The aging process
An Interdepartmental Dean's Conference at the University of California discussed the varied aspects of aging in relation to medicine. In this accompanying article, one discussant provides a detailed description of the effects of aging on three major systems of the body, the cardiovascular system, the immune system, and the nervous system. Aging, which is the most common biological phenomenon of all, is one of the least well understood. A great deal of the difficulty comes from trying to determine what constitutes 'normal' aging and what constitutes a pathological process. Some conditions associated with aging, such as atherosclerosis, are clearly pathological. An area that is less clear is increased blood pressure and determining the limits of increased blood pressure that may be considered normal. Particular parameters of heart function may represent normal aging; other parameters may be altered by lifestyle patterns over many years. In the field of neurology some traditional ideas about what is normal have been overturned. Some brain atrophy and neuronal loss, as well as some loss of memory and mental function, was for years accepted as an unavoidable consequence of the aging process. Unfortunately, these changes are not yet avoidable, but they are now viewed as the result of a disease process, not just normal aging. (Consumer Summary produced by Reliance Medical Information, Inc.)
Publication Name: Annals of Internal Medicine
Why aged men become impotent
Despite the frequent complaint of erectile impotence (inability to achieve or maintain an erection) by aged men, there is little data on the cause of this problem. One hundred and twenty male veterans with an average age of 68 years were evaluated by medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests, nocturnal penile tumescence monitoring (erections occurring during sleep, usually one hundred minutes per night) and vascular and neurologic testing. The most frequent cause of impotence was the existence of both neurologic and vascular disorders. Other single causes cited for impotence were: vascular disease, diabetic neuropathy, non-diabetic neuropathy, psychopathology, adverse drug effects and diminished hormone levels. Although over 30 percent of impotence in aged men is caused by vascular and/or neurologic disorders, 16 percent of these patients may have a reversible cause and another 30 percent may have a treatable problem.
Publication Name: Archives of Internal Medicine
Cytochrome-c-oxidase deficient cardiomyocytes in the human heart--an age-related phenomenon. A histochemical ultracytochemical study
Cytochrome-c-oxidase (an enzyme which converts nutrients to energy) was found to be deficient in the heart muscles of 140 men examined during autopsy. The presence of this deficiency was independent of heart disease; it occurred in both healthy normal hearts and in hearts that had enlarged or blocked coronary arteries (supply oxygen to the heart muscle). However, the problem was associated with age, occurring sporadically in men in their twenties and frequently in men over 60 years of age. The number of defects per square centimeter increased from two in the twenties to 50 defects per square centimeter in advanced age. The muscle cells with this enzyme deficiency were always isolated from one another. These results indicate that cytochrome-c-oxidase deficiency is a form of degeneration associated with cellular aging, and may be involved in the reduced ability of aged hearts to contract.
Publication Name: American Journal of Pathology
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