Nursing Free essay: Effects of Ageing on Human Body
Effects of Ageing on Human Body
As human being age, their bodies undergo numerous physiological and anatomical changes. The changes become more evident as chronological age advances. In this context, ageing can be described simply as a progressive process characterized by the reduction in the functionality body tissues and organs. The loss of functionality is caused by degradation of the body organs and tissues (Corbin-Lewis & Liss, 2014, p. 78). The loss or reduction of the functionality of organs and tissues reduces the ability of the body to cope with challenges associated with medical processes such as surgery and anaesthesia. Anatomical changes resulting from ageing are different from physiological changes. . As Nigam and Knight (2008, p. 24) explained, anatomical changes occur on the structures of the body tissues and organs. Conversely, physiological changes entail the changes that occur in the processes, relationships and functions of body organs and tissues. For instance, a reduction in the size of cardiac vessels is an anatomical change while reduction in cardiac output is a physiological change (Nigam & Knight, 2008, p. 24). Usually, anatomical changes lead to physiological changes and thus, the two concepts are related and connected. As human being age, physiological and anatomical changes occur in many body systems, including in the respiratory system, the musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system, renal system, central nervous system, the nervous system and the brain, the skin and the metabolic/endocrine system. This paper explores the physiological and anatomical changes that occur on human body with advancement in age.
Ageing effects on the Physiology and Anatomy of Human Body
Changes in the Respiratory System
As the age of a human being advances, vital capacity, total capacity, forced expiratory volume and forced vital capacity of the lung reduce. However, the functional residual capacity of the lung does not change, while the residual volume increases. The elasticity of airways reduces as age advances (Minaker, 2011, p. 267). The bones that make up the thoracic cage change in shape and also become thinner. The diaphragm, a muscle that supports breathing, becomes weak. Air sacs usually lose shape with advancement in age and they become buggy.
The anatomical changes mentioned above have several physiological impacts on the respiratory system. Due to the reduction in elasticity, airways collapse easily at old age especially when they are pressed. Around oropharynx, the airway can collapse even when it is not pressed due to the loss of elasticity (Davies & Bolton, p. 2010, p. 41). Further, anatomical changes in the respiratory system lead to the reduction in chest wall compliance. Compliance is the relative change in pressure to the change in volume. The structural or anatomical changes that occur in the respiratory system lead to a reduction in thoracic cage’s ability to expand when inhaling air (Sharma & Goodwin, 2006, p. 471). Also, the structural changes reduce the ability of the diaphragm to contract effectively. A study conducted by Mittman et al (1965, as cited in Nigam & Knight, 2008, p. 24) on 42 persons aged between 24 and 70 yeas showed that lung compliance was the same among the subjects but chest wall compliance reduced in advanced age. An increase in the residual volume suggests that complete emptying of lungs is impeded as age advances.
The changes that occur in the thoracic bones or the ribcage can lead to a reduction of oxygen in the body. The changes may also affect effective extraction of carbon dioxide from the body. Symptoms such as shortness of breath and tiredness may emerge (Cefalu, 2011, p. 495). Changes in the air sacs and muscles of the airways can lead to the trapping of air in the lungs. In some cases, less carbon dioxide may be expelled out of lungs and too little oxygen inhaled, leading to difficulties in breathing (Moini, 2015, p. 154). The part of the nervous system that controls breathing may lose some function as age advances, leading to the emergence of breathing difficulties. Nerves that trigger coughing in the lungs might lose sensitivity. Ultimately, large amount of harmful particles such as smoke might be deposited in the lungs (Cefalu, 2011, p. 495).
