Ageing is a biological process that one cannot avoid; it is often related to diseases. A healthy lifestyle helps a person to live healthy even in old age. A healthy lifestyle is a way of living that tries to eliminate occurrence of a disease as well as reducing the risk of dying. It involves social, mental and physical health.
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There is thus a relationship between ageing and lifestyle. Lifestyle refers to choices that one makes including diet, physical exercises, smoking and alcohol intake. A healthy lifestyle makes a person to enjoy his life and avoid health complications. This article will discuss the correlation between a lifestyle and the quality of life that a person lives as he/she grows old.
Factors that Affect Ageing
Ageing is determined by social lifestyle of a person; this comes as a result of ones experiences and environmental interaction in which one is exposed to. Several theories have been developed to explain the ageing process: activity theory, disengagement theory, social cognitive theory among others. Biologically, ageing is caused by the destruction of cells, “metabolic stress, oxidative stress and inflammation” (Rahelu, 2009, p. 232).
Depression contributes much in ageing. People with depressed mood indirectly quicken their ageing. Depression may be caused by an unfavorable environment. A depressed person is likely to engage in unhealthy lifestyle such as smoking, alcohol abuse, less physical exercises which will likely result to development obesity. Smoking of cigarettes and taking of alcohol are associated with many diseases some of which include cancer and diabetes. Most chronic diseases are attracted to people with depressed moods (Gool et al., 2007).
Social differences are related to the level of exercise engagement. From a research carried out to support ecological theory, it was seen that women who earned a lot of money engaged more in physical exercises while those with high level of education engaged less in physical exercises. In men, money and level of education did not affect the level of physical exercise. Among those who engaged in physical exercises, there were few blacks compared to whites (Grzywacz, 2001).
Experience determines the social approach to life. In young unmarried relationships, love is not much a commitment like in older people. How we live our lives is also determined by other factors, such as race, gender, ethnicity and environment. For example, some people marry early in life while others marry late. According to a psychologist Daniel Levinson, transition begins when one gets into adulthood. Moving away from parent’s residence marks a significant point of one’s life.
At around the age of 40 years, there is the midlife transition which is the second stage. In many people, it is characterized by midlife crisis. This is a stage where individuals feel that they have not made it in life according to the goals they had set for themselves. The stage is characterized with stress and this can have negative effects on the individual. The crisis can also be due to many responsibilities that a person gets, such as taking care of the children and the parents at the same time (Society, n.d.).
Theories of Ageing
Activity theory bases its argument on activity as a person continues to age. To have a healthy ageing process, one must continue doing many activities that he/she did while he/she was young. Alternatively, one can substitute these roles so as to maintain high body activity.
Activity theory argues that people who are active even in their old age live a more satisfying life than those who do not engage themselves in any activity. Many people who retire and become idle tend to get health problems compared to those who are involved in some activity (Bohl, 2010). The inactivity state can be caused by disease, environmnent, retirement and dependency on the children or other people.
There are also old people with sound health but they tend to be inactive. This is why this theory is opposed because even old people without any problem tend to remain inactive. They are said to be self imposed activity limitation which is “an incremental process of self determined, self initiated, and self reinforced constraints on physical, mental or social actions by a person who has control over a situation and the capacity of performing an action” (Guo & Philips, 2010, p. 358).
From a study, it was observed that older people who lived in isolation were at a higher risk of dying (Grzywacz, 2001). This necessitated the need for the elderly people to be involved in various activities. Social networks have been associated with positive effects on the elderly people making them to live longer. People who have remained active in their old age live longer than those who remain inactive (Grzywacz, 2001).
Activity theory has an implication in healthy lifestyle because research proves that activities are physical exercises and they help to improve the quality of life.
According to disengagement theory by Cummings and Henry in 1961, as people get old, they tend to stop many activities that they used to engage in. The theory argues that old people cannot have the same desires as they used to have when they were young. Older people stop working; engage in less volunteer work, and less spouse hobbies.
Activities such as going to swim are left for the younger people. The society also separates the aged from the rest of the society. The old are taken to nursing homes and they are not given opportunities in employment. Old people in the world represent about 7% population which is more than 453 million people (Society, n.d.).
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This theory was challenged because it was only effective when the society isolated the old people and prevented them from performing their duties. It was disapproved because research showed that most of the old people enjoyed being part of activities which are carried out in the society.
