Kamis, 05 November 2009

Aging: Assessment of Aging Process

After knowing what aging is and how aging progresses, we'll want to know in what aging stage we're in. We start by assessing the parameters of aging, also called the biomarkers of aging. The first step is listing health status and risk factors, such as family history of disease, nutrition status, our exercising habit, environmental risk factors (e.g.: pollution), and our own history of medicine taking. Additional factor that effects aging is psychiatric condition, how we handle stress.

The second step is physical examination, including blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and temperature. Systolic blood pressure need to be observed closely for people over 45 years of age. On the other hand, diastolic blood pressure is the more important point for people below 45 years of age. One simple examination that we can do at home is the skin elasticity examination. We only need to look in the mirror and see if we can find wrinkles. Another one is to lightly pinch your skin and see if it returns back to its smooth state in an instant or not.

Some examinations need to be done in a clinic or a hospital, including the functional capacity examination and the biochemistry examination. Functional capacity is an important indicator of aging as it connects directly to daily activity. These include the lung and heart capacity, neurological capacity, kidney function, and bone density. Biochemistry examination needs to be done in a laboratory, including the assessment of neurotransmitters, hormones, tumor markers, genetic markers, toxins, and mineral serum level.

These biomarkers of aging closely relate to the quality of life. Therefore, assessment for these signs of aging should be done before the symptoms start to disturb your daily life activity.

Rabu, 21 Oktober 2009

Aging: Stages of the Aging Process

The aging process is commonly divided into three stages. They are the subclinical stage, the transitional stage, and the clinical stage.

In the subclinical stage, hormone production level decreases. Testosterone, growth hormone, and estrogen are only a few of them. Free radicals may start to disrupt our cell's DNA. These processes however are not visible from the outside. There are no symptom or complaint of aging here. This stage happens around the age of 25 to 35, still can be considered young.

The next stage, called the transitional stage, happens around the age of 35 to 45. Hormone level drops to around 25 %. Muscle mass also starts to decrease, while body fat composition increases. People at this stage may complain about losing energy, losing the "spark". The changes in hormone level, muscle mass, and body fat might cause insulin resistance, higher risk of coronary heart disease, and higher risk of obesity. Other symptoms may appear, such as vision and hearing deterioration, lower melanocytes activity, lower skin elasticity, and lower libido, the bane of human kind. Around this period, people may look less fresh and less young.

The last is the clinical stage that happens over the age of 45. The level of hormone production continues to drop. It may start to effect the gastrointestinal tact and disrupt nutrition absorption, including vitamins and minerals absorption. Besides muscle mass, bone density also starts to decrease. Lack of energy significantly disturbs daily activity. Sexual dysfunction is more prominent. All in all, it's an impending disaster waiting to explode.

Rabu, 16 September 2009

Aging: Knowing The Signs

The aging process starts with a minimal decreasing in metabolism. Like with a car, early aging is the time when you just put your foot on the brakes. Organ function is only just starting to slow. Signs of aging are only just starting to pop up little by little. And those signs will not only be physical, but also psychological. The physical signs include diminishing muscle mass, increasing body fat level, sexual dysfunction, disorder of the joints and bones. The psychological signs may include depression, insomnia, anxiety, and so on.

When we age, all our body functions will deteriorate. All systems in the body, including the endocrine system, immune system, metabolism, sexual and reproductive system, cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, muscular and skeletal system, and also the nervous system will feel the impact of the aging process. These deterioration that will then cause the signs and symptoms that show the manifestation of the aging process. Only if we do something to stop the signs from developing any further, will we have a longer and better quality life.

Minggu, 06 September 2009

Aging: A Few Theories

There are many theories that explain the factors contributing to aging process. Two of the most famous theories are the "wear and tear" theory and the "programmed aging" theory. The "wear and tear" explains that the causes of aging include DNA damage, glycosilation and free radicals. The "programmed aging" on the other hand explains that the factors include cell replication limit, immune process, and neuroendocrine theory.

The W&T basically tells us that our body weaken and die because of the continuous usage and damage of our cells. Our cells are damaged because of constant abuse by toxins, excess fat, sugar overload, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, UV rays, and stress. So, even if we were not smokers or alcoholic, our cells and therefore organs would still deteriorate. The difference is that with the additional abuse, the body would crumble a lot faster.

The free radicals hypothesis is up till now the most talked about theory of aging process. Free radicals are molecules with excess unpaired electron. These molecules are unstable and can create a chain reaction where unstable molecules will try to rip away electrons from other molecules to balance themselves. And the ones that are mobbed will be unstable also and become the next electron-robber. These reactions cause cellular dysfunction and contribute greatly to some diseases, such as atherosclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer syndrome, and immunity disorder.

The programmed aging theory talks about biological clock that is programmed from the day of conception to the day we die. One theory mentions about telomere, a special structure at the end of a chromosome. Every time a cell divide, the telomere will shorten. After a number of cell divisions, the telomere will be too short to be used for another division. The cell multiplication stops there.
Another theory talks about the role of hormone to aging process. When people grew old, their body would produce less hormones than when they were young. When the serum level dropped, there came the physical problems, such as intolerance to low temperature, difficulty to move, decreasing muscle mass, increasing body fat, memory disturbance, and sexual dysfunction.

