The body changes with aging. This is a natural process which spares no one. The body ages due to the changes in individual cells and organs. Deteriorations in the cell structures and the organs lead to disorders. In fact some of the times, the organ ceases to function properly. These contribute to the ageing process and affect the body. One then notices changes in the outward appearances and can also feel the difference within.

With age, the functioning of the cells deteriorates. Eventually they start to die and this is a normal process. They die because they get damaged or are not divided normally. Harmful substances in the environment such as sunlight, chemotherapy drugs or radiation lead to damage of the cells. Sometimes certain by-products of the cell’s own normal activities, such as free radicals, also harm them. Many cells due because the programs contained in their genes are triggered. These result in their death. This programmed death is called apoptosis and is a kind of a suicide committed by the cells. The reasons for this cell suicide could be many which include replacement process of the old cells by new ones. This process eliminates excess cells as well.

All cells die because they can divide, themselves, only a limited number of times. A cell grows larger, exists for a while and then dies when it can divide itself no longer. A structure called telomere limits the cell division. These structures are used to move the genetic material of the cell in preparation for cell division. And it shortens a bit every time a cell gets divided.

The function of the cell affects the organs. The older cells do not function that well. In certain organs the dead cells are not replaceable. The number of cells in the ovaries, testes, kidneys and livers decreases markedly as the body ages. An organ ceases to function normally when the number of cells becomes too low.

The decline in the normal functions of an organ, either due to a disorder or aging affects the normal functions of another. For e.g. if the blood vessels are narrowed by atherosclerosis then the blood flow to the kidney decreases. Hence, the kidneys function less well.

All these physical factors coupled an unhealthy lifestyle environmental factors causes the body to age. One can postpone ageing or age in a healthy manner by maintaining mental and physical health, avoiding disorders and remaining active and independent. Maintaining general good health does require more efforts, but it is worth it. Healthy habits such as exercising regularly, following a nutritious diet, and staying mentally active reduce the risk of developing several disorders that commonly occur as the body ages. Development of these habits plays an important part in delaying the body from ageing fast. So the sooner it is developed, the better it is. It is never too late to start. And this will ensure that people can have at least some control over what happens to their body as it ages.

I have just been introduced to the Flexi-Bar, a piece of equipment invented by German physiotherapists as a therapeutic tool, but last week launched in the UK as part of a new fitness programme.

The equipment looks like a plastic garden cane with rubber pieces attached to the middle and each end. To operate, you shake it forcibly a couple of times until momentum takes over. It then continues vibrating with minimal movement of the arms needed - the key is keeping the abdominal muscles contracted. Relax these and the bar stops.