The study of the aging process is known as gerontology and research in this area is moving towards a better understanding of the physical aging process, in terms of length and quality of life. More than ever before, interest is increasing in identifying factors that lead to healthy aging. Good nutrition throughout life is a clear factor in determining the quality of life a person may expect in later years.
The Aging Process
- Aging is a normal process that begins with conception and ends with death. During periods of growth, anabolic processes (cell regeneration) are greater than catabolic processes (cell degeneration). Once the body reaches maturity, this processes changes and degeneration becomes greater than regeneration. The resultant loss of cells leads to varying degrees of decreased efficiency and function of the body.
- Aging is marked by a progressive loss of lean body mass, as well as changes in most body systems. Some changes are the result of genetically programmed events other changes are influenced by the environment.
- Life span defines the maximum potential length of life that humans may live. Although gerontologists continue to debate the limits of the human life span, there is evidence that the upper natural range is between 120 and 140 years.
- Life expectancy on the other hand is the average length of life projected for a population of a given age. In terms of life expectancy at birth, it identifies the number of years a baby born at a particular time may expect to live, assuming that conditions remain unchanged. Improved nutritional status has a positive effect on life expectancy and has increased the number of people who approach the maximum lifespan.
- Men and women in the advancing years of life display a wide variety of individual reactions; they simply get old at different rates. Everybody carries the impact of individual trauma and the accumulation of disease experience in his or her individual gene controlled process of growing old. It seems that the greatest influence of nutrition on the aging process takes place in the early growth years.
- Nutrition during the early and middle years, prepares the body to meet the needs of the gradually declining metabolic processes of older age.
- It appears that many of the diseases associated with age and aging like cardio vascular disease, lung disease and musculoskeletal disorders, can be treated or managed with an improved exercise programme