We tend to think that the first signs of aging are superficial: gray hair, crow's feet, and metabolic changes. But as our skin becomes thinner (a process we rarely notice until it's far advanced) we also become more prone to wounds and bruising. There is a lot going on beneath the skin that we can't see. Let's look.
One of the main culprits of slow wound healing as we age, is a delayed inflammatory response, a natural occurrence. How does it work? Body tissues respond to injuries by triggering inflammation. Once this happens, swelling and edema trigger signals to the brain that there is an issue. Because the inflammatory response is delayed, those signals take longer to get to the brain and therefore it can take longer for the body to heal.
Because these crucial signals are delayed, the regeneration of new, healthy skin is also delayed. Like a late-arriving construction crew. Of course given this, and what we will share below, it’s incredibly important to implement proper wound care to prevent infection as we age.
The natural process of aging can also trigger a slowdown of the digestive system. Changes in appetite occurring either naturally or because of another underlying factor such as a medication side-effect can lead to malnutrition. And malnutrition causes everything to get more sluggish because, frankly, the body may be starving.
Nutrition is key to many body processes, but especially the healing process. Whether it's a small leg cut or rehabilitation from heart surgery, proper nutrition is key in the regeneration of the body’s cellular function.
Ever notice that little ones get a cut or bump and walk around like it's no big deal? Probably because they know, as well as the parents, that it will heal relatively quickly. "Kids are made of rubber," we often say. Most of the time, no doctor visit is needed. But with the elderly, it’s a different story.
Older adults being treated for an underlying disease like diabetes or high blood pressure or even undergoing therapy for cancer could take longer to heal or recover from an injury due to the disease itself or even as a side-effect of medications. Radiation, blood thinners and certain meds can impair the body’s ability to heal. And high blood sugar is notorious for impeding healing.
As we age blood vessels and arteries can change, resulting in a reduction or variation of blood flow. Lowered blood flow can put people at a higher risk for improper wound healing.
When the healing response is delayed, it can lead to further complications both internally and externally. Stem cells, which play a vital role in cell regeneration, decrease with age. In addition, skin loses elasticity as we grow older, meaning wounds can lead to scarring when they do heal.
We’re only young once, and looking back, it seems like it was just a tiny blip in time. Wrinkles set in, bones creak a bit and we take on a more laid-back lifestyle. But with a few lifestyle changes like daily exercise and eating healthy food, primarily vegetables and fruits, we can hope to live our best lives. No matter what age you are, now is the time to make changes for a healthier future. If you have wounds that won't heal, please consult a physician to see if underlying conditions are being left untreated or to see about visiting a wind care center for more help in healing up.
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