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Aging is inevitable in human life. However, with advancement in medicine, longevity has increased. At the same time symptomatic manifestations of the onset of aging show up earlier now. Thirty years ago, a normal man or woman would feel the first onset of aging at around 50 years of age. But today, the process can commence as early as 40 years.

When the aging process starts, certain changes take place in our body. The cellular wear and tear, changes in our bony structure, muscles and circulatory systems get speeded up. Naturally, there are specific problems that affect this age group.

The first sign of onset is perhaps felt as follows: Energy levels drop. When the aging process sets in, one has to acknowledge that there are certain things one cannot do. “Its like saying that 60 years is the normal age for marriage for men”, remarks general physician Dr. S.P. Tendulkar.

When the Government stipulates that an individual must retire from active work at 60 years, it is an acknowledgement of this phase of human life.

Psychosomatic barriers
With the onset of the aging process, the body lays down limitations. People can identify the symptoms of aging by the time they turn 55.

Basic symptoms are reflected in many directions and are evident in body as well as mind. The troubles of the mind usually overshadow the problems of the body, and are thus directly reflected in the person’s behavior and disposition.

A healthy atmosphere at home and at work is important to let the natural process set in gracefully. Sometimes some people look healthier than others, say at 65 years, because they don’t have any mental problems.

The level of literacy of the person as much as his natural mental state are facets that make a difference. A person who is educated will think twice before doing anything and hence tends to get more bogged down with his problem. This is likely to accelerate the onset of aging.

It is advantageous to give up or reduce smoking and drinking by 30–35 years of age. But after several years of the habit only 1–2 per cent of people give up. The majority slip back into their old ways in as less as 15–20 days. “Our body may resemble a machine and show wear and tear. But unlike a machine, we cannot change parts of our body. Subsequently, we can assert that if we use and nourish ourselves carefully with all environmental and surrounding factors intact, the aging process can be delayed naturally”, Dr. Tendulkar stresses. However, in reality we don’t know the quality of food or how much calories we consume during a day. It is difficult to keep track of what is just right for one’s age and not eat less or more, he adds.

Life of leisure vs. life on the fast track
Environmental pollution and a faster lifestyle compared to what used to be three decades ago must also be noted as factors that have accelerated the onset of the aging process.

Take for instance the food we eat. Previously, people preferred home made food but now most prefer to eat at a restaurant.

While buffaloes these days are given steroids to produce more milk, the milk in the milk bag is treated with preservatives. When we drink it, we ingest these substances. Are these preservatives and steroids healthy?

Similarly, modern man reads under a mercury vapor lamp, watches television or works continuously at the computer. Outside, our neighborhoods are often lit with bright sodium lights. As the years go by, the alternating intensity of light is bound to eventually weaken our eyesight. In contrast, in villages some 40 years ago, without street lights, the elderly could recognize people in pitch darkness”, remarks Dr. Tendulkar.

Don’t confront old age
Many physiological changes taking place due to the onset of old age become visible to others as well as ourselves. Most manifestations are annoying rather than disabling.

Mental symptoms like forgetfulness is the most common sign, and is obvious to you when you can’t remember an item on your shopping list.

Fine tremors (Parkinson’s like) may occur due to weakness or old habits like drinking and smoking. Drugs could be prescribed to provide symptomatic relief.

Loss of eyesight due to conditions like cataract development is common. Out of 100 cases, 90 per cent of cataract cases are reported in the age group of above 50 years.

Symptoms like pain in the joints or problems of the alimentary canal causing constipation or diarrhea can set in earlier.

Sometimes in spite of being mentally active and alert, the person may be physically weak and need to be looked after by his family.

Insomnia or lack of sleep may be due to some psychological problem. Simple physical exercises like walking can be used to encourage sleep.

Changes in hair color and elasticity of skin start showing at 40 years.

Some symptoms can set in due to changes in lifestyle. In the developed countries, people take advantage of regular check–ups. In India, however, senior people are very reluctant to access health programs. So, when an apparently healthy person has diabetes or hypertension or even cancer in the primary stages, it goes undetected.

Opting for drug therapy
Don’t take tonics or drugs in a random manner. “Taking B–Complex a tonic for nerves can be detrimental to our body. B–Complex is synthesized in our body itself. If we take it from outside it is quite likely our body may just forget to synthesize it”, warns Dr. Tendulkar. On the other hand, multi–mineral capsules may be beneficial to those who really need it.

“Nowadays, lot of multinational companies are introducing new drugs to retard the aging process. Some products containing anti–oxidants claim to delay the wear and tear process by destroying the free radicals that cause cell damage. But inspite of using these drugs, effects of old age become visible in some manner by the age of 65–70 years. Ayurvedic herbs and products like Ashwagandha or Purangandha may help. But these tonics need to be prescribed on individual basis”. says Dr. Tendulkar.

In synopsis
Many environmental factors that are current now are likely to hasten the aging process in humans. The best way to tackle the onset of aging is to acknowledge and accept it.

It is best to keep your average weight at what it was at 50 years and not lose or gain any of it from then on. Take life easy after retirement. Walking, Hill climbing and Yoga (if practised before 40 years) are good exercises.