It showed that it helped majority of those people who were involved in activities. A research revealed that there were a fewer number of deaths in those people who did volunteer work than those who did not. Old people who live with their families have higher life expectancy than those who live in isolation. Involvement in social work of an old person develops the social ability. (Hinterlong, 2006) People who engage in learning activities have been seen to have lower number of visits to the hospitals.
Ecological Theory of Ageing
This theory explains that the ability of a person to cope with ageing depends more on his/her environment as well as the inner strength. There are environmental factors that are related with ageing: “interpersonal, psychological, familial, social network, community, institutional, societal and cultural as well as physical, ecological and historical” (Bandura, 1998, p., 29).
An Unfavorable environment does not encourage personal growth and can impair the functioning of a person’s body. This is influenced by the habitat in which he/she lives. The environment tends to determine the “social distance, intimacy, privacy, and other interpersonal processes” (Bandura, 1998, p. 30). An unfavorable environment leads a person to neglect him/herself in many ways such as the diet he/she takes and engaging in physical exercises.
Ecological theory is applicable in ones lifestyle because the environment determines the kind of lifestyle that a person lives. An environment can highly determine many physical exercises and the type of diet and other behaviors such as smoking.
Social Cognitive Theory
This theory explains that each person gets some patterns of behavior which are more determined by the inside person other than the environment. It upholds that people are responsible for their own behavior because, they are responsible for their motivation, behavior and development which are closely related to each other.
These behavioral patterns outcomes are not molded by the environment in which a person lives. A person is supposed to modify the environment and make it favorable. The environment includes social and physical environments.
The social environment is made up of the family, friends and people of the same age group. The physical environment refers to the place where one stays and the characteristics such as temperature, humidity, and the food a person eats. The environment is used to determine a person’s behavior in certain circumstances. In this theory, mental perception of environment affects a person’s behavior. The environment and behavior affects each other.
The theory explains how behaviors are coordinated in a person. They can be acquired through observation. When one acquires the skills to perform an action he/she is known to have behavioral capability. This theory also considers the expectations which are results that a particular behavior brings.
A rewarding behavior is likely to be reinforced, while a punishing behavior is eliminated. A person can also regulate his/her behaviors by having self control. There is also an emotional way that individuals behave to handle difficult emotional situations. This is used to know the best way to cope with difficulties (Twente, 2010).
Social cognitive theory is applicable because a person’s experience highly determines what kind of lifestyle they lead. Healthy habits such as engaging in physical exercises, encouraging happy moods and eating healthy diet result in a healthy lifestyle. It creates a good basis of research since ageing is determined by long term behaviors.
Importance of Healthy nutrition and Physical Exercises
Taking a diet with a lot of vegetables, little salt, saturated fat and wine and engaging in physical exercises are a good way of increasing life expectancy. This kind of diet is beneficial because it eliminates cholesterol and lowers the blood pressure. Physical exercise and healthy nutrition reduces the risk of obesity. Excessive weight is related to complications such as, “ high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, obstructive sleep apnea, depression and osteoarthritis” (ADAM, 2010, p. 1).
Physical exercise is also important in that it helps to keep healthy and strong bones. In adulthood, men and women reach their peak bone mass by but it starts wearing out when one starts ageing. Women usually lose bone mass at a higher rate than men during menopause at the rate of 1-2%. Physical exercises such as running, jogging and cycling have been known to increase bone mass while preventing them from wearing out.
Physical exercises also reduce the risks of osteoporosis because it increases the strength of muscles, synchronization, flexibility and stability. Sufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D are also important in strengthening bones. It is therefore important for old people to get outside and have frequent exposure to sunshine other than remaining indoors throughout the day.
This reduces the incidences of Vitamin D deficiency. Those who have vitamin D deficiency can take vitamin D supplements. Strong bones reduce the risk of bone fractures. Fruits and vegetables help to maintain the bones in a healthy condition. Enough intake of vitamin A helps in normal growth of bones.
Older people have a challenge of being able to take food efficiently. Majority of old people live on drugs and this may cause poor health of their teeth. If the teeth are affected, a person’s ability to chew and taste the food decreases (Rahelu, 2009). Older people’s stomachs tend to accommodate small quantities of food which may be insufficient.