Changes in the Cardiovascular System
One of the most notable anatomical changes in the cardiovascular system is the reduction in the elasticity of the medium and large vessels. The reduction in the elasticity of the vessels increases systemic vascular resistance as well as hypertension. In turn, the resulting hypertension and vascular resistance lead to left ventricular hypertrophy and left ventricular strain (Minaker, 2011, p. 254). Second, ventricular contractility and stroke volume reduce as age advances, leading to a reduction in cardiac output by around 3 percent every decade from the age of 20. The fall in cardiac output leads to an increase in circulation time from the arm to the brain. Consequently, drugs circulation time in the body reduces. Further, the number of cells created in the cardiac muscles reduces with advancement in age, leading to an increase in the occurrence of atrial fibrillation, octopic beats, heart block and arrhythmias (Tortora & Derrickson, 2008, p. 102).
In addition, the regulation of catecholamine receptors located in the myocardium reduces with advancement in age, leading to a reduction in the responsiveness of sympathomimetic agents and catecholamines (James, 2014. P. 511). The impairment of the carotid baroreceptor response and autonomic homeostasis affects the heart’s functionality such that it does not always respond effectively through maintaining arterial blood pressure. As age advances, the chances of getting heart diseases increase. For instance, chances of getting hypertension increases with advancement in age (Schwartz, 2011, p. 547). Elderly persons with diabetes and those who smoke are more prone to ischaemic heart disease than young people. Reduction in mobility as age advances reduces the ability to detect symptoms of ischaemic heart disease, such as exertional dyspnoea and angina. Also, the possibility of getting valvular heart disease increases with age advancement (Stone, 2014, p. 14).
Some changes that occur in the heart as age advances can lead to a reduction in the heart rate. For instance, some pathways of the heart may develop fat deposits and fibrous tissues that can affect the natural pacemaker system. Loss of cells can also affect the natural pacemaker system. Such changes ultimately lead to a reduction in the heart rate (Cohan and Pikna, 2007, p. 126). The heart walls thicken with advancement in age, leading to a reduction in the volume of the heart chambers. Consequently, the amount of blood that a heart chamber holds reduces with advancement in age. However, the thickening of the walls of the heart leads to the enlargement of the size of the heart, especially the left ventricle (Cohan and Pikna, 2007, p. 127). Further, the walls of the capillaries that supply nutrients to the heart thicken, leading to a reduction in the rate of supply of the nutrients. As people age, the total body water reduces, leading to a reduction in blood volume. The blood volume also reduces due to a reduction on the rate of replacement of the dying blood cells (Cohan and Pikna, 2007, p. 128).
Changes in the Renal System
The renal cortical glomeruli reduce progressively with advancement in age. The reduction of the renal cortical glomeruli leads to a decline of the glomerular filtration rate by 1 percent every year from the age of 20. Precisely, the number of filtering units, also called nephrons, decreases as age advances (Minaker, 2011, p. 26). The size of the kidney reduces mainly due to the reduction in the number of nephrons. In some cases, the blood vessels that supply blood to the kidney are hardened. The hardening of the blood vessels leads to an increase in the blood filtration time. Further, the elasticity of the tissues that make up the bladder reduces due to the hardening of the tissues. Consequently, the maximum volume of urine that a bladder can hold reduces as age advances (Smith and Kuche, 2010, p. 81). Also, the muscles of the bladder become weak as age advances, hence reducing the ability of the bladder to hold urine. In women, weakened bladder muscles can lead to the blocking of the urethra. In men, enlarged prostate gland can block urethra. Also, the ability to fully empty the bladder reduces as age advances. Consequently, most elderly people retain urine in their bladders. Retaining urine more frequently increases the chances of getting urinary track functions (Patel and Wiggins, p. 37). In women, the lining of the urethra becomes thinner and the urethra shortens as age advances, leading to the reduction in urinary tack’s ability to close completely. The rate of flow of urine from the bladder to the urethra declines. Renal function also reduces with advancement in age due to the decline in cardiac output as well as due to the development of atheromatous vascular disease (Cohan and Pikna, 2007, p. 119).
