May 7, 2012

Aging Myths Debunked

Aging and the Fountain of YouthAging Myths

Do you want to get older?  The answer most likely depends on how old you currently are. If you’re 12 you probably can’t wait to get older. But, if you’re older than 40 you probably aren’t looking forward to much getting older. But there are aging myths that you may not know.

By age 40 many have already noticed some changes in the way they feel and look and aren’t too eager to see what other changes the future may hold. Plus, many buy into the many aging myths that suggest that becoming older is undesirable.

But, is it all bad – getting older that is?  Much of that depends on you.  Aging is inevitable, but getting older is more a state of mind. It is possible to age youthfully, but it’s going to take some effort. Little good comes without effort. The key is maintaining a health lifestyle.

Not everything you hear about aging is true.  In fact, many things you hear are probably false.  So let’s take a look at some of the many aging myths.

The Myths

You’re going to become senile.  Of all the aging myths this may be the most prevalent. The odds are you will maintain your mental capacities well enough to have the ability to live independently.  This is more true the better your general health. In actuality, senility effects 20% of adults. Not that that’s a great percentage, but the chances are you’ll keep your wits together.

Vitamin deficiencies can cause symptoms of senility which are reversible with vitamin supplementation.  B12 and B6 deficiencies are linked to cognitive decline and vitamin C deficiency is more likely in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin has been show to suppress inflammation in the brain that leades to neurodegenerative disorders, too.

You’re going to become depressed and unhappy.  Aging in an of itself is not a risk factor for depression.  But, there are changes that occur with aging, like declining hormone levels, that can increase the risk of depression, or exacerbate it. Depression later in life is also associated with other illnesses like stroke, heart disease, cancer, etc.  So that’s another reason to stay healthy and avoid developing any chronic diseases.

In reality, though many older individuals may look depress, most of the time they are not.

You’re going to lose muscle and experience declining energy levels.  While these two changes frequently occur, they don’t have to, but this is where it’s going to take effort on your part.  Studies show that 70+ year olds still respond to exercise in terms of gaining strength and improving endurance as those who are younger.  One study of active 53 to 75 years old showed that they had muscle function similar to that of those in their 20’s.

So the loss of muscle strength and mass has more to do with lifestyle than aging.

Regular exercise and proper nutrition will help  maintain energy, but sometimes help is needed.  It’s very important that sex hormone levels be optimal (testosterone, estrogens, thyroid, DHEA, growth hormone in particular). So if you lose energy as you age be sure to have your hormone levels measured.

You’re going to lose the ability to learn.  Only if you want to.  Not too long ago I heard an expert in Alzheimer’s research say that the best way to maintain cognitive skills as we age is to always be engaged in learning something new.  This helps to maintain brain plasticity.  Brain plasticity is the ability of the brain to adapt to physiological changes of the body as well as changes in behavior and in the environment. In other words, learning new skills, tasks, and obtaining new knowledge keeps your brain more nimble.

We used to think the brain was rigid or did not change after a certain age (teens or early 20’s).  That’s not true.  Your brain has the ability to learn new things, though the speed at which learns does slow down some, and the way in which it learns may change, too.

Is there something you always wanted to learn or do?  Don’t let your age prevent you from pursuing all you can be and all you can do.  Keep learning and keep doing. Don’t let these aging myths prevent you from living a vibant life in the later years.

During my sports medicine training we had a common piece of advise for our older patients, “keep on keeping on” – and so should you!

See related articles.

“Exercise Myths”

“No Myth: Menopause for Men”

“Hormone Therapy for Men: Demystifying the Myths”

“Why Eating Fat is Not Fatal”

“Stem Cells: The Controversial Anti Aging Treatment”

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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