the process of programmed cell death, which implies the activation of the apoptotic pathway by both intracellular and extracellular signals (Pfeffer & Singh, 2018).
It regulates the elimination of unwanted and unnecessary cells in a highly regulated way, which is why it is crucial for early development (Pfeffer & Singh, 2018). In addition, according to Ichim and Tait (2016), apoptosis plays a key role in preventing cancer, which means that its prevention can lead to uncontrolled cell division resulting in a tumor. Thus, the risk of cancer incidence with age is related (at least partly) to the failure of DNA repair processes, including apoptosis (Ichim & Tait, 2016). This increases the speed of the carcinogenic process the older a person gets, which demonstrates exactly why older people are at a higher risk of cancer.
Aging and Body Systems
Aging affects all of the body’s systems, including cardiovascular, endocrine, nervous, and muscular systems. As the main transport instrument of the body, the cardiovascular system is crucial for delivering oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to various tissues and organs. As a person grows older, their blood vessels become less elastic (Knight & Nigam, 2017). Apart from losing elasticity, arterial walls get stiff and thick, which disrupts the normal blood flow (Knight & Nigam, 2017).
Thus, the changes in the vasculature lead to reduced efficiency of the heart and an overall decline in cardiac function. As for the endocrine system, aging results in decreased testosterone and estrogen levels in older women and men (van den Beld et al., 2018). In addition, aging slows down the metabolism of cortisol and changes the end-organ response to thyroxine and triiodothyronine (van den Beld et al., 2018). When it comes to the nervous system, older people experience episodic memory changes and are threatened by diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s (Sorond et al., 2015).
With age, there is a decline in performance on tasks requiring timely reactions and split-second decision-making. Lastly, older people struggle with reduced perception of sensory stimuli (Sorond et al., 2015). Morphologically and biochemically, aging neurons often fail to keep up with synaptic enlargements and lipofuscin pigmentation (Sorond et al., 2015). As people age, their muscles progress changes, including the loss of tone (Villa-Forte, 2019). In turn, muscle weakness contributes to constant fatigue, stiffness, and loss of balance (Villa-Forte, 2019). As a result, aging leads to a higher risk of injuries in an older population since older people have reduced activity tolerance and reflexes, which makes it harder for them to perform everyday tasks.
To sum it all up, it is crucial to recognize the effects aging has on the body, its cells, tissues, and organs. With age, cells are less likely to perform their basic functions efficiently due to changes in the structure of cell membranes and a substantial increase in the levels of trace metals, pigments, and lipids. Older people experience increased resistance to apoptosis, which results in a higher risk of developing a tumor. In addition, a body of an older person struggles to function properly due to changes in cardiovascular, endocrine, and other systems. Aging is a complex process that is nothing but natural for humans, which is why it is important for medical professionals to gain more insight into the transformations that accompany aging.
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