Shriveling with age
The question is – is there any good news about getting older? Isn’t it enough that we lose our hair, we turn grey and our skin gets wrinkled? Now the latest bit of wonderful news is that a lot of our body parts shrink with age! And I’m not just talking about our height but things like our breasts, heart muscle and vaginas!
I have been watching my poor octogenarian mother shrink before my eyes over the past few years. She was a towering four foot eleven and three quarter inches during her peak and now she would be lucky to be four foot nine inches. She is so tiny and frail, that I want to envelop her in my arms like a small child!
The medical facts are:
• Our height decreases due to the flattening of discs between the vertebrae in our spine, joint space narrowing and muscles losing mass.
• Heart muscle shrinks which affects its ability to pump blood through your body.
• Facial bones actually shrink sucking in the skin and muscle around them.
• The brain shrinks which could be triggered by a build-up of toxins in the brain or simply the result of brain cells that would normally be expected to regenerate.
• A woman’s vagina shrivels due to changes which are related to reduced levels of oestrogen with the menopause, which reduces blood flow to the area.
• Bladder capacity decreases because of physiological changes to the muscle structure.
• Breast tissue reduces with age.
• The thymus is a tiny organ that sits just above the heart, producing the T cells that protect against infections. This also shrinks with age which explains why elderly people are more susceptible to infections.
But it is not all doom and gloom because, wait for it, some parts of our body actually get bigger. Yes you read right. Our ears, nose and feet get bigger with age! So basically we all turn into dwarfs with ears like Dumbo, a nose like Pinocchio and feet like Bigfoot! We have so much to look forward to.
So what can we do about our shrinking body? Exercise, exercise and exercise. This helps retain muscle mass and good posture. Ensure we eat a good healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Smoking, alcohol and excess caffeine (more than eight cups of coffee or tea a day) can affect bone health too, so only indulge in moderation.
Menopausal women may opt for HRT to maintain oestrogen levels to assist with an atrophied vagina. Also having regular sex helps increase blood flow to the area which slows down the shrinking process. So use it, don’t lose it!
As for our brains –keep mentally active and challenge yourself. Never stop learning or reading. There is a lot to be said for continuing to work longer because it keeps our brains active and presents new challenges each day.
Keep in mind that there are some advantages of getting older. Things like: your eyesight won’t get any worse, you will only remember the good things in your past and will forget the bad, people will view your wrinkles as being a sign of a life well lived and you will have fewer responsibilities so you stress less. I don’t mind the sound of that!
I know you are all thinking that getting old sucks, but hey it is better than the alternative!