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Health, Illness and Optimal Aging Essay

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Updated: Nov 12th, 2020

In your own words, describe and explore the aging of the skin and musculoskeletal system

The skin is very essential to the body because it protects it from viruses and bacteria, among other types of harm. The skin is known to show the most noticeable signs of aging in people. The skin also forms the outer cover of the body. The skin acts to protect the body from dangerous factors from the environment. Moreover, it helps the body to maintain its temperature through homeostasis. It is worth noting that the skin contains sensory nerves that help to warn against dangers in the environment that would bring pain. The skin consists of three layers namely the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous fat. Change in the skin with age is universal. However, these changes can occur at different rates depending on one’s quality of life or genes. Aging in the skin involves loss of hair or graying of hair, this result from changes in hair follicles.

The skin also wrinkles because of a reduction in collagen, elastin, and the subcutaneous fat layer. Wrinkling is usually varying depending on the part of the body. For instance, the area around the nose wrinkles slowly as compared to the area around the eyes and mouth. There is also a reduction in keratinocytes thereby reducing the skin’s ability to heal, produce vitamin D, or maintain homeostasis. Melanocytes also decrease thereby exposing the body to the sun’s harmful rays. Moreover, Langerhans cells also reduce which affects the skin’s capacity to respond to allergic stimuli. Reduction in the dermis layer makes the skin inelastic and less strong. Additionally, there is a reduction in sensory and mast cells. Blood vessels become unavailable and there is a reduction in sweat glands that exposes the aged to high temperatures. In essence, the skin is a living tissue that requires exercise and nutrients to remain healthy. The skin tends reflecting one’s overall rate of aging. Moreover, chronic illnesses affect the skin.

Musculoskeletal is made up of muscles, ligaments, and tendons. It is essential in giving the body its shape, movement as well as support. Also, it protects the internal organs of the body. The musculoskeletal system is usually affected heavily by aging. The aged tend to experience tear and wear in their musculoskeletal system. As one grows over 30 years bone mass declines. Moreover, the metabolism of calcium declines as one age. Reduced metabolism of calcium comes because of poor intake of vitamin D and calcium. Bone loss is a factor in aging. It happens to the trabecular or lacy bone. Later on, there is a loss of cortical bone although this happens slowly over time. In particular, women are predisposed to bone loss than men especially during and just after menopause. It has been suggested that the difference in bone loss is attributed to the difference in physical activities in men and women.

During aging, there are also changes in soft tissues like ligaments and tendons. These changes are usually caused by microtears, cross-linking, and calcification, which occurs in the collagen tissue. Aging is also associated with muscle loss, atrophy, and cartilage stiffness. These changes can result in disability for old people. In general, muscles and bones are also living tissues that require nutrients and exercise to remain healthy. In effect, damage to the musculoskeletal system reduces the quality of life in the process of aging. Damages caused by diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis can greatly reduce the functional ability of the aged.

What theory of aging interests you the most and why? How would you explain this theory of aging to a friend that wanted to learn all about it?

Biological theories of aging interest me the most. In particular, the genetic theory of apoptosis appeals to me the most. Genetic theories explain the fixed lifespan of different species of living things. While people have a life span of about 120 years, some insects like the fruit fly have 30 days. Interestingly, every activity in the ages of the species is completed within their lifespan. Theorists now believe that genes regulate aging and death. In this regard, I have been pleased with the theory of programmed cell death or apoptosis. This theory proposes a death gene that regulates the lifespan of individuals. The theory proposes that a gene can regulate the abrupt death of a cell. This theory is based on the fact that genetic material is not fixed. That is, various parts turn on and off about their functional needs. It goes on to argue that damage to this gene can lead to cancer. Therefore, the theory argues that the gene can switch off cells so as not to produce required substances by the body.

This theory is closely linked to the apoptosis mechanism for T-cells. T-cells are usually destroyed once their task is accomplished. Further research has found a gene, which has a mortality factor known as MORF. The factor MRF is known to regulate the aging of a cell. Evidence of programmed cell death has been found. This experiment showed that cell replication in older people was significantly slower than cell replication in young people. Moreover, it is also known that cell replication is an essential factor in determining life span. Moreover, young donors show increased cell replication as opposed to older donors. In essence, it can be shown that a positive link exists between cell replication and life span. Further research has also shown that genes have direct control over the rate of replication of cells. Moreover, recent studies have identified immortality genes. These immortality genes have been found to regulate cell senescence. The increased interest has been placed on studying the effects of apoptosis on organ failure. Besides, the focus has also been placed on establishing the relationship between apoptosis and shortened life expectancy. This theory excited me because it provided a logical reason for aging and fixed lifespan. The theory explains the fact that as people grow old, the rate of cell replication reduces thereby resulting in reduced quality of life. Moreover, it proposes that a gene regulates cell replication, which can be true given that people tend to have a fixed lifespan irrespective of their quality of life.

