What Is Ageing?
The changes that we experience as the body ages are due to three major causes:
- Normal physical changes;
- Personal care and hygiene;
- Emotional responses.
The physical changes are mainly due to the slower replacement of worn out cells, so that the body is unable to maintain complete and optimal functioning. The brain is affected by the diminished production of its chemical communicators, decreased circulation and less accurate sensory perception, so that it takes a little longer to process new information and read to different stimuli. However, in spite of this slowing down there is no overall loss of mental functioning or intelligence.
Personal care and hygiene are important for health maintenance throughout life. In old age we reap the rewards for the life-long care of our body. As with a car, if it is kept clean, protected from environmental or other damage, repaired promptly, used correctly and given the proper fuel, it will stay in good working order for the maximum length of time.
Mental attitude and emotional hygiene are especially important, as we grow older. This is the period in which everyone will experience the greatest losses. Our response to these things may be to start withdrawing from life, becoming pessimistic and despondent. This will greatly accelerate the decline in our state of health. Therefore it is of the utmost importance that we maintain a positive outlook on life, always bearing in mind the many advantages that come with age.
Perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the processes of growth, development, maturity and decline are governed by the Kidneys. The TCM concept of the Kidneys includes both the anatomical organs as well as a large group of related tissues and functions, which in Western medical science would include centres in the brain, hormonal systems and the genital organs. However, the Chinese discovered that by treatments directed towards the Kidneys, all these other related systems are affected.
The Kidney Essence
Each individual is born with a certain amount of 'Essence', which is stored and protected by the Kidneys. This is the substance that controls the processes of development, maturing and ageing. It is mainly derived from the parents and is also nourished (like the other tissues in the body) by the foods taken every day. It tends to remain fairly constant during life and only changes very slowly. However, it can be depleted by poor nutrition chronic illness and overindulgence in sexual activity. After the age of forty it begins to decline and this is the time when extra care is needed in, order to preserve the Essence and keep the Kidneys strong. Along with dietary and lifestyle changes, it is common practice to correct imbalances and supplement the Essence with Chinese herbal medicines.
Chinese medical practice
Through a careful examination and detailed case history the TCM practitioner is able to determine the specific type of deficiency that is present. The problem may be with the Yin or the Yang of the Kidneys; various other deficiencies may exist alongside the diminishing supply of Essence; other disorders may have been brought on or aggravated by this decline; and different types of metabolised waste products may have accumulated in the tissues. Once the diagnosis has been made, an appropriate treatment program is devised and tailored precisely to fit the individual’s unique needs. A suitable formula of Chinese herbal medicines will be given, usually together with acupuncture. Chinese herbs are generally taken for the long term, while the acupuncture is usually a short-term treatment. Changes to the diet and lifestyle will also be recommended.
- Take regular small meals of easily digestible foods;
- Cut dawn an fats, oils and fatty foods such as meat and full cream dairy products;
- Ensure adequate sleep and rest;
- Take regular gentle exercise, preferably out in the open air avoiding extremes of temperature;
- Keep your body, clothing and home in a clean, neat and tidy condition;
- Remain active, busy, interested and involved. Participate in some sort of work, voluntary activities, hobbies and social engagements;
- Maintain a positive mental attitude. There is no genetic or hereditary influence on longevity, so your own efforts will greatly influence your life span. Seek professional help for grieving or depression;
- Always get a second opinion on any medical (or psychiatric) diagnosis. Ideally it should be confirmed by a team of specialists, because of the complex nature of the physical and psychological changes that accompany this stage of life.