Physiological Changes

10 October 2016

In order to compensate, more salt is added to the diet. This can contribute to, or exacerbate, a pre existing high blood pressure condition. Changes to the gastrointestinal system can seriously affect the overall body of an older adult. Reduced saliva and imbalanced stomach acid contribute to dehydration and bowel problems. Ulcers can result from the imbalanced stomach acid and limited movement. Sometimes these can become bad enough that surgery is necessary. Then, the person is exposed to a higher susceptibility of alternate infections and secondary problems.

Decreased muscle mass causes a lack of physical strength and endurance. Overall body composition begins to change in the older adult. Fat in the body increases as muscle mass decreases. Joints stiffen as glucosamine is lost. Ligaments between bones loosen. When an older person tries to walk, just as they did before, they can likely have a fall. This can lead to broken bones. Within the body’s organ system, plaque begins to build up in arterial walls. Increased blood pressure causes the heart to work harder. This is one explanation for the decreased energy and stamina in older adults.

With decreased circulation comes a lack of oxygen throughout the entire body system. Dry skin and general forgetfulness becomes common in the older adult. Cognitive decline begins to happen along with the physical changes occurring with age. Illness, disease, memory loss, and changes in a person’s environment can all contribute to physiological decline. Due to lack of physical exercise, proper hydration, and lack of oxygen, emotional stress becomes a serious issue. As stress levels increase, physical stress increases. This cycle becomes reciprocal in nature. Hormonal changes occur simultaneously.

This can be detrimental to body’s ability to process vital nutrients in the dietary intake. The imbalance in hormone levels causes issues with insulin and glucose levels. Lack of hormonal balance and dehydration contributes to poorly maintained nerves. Stress is both a result of these changes and a contributor to them. Hearing loss impacts a person’s social abilities and can lead to isolation. Some older adults may be embarrassed at their lack of ability to hear or understand everyday conversation. They tend to withdraw from social opportunities and become susceptible to depression. Along with hearing loss, comes lack of vision.

Cataracts, lack of sensitivity to light, and decreased blood supply to the retina all contribute to the inability to correctly see in one’s environment. This can lead to accidents within the living space. The last factor to consider is socioeconomic status. During retirement, income may decrease and medical costs increase. One of the first areas impacted is the affordability of food containing proper nutrition. Social events are not always accessible. These environmental changes coupled with the physiological changes can accelerate physical and mental decline. Supportive services do help to increase both longevity and the quality of life.

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