I would explain the genetic theory of aging to a friend in detail to convince him or her that a gene controls one’s life span. Firstly, I would go through the theory by mentioning essential parts like the existence of a death gene and past evidence from researched cancerous cells. I would also explain to the friend that if there were no death gene then some people would surpass 200 years or even more. Based on past research, it can be suggested that the gene exists to regulate cell replication and to turn off cells when one’s life span is almost complete. I would also suggest to the friend that unexpected deaths could be caused by among others, damage to these genes.

Name and describe in-depth three physical conditions associated with aging. What are the psychological and social implications of these disorders?

One of the most common physical conditions experienced by aging people is skin cancer. Skin cancer occurs mostly in two forms namely squamous-cell and basal-cell carcinomas. A basal-cell carcinoma surfaces as a small, fleshy nodule in people. It usually appears in the neck or head of the affected person. This condition comes because of exposure to the sun. On the other hand, squamous-cell carcinomas usually surface on the back of the hand and the face. Their appearance is like a scaly hard patch that can cause chronic irritations. Like basal-cell, squamous-cell carcinomas are usually removed. Skin cancers are usually unattractive. The most dangerous type of skin cancer is known as malignant melanoma. Melanoma is growth with an irregular border. It can spread to the brain, liver, or lymph nodes. This condition should be detected early for aggressive treatment. Its treatment involves radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.

The second physical condition that occurs during aging is pressure ulcers. This condition occurs in those who are usually immobile. In most cases, people who spend numerous hours in beds or wheelchairs are the ones susceptible to this kind of condition. As people grow old, they become immobile and this increases their chances of developing pressure ulcers. Sometimes this condition is known as decubitus or bedsores. This condition is usually caused by prolonged pressure on a vulnerable tissue. In most cases, an area of skin is damaged or tissue breakdown in a bony area. Aging makes the skin and tissues more susceptible to pressure ulcers. For instance, the skin loses its elasticity. Moreover, collagen tissue becomes stiff with age. In this regard, people who cannot move are the most vulnerable to pressure ulcers, especially during the old stage. Pressure ulcers heal slowly, especially in old people. Reduced keratinocyte turnover rate has been faulted for the slow healing of pressure ulcers.

The third physical condition is osteoarthritis. This form of arthritis is a combination of many osteoarthritis disorders. Its main cause is damage to the protective cartilage that allows for rubbing together of bones of the joints. This rubbing can cause injury. Osteoarthritis results in stiffness, swelling, and tenderness in the affected joints. This condition comes with severe pain. Moreover, it is rarely found in young people. Most people tend to have osteoarthritis by the age of 55 years. However, it is worth noting that the normal aging process of joints does not cause this condition. Instead, osteoarthritis is caused by changes in cartilage and bones around the joints.

The three conditions named above have various psychological and social implications on the victims. For instance, skin cancer has various repercussions on the victims. Psychological implications include isolation because skin cancer makes the body unattractive, this can lead to stress and other mental illnesses. Besides, it comes with social issues such as the need for care and social exclusion. Most people with melanoma cancer are stigmatized which affects their quality of life. This can result in other complications such as high blood pressure, among others. The same can be said of the psychological implications of pressure ulcers, which would lead to the immobility of the victims. The victims would require more caregiving than in skin cancer. However, social implications are similar to those with skin cancer. Victims of osteoarthritis are least hit with psychological and social factors because they are mobile. Also, the condition does not make them unattractive. However, severe pain can cause psychological instability.

What is the relationship between chronic medical conditions and social policy? What are your thoughts about our current Medicare system? In your opinion, what are the strengths of the Medicare system? What are the weaknesses?

Chronic medical conditions are those illnesses that go with the victim for more than three months. These types of chronic illnesses are especially common in aging people. Some of the most common chronic illnesses include arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. It has been found that chronic illnesses are the leading cause of death in the United States. For instance, it is estimated that in New York alone, about 40% of adults suffer from chronic medical conditions. Past research has also shown that chronic diseases increase with age. Therefore, chronic medical conditions are closely linked to aging. Social policy sometimes refers to public assistance or welfare given to individuals based on their needs.