They also have increased cases of constipation especially if one does not include fruits and vegetables in the diet (Davies, 2011). Lack of strong teeth can determine the type of food a certain person is able to eat and may force him/her to eat. Healthy diet promotes healthy skin (Rahelu, 2009).
Mental health is enhanced by physical activities. It is more appropriate to engage in physical exercises than to use drugs for mental wellbeing. Social prescribing is helpful in maintaining mental health. It creates opportunities for people to engage in arts, creativity, physical exercises and adventures as well as learning new skills. When the mind is involved, it hardly gets depressed (Davies, 2011); “social support reduces vulnerability to stress” (Bandura, 1998, p. 5).
Healthy lifestyle increases the life expectancy of a person. Cigarette smoking reduces life expectancy but there are notable advantages of stopping to smoke cigarettes because it lowers the risks of occurrence of diseases which are caused by cigarette smoking e. g cancer.
Lifestyle drugs are taken by people to increase the value of life. The drugs are meant to enhance good appearance, physical and mental ability. They are not taken because a person is ailing from any disease. This is the reason why many physicians are faced with many challenging situations when healthy people demand for lifestyle drugs; which may have a negative effect on their health.
Lifestyle drugs are of two types: “Drugs approved for a specific lifestyle indication and drugs approved for specific indications but used for other purposes” (Harth, Seikowsky, & Hermes, 2009, p. 14). Old people tend to use them so as to appear younger.
A healthy lifestyle helps men to maintain high levels of testosterone hormone even in their old age. From a research which was based on men’s behaviors of smoking, diet and physical exercises there was a strong relationship of lifestyle and levels of testosterone. Those who had higher scores of lifestyle, i. e. had not smoked, engaged in physical exercises and were consistently taking healthy diets were found to have higher levels of testosterone (Yeap et al., 2009).
Healthy lifestyle involves healthy diet, engaging in physical exercises and social and psychological health. Research on healthy lifestyle has shown many benefits. Encouraging people to live on healthy diet and engage on physical exercise has improved the quality of lives in many people.
Physical activities have also been beneficial because they prevent depression and loneliness increasing the social ability of individuals. Social factors such as staying with the family can influence the quality of life and the economic status in ageing, the effects of lifestyle drugs can be done. Abstaining from alcohol and cigarette smoking have shown a significant relationship with the quality of life led by old people. The age of giving birth in women is also crucial in determining the lifestyle of a woman.
Other Factors that affect a Healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is determined by the friends that one has. Peer influence is one of the major reasons why young people engage in alcoholism taking and cigarette smoking. Many social groups tend to have people with common behaviors. Cigarette smokers and excessive alcoholics are at higher risks of depression (Gool et al., 2007).
In women early motherhood has been associated with a decrease in life expectancy in many cases. Girls who give birth in their teenage mostly have lower social economic status which makes them have an unhealthy lifestyle. Their physical health is usually poorer and there is a higher rate of mortality. To start with early mothers get mentally affected because they get so much duties to perform which are beyond their strength.
They may drop out of school or have a lower perfomance in education compared to others. When their education is affected, the consequences are likely to be carried on to adulthood, because they do not get well paying jobs whereas they have the responsibility of taking care of the children. This causes depression which makes them vulnerable to many health complications (Henretta, Grundy, Okell, & Wadsworth, 2008).
Low social economic status cause people to take unhealthy diets, low physical activity and to engage in health deteriorating behaviors such as excessive alcoholism and cigarette smoking. These makes them prone to other diseases which reduce their quality of life in old age and low life expectancy.
From a reseach which was done on twins with different social economicc levels, it was revealed that white blood cell telomere was short in those of lower social economic groups. Lower social economic people were engaged in smoking, perfomed less physical exercises and majority were overweight (Cherkas et al., 2006).
Promotion of health programs is the key factor to help in extension of life expectancy. Healthy lifestyle such as having adequate physical exercise and balanced diet, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes prevents occurrence of many diseases and thus increases the quality of life and life expectancy of life.
Nurses and healthcare providers should maximize education practices to people so as to deal with the increased cases of diseases in old people. Teaching them on healthy lifestyle is invaluable and can highly reduce the intake of drugs. More research could be done to determine how diet, lifestyle and ageing process relate to each other. This could determine the effectiveness of nutritional supplements.
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