The average person shows the first signs of aging soon after reaching full maturity around the age of 21 or 22. In other words, just as we reach our peak, many of us begin our decline. But there is no reason for it. The human body is created to last for a long time. Just like other members of the animal kingdom, our bodies are created to roughly last five times the age after attaining sexual maturity. This we can achieve with proper care, diet and exercise.
Here is a decadal breakdown of the likely aging process and what you can do to beat the odds.
In your twenties, the first signs of aging usually begin. Metabolism, the rate at which your body burns calories at rest, slows down by about 2% per decade from this point. That means every extra serving of dessert or helping of chips could mean a tighter belt. The lung capacity and muscle strength also start to diminish, an ongoing trend that can result in one-third of its current capacity by the age of 70. So now there is no time to rest on your laurels or good health.
Most of these changes result from inactivity, and you can minimize all these adverse effects by staying active. This is not to say that you will not notice any change. But something as simple as taking deep breaths religiously several times a day can minimize the damage of lungs dramatically. Instead of the 60% reduction you will get in later years, you will get only a 20% reduction. Meanwhile, a regular exercise programme that emphasizes fun over anything else to keep muscles strong and metabolism high, in which calories are burned more efficiently. Do it daily, in moderation and pick on something you enjoy most and stick to it.
In your thirties, the skin begins to lose its tightness, and crow's feet may start to appear. Limiting exposure to the sun or wearing a hat that shields your face — can delay its offset. Keep your skin moisturized, since there is a tendency towards dryness with age.
Meanwhile, hearing worsens as a result of continued exposure to loud noise. So turn down the music and wear ear plugs for protection while working with high-pitched tools or guns. People assume that there is loss of hearing with age but there are people in their nineties who have no hearing loss whatsoever because they protected themselves from continued exposure to loud noise.
Levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, the dangerous kind, begins to steadily rise around puberty, while artery-scouring HDL (high-density lipoprotein) Cholesterol, the good kind, declines during this decade. So it is essential to eat low fat (to lower LDLs) and exercise (to raise HDLs). Kidneys begin working less efficiently, dropping off by around 1 % a year after the age of 30; so drink eight to ten glasses of water a day to keep them in perfect shape.
In your forties, your eye lens begins to stiffen, making it difficult to focus on close objects. But you may minimize this with a series of eye exercises, such as holding your thumb at arm's length and slowly moving it in circles and figures of eight while following it with your eyes. Your optometrist can give you a series of such exercises, which take about 15 minutes a day, to delay or avoid the need for glasses or bifocals.
You might also find that your sexual urges have waned as hormonal changes take place. The good news is that you can concentrate on something other than sex. Frequency of sexual activity may change, but for the most part, sexual ability does not. In other words, focus on quality rather than on quantity. Staying aerobically fit will maintain the killer erections as well as do wonders for that ever-slowing metabolism.
In your fifties, the cholesterol levels — which have been climbing steadily since your teens — finally plateau, so you will notice a welcome steady trend. But it is no time to hit the doughnuts. Since immunity is likely to weaken, making you more susceptible to infections and disease, diet remains very important — especially one rich in building antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene which strengthen the immune system.
In your sixties, you will be amazed to discover that you are actually beginning to lose weight, which is most likely to be caused by a loss in muscle mass (which weighs more than fat). You also begin to negligibly shrink in height. Skin begins to sag noticeably, especially around your arms and shoulders. Some of this can be minimized with regular exercise to keep muscles toned up and skin tight.
Mentally, though, you are every bit the man you have always been, the problem-solving abilities are still strong and will not begin to fade until your mid seventies — especially if you remain sharp with crossword puzzles and other brain-teasers.
In your seventies, there is no reason why you should not be fit as a fiddle. Most of what we blame on aging has nothing to do with getting older. Instead, it is a question of staying active in body and mind.