Medical Myths: All About Aging
Medical Myths: All About Aging
Islamabad, (online) – In the latest edition of the Medical Myths series, we tackle the myths associated with aging. Because aging is inevitable and scary for some people, it’s no surprise that myths abound.
Over the past 200 years, life expectancy at birth has doubled again. As animals age, humans do well in longevity.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years of age will double from about 11% to 22%Trusted Source.”
With these facts in mind, dispelling many of the myths associated with aging seems more urgent than at any time in our evolutionary history.
In this article, we’ll tackle the myths associated with exercise, cognitive ability, and more.
1. Physical deterioration is inevitable
This is not entirely incorrect. As we age, our body suffers wear and tear as a result of decades of use. However, physical deterioration does not have to be complete, and people can often slow it down.
As explained by the World Health Organization, “Increased physical activity and improved diet can address many of the problems frequently associated with aging.” These problems include lack of strength, increased body fat, high blood pressure, and low bone density.
Some research suggests that simply anticipating physical deterioration increases the likelihood of physical deterioration.
In one study, scientists surveyed 148 older adults about their age, lifestyle, and general health outlook.
They conclude that expectations regarding aging “play an important role in the adoption of physically active lifestyles in older adults and may influence health outcomes, such as physical function.”
Therefore, although some deterioration may occur, managing expectations will help individuals make better life choices to maintain physical health and fitness later in life.
An older study looked at how perceptions of aging affect an individual’s likelihood of seeking medical care. The authors of the study, which included data from 429 older adults, concluded:
“[H]Expecting lower expectations regarding aging was independently associated with a lack of belief in the importance of seeking health care.”
Another studyTrusted Source looked at individual attitudes toward aging in late middle age and how it might affect their overall lifespan. The authors concluded that “Older individuals with more positive self-perceptions of ageing, measured 23 years earlier, lived 7.5 years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions of ageing.”
In short, staying active, eating right, and often maintaining a positive outlook can slow the physical decline associated with aging.
2. Older people should not do sports
From the previous section, it is clear that this is a myth. According to an old article in Neuropsychobiology, staying active can boost muscle strength, reduce fat, and improve mental health.
Some people believe that once they reach a certain age, there is no point in exercising, because they think that it will not bring any benefit to them. This is another legend. In one study, researchers put 142 adults aged 60-80 years on a weight-lifting regimen for 42 weeks.
Scientists have found that the cycle increases “dynamic muscle strength, muscle size, and functional ability.”
There is also good evidence that regular exercise can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. A study of 1,740 older adults found that regular exercise “is associated with a delayed onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
However, people should consult their physician before embarking on a new exercise regimen if they have a medical condition. For example, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) suggests that people with certain age-related conditions, such as osteoporosis, should avoid high-impact exercise.
However, the vast majority of older adults can indulge in some form of physical activity.
3. Older people need less (or more) sleep.
Some people think that older adults need more sleep than younger adults, possibly due to the stereotype that older people enjoy naps. Others say that older people need less sleep, which may stem from the stereotype that older people get up early in the morning.
It is relatively difficult to pick out these myths because there are so many factors involved. It is undoubtedly true that older adults find it more difficult to fall asleep and that their sleep tends to be more fragmented.
This may help explain why some older adults need daytime naps. When the human body changes with age, it can disrupt circadian (circadian) rhythms.
This, in turn, can affect sleep. The relationship is also multifaceted: If a person’s circadian rhythms are disrupted, it can affect other aspects of their physiology, such as hormone levels, which may also affect their sleep.
Apart from daily disturbances, some diseases that occur more commonly in the elderly, such as osteoporosis and osteoporosis, can cause discomfort, which may negatively affect an individual’s ability to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Likewise, some conditions cause shortness of breath, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure. This can make sleeping more difficult.
According to an older article, some medications, including beta-blockers, bronchodilators, corticosteroids, decongestants, and diuretics, can interfere with sleep. Older adults are more likely to take these types of medications, sometimes together.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that people ages 61 to 64 need 7-9 hours, and people 65 or older need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. It can be even more difficult for them to get this all-important sleep.
As a silver lining, some research suggests that older adults can handle sleep deprivation better than younger adults. A study in the Journal of Sleep ResearchTrusted Source found that older adults scored better after a sleep deprivation intervention than younger adults on a range of measures, including negative affect, depression, confusion, tension, anger, fatigue, and irritability.
4. Only women get osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones gradually weaken. Some people think that it only affects women. this is not true; It can affect either sex and people of any age. However, osteoporosis is actually more common in older adults, whites, and females.
According to a general article, the International Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that about 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 will have osteoporosis, and about 1 in 5 men will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
Another related myth is that osteoporosis is inevitable for women as they age. As the above figures attest, two-thirds of women over the age of 50 do not have osteoporosis. To reduce the risk, the National Institute on Aging advises people to eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D and to exercise regularly.
5. As you age, your brain slows down
Cognitive decline refers to a gradual decline in mental performance with age, but before we get to the facts of the matter, we’ll rule out some of the myths associated with it:
Dementia is inevitable as you age
According to the World Health Organization, the risk of developing dementia increases with age, but it does not affect all elderly people. Worldwide, it is estimated that 5-8%Trusted Source of people over 60 have dementia. This means that 92% – 95% of people aged 60 or older do not have dementia.
In the United States, it is estimated that 13.9%Trusted Source of people over 71 have dementia, which means that 86.1% of people over 71 years old do not have dementia.
Cognitive decline leads to dementia
Contrary to popular opinion, cognitive decline does not necessarily indicate the onset of dementia.
People who develop dementia tend to experience cognitive decline first. However, not everyone with cognitive decline will develop dementia.
One older study estimated that 22.2% of people in the United States aged 71 or older had cognitive decline. Of these, 11.7%-20% develop dementia each year.
Cognitive decline is inevitable
As the statistics above show, cognitive decline is not inevitable, notwithstanding the well-established myth that older adults experience mental sluggishness. And most importantly, there are ways to reduce the risk.
In 2015, the Alzheimer’s Association evaluated the evidence for modifiable risk factors for both dementia and cognitive decline. Their report, The Trusted Source, submitted to the World Council on Dementia, states that “there is sufficient evidence to support the link between several modifiable risk factors and a reduced risk of cognitive decline.”
They determined that maintaining regular physical activity and managing traditional cardiovascular risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure, are closely associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline.
They also found good evidence that a healthy diet and lifelong learning or cognitive training also reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
6. There is no point in quitting smoking now
Whether this is a true myth or just an excuse, some seniors say there is no point in quitting smoking at their “age”. this is not true. As the NHS clearly states:
“No matter how long you’ve smoked and no matter how many cigarettes you smoke per day, your health will start to improve once you stop smoking. Some of the health benefits are immediate, some are long-lasting, but what matters is that it’s never too late.”
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In general, most myths surrounding age seem to focus on determinism. People believe it is inevitable that they will gradually turn to dust as their lives become increasingly unbearable, boring, unemotional and painful.
Although some aspects of health may deteriorate with age, none of the above is inevitable for everyone. As we discovered, a positive psychological view of aging can benefit the physical aspects of aging.
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