Aging is not so much a matter of the passage of time as of changes in fitness and outlook. The earliest and most obvious signs include men losing their hair and men and women needing reading glasses because of presbyopia (inability to focus on near objects). But diseases have a greater impact on how your body functions than does aging alone. Therefore, staying fit and healthy is an important part of keeping your body operating as if it were still young.
It is true that older people are more likely than the young to get certain diseases, and older individuals may have several different health problems at the same time. But more and more people are living longer and staying healthier--and happier--as they get older. The key is to gain control over your health as early in your life as possible. Learning how to stay well will give you a better chance of feeling well, longer.
The increasing numbers of seniors is attributable, in part, to the growing reliance on health care that stresses lifelong wellness, proper diet and adequate exercise. We all hope cures are found for such scourges as cancer, heart disease and AIDS. But for you, as an individual, such cures may have little direct impact on your quality of life as you live day by day through your seventies, eighties and nineties.
There is an association between frailty and increased inflammation, insulin resistance and increased blood-clotting activity. Inflammatory cells are always present in the blood, but when they are stimulated over a long period of time, they have an adverse effect on many biological functions. Stimulated inflammatory cells can cause arthritis, contribute to the development of arteriosclerosis, and those with chronic inflammation are likely to lose muscle and bone mass. [Archives of Internal Medicine, November 2002]
Living long and being vigorous and vital means maintaining overall physical and emotional wellness. It means functioning at as high a level as possible, with physical and mental functions diminished only moderately, if at all. Many older individuals are more concerned about their diet and digestion than about what disease may ultimately strike them down. They are concerned about sleeping well, seeing and hearing adequately, looking good, having a reasonably active sex life, controlling their weight, experiencing as little pain as possible, maintaining their mental acuity, not being depressed, and remaining active and independent.