weekly blog--one for the ages
With the Holidays in full bloom, we look to Harvard Medical for answers to questions about aging that you might have always wondered about.
Take feet for example. By your 50th birthday, you have probably used them to travel 75,000 miles or more. And along with that, you many have lost nearly half of the fatty padding on the soles of your feet. You may also be wearing a shoe that's a size bigger because of weight gain that puts greater pressure on your feet, and because your ligaments and tendons have lost some of their elasticity, which also predisposes them to potentially painful ruptures or microtears.
If you've given birth, your increased shoe size can be caused by hormones released during pregnancy which relaxes the ligaments. Menopause can also affect foot health. Unless countered by medications or exercise, the loss of estrogen and other hormonal changes generally lead to lower bone density, resulting in osteoporosis if enough bone mass is lost. This condition can raise the risk of stress fractures (hairline breaks) in any of the bones of the foot. Unless treated appropriately, stress fractures can worsen and cause the bones to shift out of place.
Moving up to your aging face, consider this: foreheads expand as hairlines retreat; Ears often get a bit longer because the cartilage in them grows; Tips of noses may droop because connective tissue supporting nasal cartilage weakens.
There are also structural rearrangements going on behind the scenes. When we're young, fat in the face is evenly distributed, with some pockets here and there that plump up the forehead, temples, cheeks, and areas around the eyes and mouth. With age, that fat loses volume, clumps up, and shifts downward, so features that were formerly round may sink, and skin that was smooth and tight gets loose and sags.
Meanwhile, other parts of the face gain fat, particularly the lower half, so we tend to get baggy around the chin and jowly in the neck. And then there are the wrinkles. The deep ones in the forehead and between the eyebrows are called expression, or animation, lines. They're the result of facial muscles continually tugging on, and eventually creasing, the skin. Other folds may get deeper because of the way fat decreases and moves around. Finer wrinkles are due to sun damage, smoking, and natural degeneration of elements of the skin that keep it thick and supple.
Happy Holidays. This might be the last blog of the year as ConfrontingAging will soon go on hiatus for a few weeks.