Rabu, 02 September 2009

Aging: Why We Grow Old

People, on principal, grow old after they reach a certain point in their lives. Of course, it does not happen after we become an adult. It is an on-going process since birth. We just never call it growing old, just "growing". Some say growing old is a set-back, a repression, a descent. But none ever wonders why the event happen. Why do we grow old? Why do we get ill? In the end, no one questions, why do we die?

We accept it as the course of nature. People have to grow old, get sick and die. Some even go as far as saying, life is predetermined by fate. Now, what's with that? I kind of understand about it being a natural occurrence. But fate? Not so much. It wouldn't be fair.

As all people of the world agree, we cannot stop time, we also admit our inability to stop death. It happens. Get over it. The thing we can get our hands on is the getting sick part. We just need to know what causes said disease. Simple, really. Not.

Alright, not so simple. But we can simply simplify it. OK, we take a jumble of factors and divide them into two categories, the internal factors (IFs) and the external factors (EFs). Under IFs, we put genetic factor, immune system disturbance, hormonal imbalance, and other inappropriate metabolic processes that I don't understand. Oh, and free radicals, must not forget that.
Under EFs, we can jot down bad life style, bad diet, bad habit, pollution, stress, and all other bad things.

See? Simple.

These factors, we can meddle in. Hopefully, an intervention at a right time can prolong life. Or at least, can make us live healthy longer.

Minggu, 19 Juli 2009

Aging: An Introduction


When talking about aging, we could not avoid thinking about life expectancy. In a demographic trend, the precise term would be "Life Expectancy at Birth (years)". The term indicates the average living years of the people in a certain nation. Looking at the demographic trend, we could not help but compare the lower life expectancy of people in developing countries to the higher in developed countries.

Based on the Human Development Report by the UNDP (2005), the life expectancy at birth of people in Japan is 82 years, followed by Switzerland (80.5 years), Singapore (78.7 years), and US of A (77.4 years). Those are only a few countries with high life expectancy at birth. Compare those numbers to the life expectancy in Kenya, where the life expectancy of women only reaches 51 years and men 50 years.

When faced with these hard facts, we must ask ourselves "Why?"

The immediate answer would be "Because." Of course, that does not help a bit. The truth is that there are certain factors which cause some people to live longer and others to live, well, not so long. None of those factors coincides with fate in the biblical sense. If you are pagan, life expectancy has nothing to do with Clotho, Lachesis, and Apropos.

One important factor would be health. Without further explanation, people with good health should be able to live longer, barring accidents and bad luck. So there is something we can actually do to get a few additional years. We only have to keep health and keep functioning as we grow old.

Easier said than done.

Rabu, 11 Maret 2009

Mal Aria

Malaria is a name that may sound pretty but it actually means "bad air". It is basically an infectious disease caused by parasites, called Plasmodium, and distributed by some kind of insect, mainly mosquitoes. Some tropical regions, mainly Asia and Africa, have the poor luck of being endemic. Developing countries seem to be more affected by the disease than do their more developed brethrens and sistrens.

Only female mosquitoes of the Anopheles genus can transmit malaria after they suck blood containing malaria parasites from an infected person. The parasites then enter the blood circulation and multiply within red blood cells, causing symptoms including fever, shivering, joint pain, vomiting, anemia (caused by red blood cells destruction), a trace of hemoglobin in urine, retinal damage, and convulsions. The classic symptom of malaria is fever and sweating switching on and off lasting four to six hours, which occur every two days or three days depending on the species of the parasites. Children with malaria often show abnormal posturing that may be caused by severe brain damage. Children are also more prone to having neurological damage from malaria that attacks the brain.
The kind of parasite called Plasmodium falciparum can cause a severe case of malaria which arises 6-14 days after infection. Some morbid after-effects of severe malaria include coma and death if left untreated. Children and pregnant women, as usual, are especially vulnerable. Some other symptoms that may occur are enlarged spleen, a world of headache, disturbed circulation to the brain, enlarged liver, low blood sugar, and renal failure. Now, this renal failure is the cause of blackwater fever, where hemoglobin from damaged red blood cells leaks into the urine. Severe malaria can cause death in the matter of days, even hours.
Malaria can be chronic if it is caused by Plasmodium vivax or Plasmodium ovale. Not by their falciparum mate, though, for some reason. When chronic, malaria may begin to show symptoms in a few months or years after exposure, because the parasites in the liver are in latent phase. In latent phase, laboratory exams may fail to show the presence of malaria parasites in the blood stream.
Malaria transmission can be reduced by preventing mosquito bites with mosquito nets and insect repellents, or by spraying insecticides inside houses and draining or covering any container of water where mosquitoes may lay their eggs.

Even with the recent development of medical technology, no vaccine is currently available for malaria. People in the endemic regions have to take preventive drugs to reduce the risk of infection. Quinine has been used since ever as a cure and preventive medicine against malaria. Nowadays we can use other effective alternatives such as quinacrine, chloroquine, and primaquine and reduce the reliance on quinine. Although, quinine is still used to treat chloroquine resistant Plasmodium falciparum, as well as severe and cerebral stages of malaria. Beside quinine, other antimalarial drugs used to treat malaria infection are the derivatives of artemisinin. However, some of these parasites have evolved to be more resistant to many of antimalarial drugs. In such case, only a few drugs remain as effective treatments for malaria.