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When time takes its toll

Is age just a number and ageing a frightening experience? As the years take their toll on us, is it possible to live a full, productive life? Is growing old gracefully all about resigning ourselves to a steady decline or are there things we can do to prevent the process?

What is ageing all about? Kousalya Nathan, Lifestyle Management/Age Management Consultant, HUMA Hospitals, says, “Ageing is a programmed deterioration of the body's functions over time. It is a multidimensional process that ushers in changes at the physical, mental, social, hormonal and emotional level. The first signs can appear as early as when you are in your twenties — greying hair, dark circles around the eyes, crow's feet and brown spots on the skin.”

And yes, an individual's genetic make-up has a major role to play in the ageing process.

The signs

What are the signs of ageing? Drawing up a long list, Dr. Kousalya says, “It includes a decline in cognitive abilities (memory loss, lack of co-ordinated movements), a progressive decline in biological functions along with hormonal decline, decreased muscle mass, gradual decrease of physiological capacity (decreased joint mobility, lack of libido and poor digestion, vision and hearing), lower stress threshold (mood swings, inability to cope with routine stress), emotional upheavals (depression, loneliness, fear of death and insecurity), factors related to skin and hair (age spots, wrinkles, pigmentation, lack of lustre, loss of facial fat, baldness and thinning hair), changed immune response (frequent infections and auto immune disorders) and deregulated inflammatory response (arthritis, allergies and atherosclerosis).”

Says London-based A Jeyaprakash, Plastic Aesthetic Surgeon and Age Management Consultant, and founder, the Medical Park, Taramani, “Lifestyle has the strongest influence on the ageing process. After middle age, diminishing hormone levels accelerate it. Some of the factors directly responsible for premature ageing are lack of activity, unhealthy diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, inadequate sleep and water intake. While chronological age is measured from the time of birth, biological ageing is influenced by factors within and outside the body.”

There is no single organ that gets predominantly affected, as ageing can manifest itself visibly in the form of hair loss or silently in the form of Diabetes Mellitus affecting the internal organs.

Given the fact that ageing is “inevitable”, how does one manage it scientifically?

Dr. Kousalya prescribes a gamut of steps one can take — “lifestyle management, regular exercise, right eating habits (calorie restriction with optimum nutrition and eating everything in moderation) meditation, stress management, right breathing, intake of neutraceuticals (antioxidants, vitamins, mineral supplementation) and an appropriate skincare regimen. Calorie restriction if done under medical supervision is known to extend life span.”

Does age management run contrary to the growing-old-gracefully theory? “Not at all,” avers Dr. Kousalya. She points out that what our country is experiencing is “premature ageing — girls attaining menarche by ages 7-11, India becoming the world capital for diabetes and rising primary infertility.”

Age management focusses on the quality of life and not just on longevity. Good looks naturally form a key component in this exercise. For those who don't mind going under the scalpel to look younger, cosmetic surgery is an option.

The last option

Says Dr. Jeyaprakash, “Plastic surgery is the last option in age management, ending with treating the effects of ageing on the skin, after correcting the causes inside the system. Some of the most sought-after procedures in the West and in India are breast augmentation surgery, liposuction, nose correction and exciting new possibilities such as keyhole facelift and stem cell therapy to get rid of facial ageing, the results of which last seven to 10 years depending on one's lifestyle.”

Why is it important to manage ageing? Points out Dr. Kousalya, “Your health is your responsibility, it cannot be outsourced. Age management is a branch of preventive medicine which has a far-reaching impact, including at the genetic level.”

Adds Dr. Jeyaprakash, “The goal of age management is to sustain quality of life while maintaining maximum physical and mental functions throughout.”

DOS AND DON'TS

* Exercise regularly

* Eat right

* Avoid stress

* Avoid alcohol and smoking

* Get enough sleep

* Drink sufficient water

* Relax and meditate

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 12:57:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/When-time-takes-its-toll/article16136420.ece

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