Most social programs aim to provide safety and improve the quality of life to the needy. The United States has various social policies such as medical assistance programs that include Medicaid and Medicare. Other social policy programs include unemployment insurance and social security. Due to the high statistics on chronic illnesses, it has been established that chronic medical conditions have a great impact on the country’s economy. In this regard, policymakers have been implored to create and implement social policies that support the prevention and health care of chronic medical conditions. In essence, chronic medical conditions have shaped the country’s social policies. This has led to the introduction of social programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, among others. Chronic medical conditions that result from old age have also been considered in social policies to mitigate their impacts on the individuals and the country.

Medicare provides health insurance to about 45 million senior Americans. These seniors are mainly aged over 65 years. Moreover, it also covers about 7 million people with permanent disabilities who are not senior adults. I believe that this program is good for the country. I also tend to think that it would be better if it were provided from the age of 55 years and above because chronic illnesses such as osteoarthritis can be found on individuals by the age of 55 years. Such individuals also deserve to be given full care under this program. Nonetheless, more work should be done to help lower the rising health costs.

Medicare system is essential because it provides universal care to the aged. This helps in relieving their psychological and sociological issues. Besides, it helps them to live longer by improving their quality of life. The system provides healthcare to one in seven Americans, this makes it significant in the U.S. health care system. Moreover, the system reaches out to everyone irrespective of his or her living conditions. Besides, the system covers a wide range of people depending on their different circumstances and needs. In essence, the system is beneficial to American society because it helps improve the quality of life at reduced premium rates.

Medicare system has many challenges especially now that the cost of health care is increasing. These challenges have reduced their applicability to most people. For instance, some people cannot afford the premiums but need care. Also, some people are less than 55 years but suffer from chronic illnesses like arthritis or diabetes. These people need to be cared for in the program. It has also been stated that social security, Medicaid, and Medicare utilizes over 40% of the federal budget. This has negative implications on taxing and the country’s economy.

Name and describe three mental health disorders in older adulthood. What are the symptoms and treatment options for these conditions?

Older adults experience some mental health disorders. However, the most common types of disorders are dementia, depression, anxiety, suicide, and AD, among others. The first disorder to be explored is dementia. Dementia is a mental disorder that is mainly characterized by deterioration in memory and thinking. Dementia is also characterized by a decline in the capacity to do daily tasks as well as a decline in behavior. This disorder is common among the aged even though it is not considered a normal part of aging. Dementia adds to the burden of social and economic issues. The second mental disorder is depression. Depression can cause impaired functioning to the victims. It has been noted that depression is undertreated and underdiagnosed in most care settings. Moreover, its symptoms are usually ignored because they are similar to those in other mental conditions.

However, it should be noted that aged with other chronic conditions function better than those aged with depression. Therefore, depression increases health care costs and it gives a perception of poor health among the affected. The third mental disorder is anxiety. Anxiety disorder is a mental illness, which is quite severe because it causes fear and worries that are constant and crushing. In severe cases, anxiety can be disabling. Anxiety can be caused by fear, phobia, or changes to the mental state of the affected. Most causes of anxiety have been attributed to changes in the brain. Also, environmental stress has been found to cause anxiety. Old people experience changes in the brain as well as environmental pressure, any of these can cause anxiety.

Symptoms of depression are numerous. They include feeling empty, pessimistic, guilty, suicidal, and restless, among others. Others also lose concentration and weight. People with depression also tend to sleep less especially for the aged. Moreover, they tend to lose appetite. Besides, they tend to ignore their known hobbies. Depression can be treated in various ways. These include prescription of depression medicines, use of psychotherapy, interpersonal therapy (however, this is most common in children with depression). If depression persists, then electric shock treatment can be utilized. Besides, cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic therapies can be utilized to treat depression.

Dementia is experienced in dissimilar ways by different individuals. In most cases, the aged experience cognitive problems such as loss of memory, concentration, organization, track of the day, and planning. They also have problems with following conversations in addition to poor judgment. In most cases, they see things in three dimensions. Treatments for dementia include drug treatments and therapies like counseling, among others. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be utilized for dementia.

On the other hand, anxiety is associated with panic, uneasiness, shortened breath, dizziness, nausea, and tingling of feet. Sometimes the affected feel the tension in their muscles. They may also experience dry mouth, sweaty hands. Treatments for anxiety include medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation therapy, and psychotherapy. Moreover, improving quality of life through lifestyle changes and dietary changes can also help treat anxiety. An optimal lifestyle should be encouraged to help improve the health of the aged.

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