Understanding Ageing

Ageing has been defined as a progressive generalised impairment of functions resulting in a loss of adaptive response to stress. About 60 per cent of the population is suffering from unnatural ageing because of lifestyle they acquire. Ageing is the accumulation of changes in an organism over time; in humans it refers to a multidimensional process of physical, psychological, and social changes. Some dimensions of ageing grow and expand over time while others decline. Reaction time, for example, may slow with age, while knowledge of world events and wisdom may expand. The ageing process is of course a biological reality which has its own dynamics, largely beyond human control. The age of 60 or 65, roughly equivalent to retirement ages, in most developed countries is said to be the beginning of old age. In many part of the developing world, chronological age has little or no importance in the meaning of old age. The WHO has decided to use of 50 years of age and older as general definition of an older person. This age was finalized as old by taking the following three areas into thorough consideration;

■ Chronological age (from the date of birth).
■ Change in social role (i.e. change in work pattern, adult status of children, and menopause).
■ Change in capabilities (i.e. invalid status, senility and change in physical characteristics).

Ageing according to acharyas

According to Ayurveda, ageing (jara) is a natural phenomenon like hunger thirst and sleep. Acharya Charaka considers ageing as a natural destruction and his theory in this regard is known as ‘swabhavoparama vada’. According to him, there is a causative factor for the manifestation of being but no cause is required for their destruction. The process of decay is the natural succession of the process of manifestation. Sushruta mentions a group of naturally occurring diseases named Swabhavabala Pravritta diseases which include hunger (kshudha), thrist (pipasa), sleep (nidra), ageing (jara) and death (mrityu). (Su. Su. 24/7) Here it is described as a natural process as well as a natural disease. Sushruta again divided Swabhavabalapravritta diseases into normal ageing (kalaja) and early ageing (akalaja). (Su.Su. 1/32-33)

Normal ageing (Kalaja jara)

According to Ayurveda, time factor (kala) plays an important role in the development of ageing. This is normal process which represents the universal biological changes that occur with age and that is unaffected by disease and environmental influences. Not all these age related changes have adverse clinical impacts. Normal ageing occurs at the proper age (parirakshana krita)’ and it happens even after following the daily and seasonal regimen (swasthavritta), recommended by acharyas. There is no cure for normal ageing, but its ill-effects may be slowed down by adopting healthy life style and Rasayana to some extent.

Early ageing (Akalaja jara)

This is strongly influenced by the effects of environmental, lifestyle and disease that, in turn, related to or change with ageing but are not due to ageing itself. This is an accelerated ageing due to many reasons. Early ageing is of greater intensity but may be prevented easily in which Ayurvedic Rasayana therapy has enormous role. In early ageing, biological ageing is more intense irrespective of chronological age. And can be well managed by simple adoption of Ayurveda in our life.

Onset of ageing

Charaka considers old age above 60 years of age while Sushruta demarcates old age above 70 years of age. It is obvious that ageing is a Gradual and continuous process which affects various bodily tissues at different times. In this way, the process of ageing according to Ayurveda definitely begins in the 4th decade of life. The effect of ageing is more obvious in the fifth decade of life when the properties of skin elude or it wrinkles. While describing ageing, Ayurveda considers Prana (universal life force). It governs two other subtle essences ojas (the essence of the seven bodily tissues) and tejas (the essence of a very subtle fire or energy). Ojas is responsible for the auto-immune system and mental intelligence and is necessary for longevity. Displaced ojas creates Kapha- related disorders and decreased ojas creates Vata related reactions. Tejas governs metabolism through the enzyme system. The digestive fire (agni) promotes digestion, absorption and assimilation of food. Tejas is necessary for the nourishing and transformation of each dhatu. Tejas, when aggravated, burns away\ ojas. This results in reduced immunity and over stimulating pranic activity. Aggravated prana produces degenerative disorders in the dhatus. Lack of tejas results in over production of unhealthy tissue and obstructs the flow of pranic energy. A balance among tridoshas (Vata, Pitha and Kapha) is essential for health. Just like that it is important for longevity that prana, ojas and tejas remain in balance. The tridoshas play a very important role in the maintenance of cellular health and longevity. Kapha maintains longevity on the cellular level. Pitha governsdigestion and nutrition. Vata, which is closely related to pranic life energy, governs all life functions. Properdiet, exercise and lifestyle can creat a balance among these three subtle essences, ensuring long life.

AGE RELATED DETERIORATION OF THE BODY


TEXT
Loss of various
qualities
during each
decades of
Ashtanga
Sangraha (Ash.
San.Sha.8/25)
Sharangadhara
(Sha.Pu.7/19)
1ChildhoodChildhood
2GrowthGrowth
3ComplexionComplexion
4IntellectIntellect
5Skin propertiesSkin properties
6ShukraVision
7VisionVision
8HearingValour
9MindReasonong-Buddhi
10All other organsMotor organs
11-Mind
12-Life

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