What happens as we age?

By April 13, 2014Ageing

As we get older, our medical and health issues change Kara Mammamia mp3. And we’re not talking about retirement-age – smart health tests start at age 40. We spoke to a family GP about what medical tests we should have as we get older, and which serve as the best preventative measures for our long-term wellness.

What makes us age?

There are two leading theories around why we live as long as we do. The first is that our genes choose how long we live. We have genes which tell our body how long it’ll live, and in theory, if you could change that particular gene then we could live longer.

The second theory is that over a lifetime, the damage to our body and DNA adds up, until the total amount of damage done is too much for our body to bear, and we die.

So when does our “ageing” clock start?

Apparently, around our 25th birthday! Don’t panic though, it’s definitely something you can slow down (or speed up depending on your lifestyle.) Up until our mid-20s, our bodies readily repair themselves, however after that, everything we do impacts it. Bad habits are part of this. An unhealthy lifestyle and bad diet in our 30s could lead to diabetes, and the older we get the harder it is to break or change habits. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible though.

How does the ageing process happen?

Our skin and muscles are made up of millions of cells, and when these cells get worn out most of them divide and form new cells.

  • In our growth period (birth to 18 years), the number of newly formed cells in our body outnumbers that of dying cells
  • As young adults (18-25 years), the number of newly formed cells balances that of dying cells.
  • As we start ageing (from 25 years), you have fewer newly formed cells than that of dying cells. Ageing is essentially cells dying faster than they are replaced, or cells losing some of their functioning.
Read  Die young – But as slowly as possible!

This is why it’s so important to go for annual health check-ups as we age. For men and woman, these are the basic health tests we should be going for as we get older.

  • EKG: A baseline EKG is recommended for both men and women from around the age of 50. It should be repeated every 2 or 3 years, or more often if necessary
  • Colonoscopy: This should be done every 2 years for anyone who has an increased risk of colorectal cancer
  • Mammogram: Regular screenings recommended for women over the age of 40, and monthly self-breast examinations should also be done monthly. Mammogram screenings can start earlier if there’s an increased risk or family history of breast cancer
  • Bone density measurement: Women with a family or personal history that puts them at a higher risk of osteoporosis should be tested for this
  • Prostate exam: Recommended as an annual test for men from the age of 40
  • Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA): This is a blood test that can indicate prostate cancer. Men over the age of 50 should discuss the pros and cons of PSA screening with their doctors.

Although people age at different rates (which explains while some people are still running marathons at the age of 70!), keeping track of your health as you get older can only add to your longevity and the quality of your life. So, even if you are healthy, eat well and exercise regularly, start going for those big health check-ups every year after the age of 40, it’s the best thing you can do for your future health.