Effects on the Metabolic System
The metabolic system is controlled by hormones that are released into the body by hypothalamus that is located in the brain. The hormones control different body structures. Although the amounts of the hormones released usually remain the same as age advances, the ability of the endocrine organs to respond might reduce (Seimer & Olesen, Hansen, 2014, p. 2372). The pituitary gland also releases hormones that influence the development of breasts, testes, ovaries and adrenal cortex. As well, the hormones released by hypothalamus are stored by the pituitary gland. The size of the pituitary gland increases until the middle age and starts to decline progressively with advancement in age.
The hormones meant to control metabolism ares released by the thyroid gland (Goodman & Cobin, Ginzburg, 2011, p. 9). With advancement in age, the thyroid gland might become nodular or lumpy. Metabolism reduces progressively from the age of 20. Parathyroid glands release hormones that affect phosphate and calcium levels. The hormone increases with advancement in age, and it can contribute to osteoporosis in old age. The pancreas releases insulin that enhances the ability of sugar to penetrate into cells. Beyond the age of 50 years, the body cells become increasingly insensitive to insulin, leading to a progressive increase in sugar level in the blood (Goodman et al., 2011, p. 10). The adrenal glands release three hormones, namely dehydroepiandrosterone, cortisol and aldosterone. The amounts of the three hormones released decline with age. Lastly, the ability of the ovary and testes to produce sex hormones reduces with advancement in age (Goodman et al., 2011, p. 11)
Changes in Skin
As age advances, the outer layer of the skin of a human being (also called epidermis) becomes thinner. The number of cells in the skin containing pigment decreases as a person becomes older. The elasticity and strengths of the skin reduces due to changes that occur in the connective tissue. The blood vessels contained in the dermis become fragile as age advances, leading to bruises, cherry angiomas and bleeding, among other conditions (Minaker, 2010, p. 275). The oil produced by sebaceous glands reduces with advancement in age. The reduction in the oil makes the skin dry. The subcutaneous under the skin becomes thinner with advancement in age leading to a reduction in padding and insulation. The reduction of padding and insulation reduces the ability of the body to maintain temperate. Age advancement increases chances of developing skin problems such as warts, skin tags and rough patches (Peate & Nair, 2016, p. 107).
Effects on the Musculoskeletal System
Human beings lose bone density and mass as they age. Minerals contained in the bones such as calcium reduce with age. The gel-like cushion that exists between the vertebrae bones dries up gradually as people age, leading to the shortening of the middle of the body. The vertebrae bones become thinner because of losing mineral contents (Watts et al., 2010, p. 7). The spinal column becomes increasingly compressed and curved with advancement in age. Bone spurs may also occur on the vertebrae at old age. Bones in the legs and arms become increasingly brittle as people age because of mineral loss, making them easy to break. Joints become less flexible and stiffer (Watts et al., 2010, p. 7). Synovial fluid that exists at the bone joints usually decreases. The cartilage at the bone joints usually wears off. The reduction of fluid and cartilage at the bone joints can lead to deformity, stiffness, pain and inflammation. The changes in the musculoskeletal system lead to a reduction in mobility (Farley, McLafferty & Hendry, 2011, p. 59)
Effects on the Nervous System and the Brain
As people age, the nervous system and the brain lose nerve cells. In some cases, the process through which messages are sent through the nervous system slows down. As the nerve tissues break down, wastes can be deposited in the brains, leading to abnormal changes, such as plagues (Rudolph & Marcantonio, 2007, p. 322). The breakdown of brain nerves can lead to the loss of senses. As people age, thinking and memory processes slow down. Also, the possibility of getting mental problems such as Alzheimer disease, and dementia increases (Reichman & Cummings, 2007, p. 285).
Overall, as human beings age, numerous changes occur in the structure and functions of almost all major body systems. As well, changes occur in the physiological processes that occur in the body, such as the release of hormones and their use in the body, heartbeat, rate of supply of nutrients to the body and the rate of expulsion of waste products from the body. Changes occur in the anatomies of almost all parts of the body, including bones and organs such as the lungs, the diaphragm, the heart, the skin and the kidneys.
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