Health, Illness, and Optimal Aging: Biological and Psychosocial Perspectives

Books

Carolyn M. Aldwin & Diane F. Gilmer

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Dedication

    In the course of working on this book, both of us have lost our last remaining parent, and we would like to dedicate this book to them—Anne F. Aldwin, R.N., and Abe L. Fox, M.A.

    Copyright

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    Acknowledgments

    A number of individuals have been extremely supportive in this endeavor. Drs. Lois Aldwin, Mary Bisson, and Marylynn Barkeley lent their considerable expertise in immunology, cellular biology, and endocrinology. Drs. Andrew Duxbury's and John S. Werner's impressive command of geriatric medicine greatly improved the clinical sections. Drs. Beth Ober, Crystal Park, and Avron Spiro III provided very useful comments on cognition, personality, and statistical methods, respectively. We are very grateful for these reviewers' careful readings and corrections and also appreciate the comments of four anonymous reviewers. The graduate students who took the first author's class on Adaptation and Aging—including Mattie Gabston, Patricia Jennings, Linda Kelly, Danielle Rife-Larsen, and Ray Shiraishi—also provided very helpful feedback. Laurel de Lapp and Amber Mills Despotes gave helpful suggestions from the undergraduate point of view. Donnya Hafich kindly proofread much of the manuscript and spent many hours tracking down articles for us. Loriena Yancura, Yuri Rodriguez, and Barry Burns provided very capable assistance with the figures and illustrations. The first author is grateful to Dr. Ana Paula Cupertino for lending her house in Brazil, which afforded the solitude to finish the first draft of this book. Victoria Davis brilliantly found the positive aging quote in Shakespeare. Our editor, Jim Brace-Thompson, was very patient and supportive. Finally, our spouses, Drs. Michael R. Levenson and David S. Gilmer, provided much-needed support and encouragement. Dr. Levenson (Rick) lent us so much of his own writing for use in Chapter 9 that we ended by sharing authorship with him on that chapter.

    List of Tables

    • Table 4.1 Summary of Common Statistics 67
    • Table 4.2 Sequential Designs Indicating Ages at Different Periods for Different Cohorts 75
    • Table 4.3 Summary of Longitudinal Statistics 78
    • Table 7.1 Selected Small-Molecule, Rapidly Acting Transmitters and Their Functions 173
    • Table 7.2 Selected Large-Molecule, Slow-Acting Neuropeptides and Their Functions 187
    • Table 7.3 Illustrative Changes in the Neuropeptide Transmitters With Age 194
    • Table 7.4 Leukocyte Types, Locations, and Functions 199

    List of Figures

    Foreword

    Gaining understanding of aging is one of the most complex issues facing 21st-century science. This book addresses the complexity of the factors that interact and influence the course of our longer life expectancy. It attempts the difficult task of integrating information from biology, psychology, and the social sciences. The subject matter of aging is at present like an unassembled jigsaw puzzle. There are some clear pieces of information from the many relevant sciences, but fitting them together is a difficult task rarely attempted.

    How we grow old is a product of our genetic background as members of our families and the human species. But the genome expresses itself in physical and social environments that modulate the appearance of hereditary traits. In a sense, aging is an ecological problem in which the dynamics are often difficult to explain. If we are to make significant progress in raising the quality of life, we must identify the many factors that interact and influence the course of life.

    This book undertakes the difficult task of assembling an objective and holistic picture of human aging. This task is rarely attempted because of the relatively low interaction of the different sciences as they develop microtheories of limited aspects of aging. Research on specific aspects of aging has contributed to advances in our understanding; to be maximally useful, however, new findings must be fitted into the functions of a complex organism, the human being.

    University students are educated in depth within the bounds of single disciplines, and it is not common to read across the sciences. Yet understanding aging requires a grasp of information and concepts that cut across many areas of science. This book brings information from the sciences together in a way that is seldom seen. As its chapters reveal, the regulation and management of an organism ranges from ideas to neural conduction and biochemical communication. The information presented here helps us put the organism back together and understand how it ages. It attempts to identify the dynamic factors that underlie aging, the pathways to change.

    In the past, the nervous system was not often mentioned as an organ that plays a role in how we age. Now it is recognized as the primary regulatory organ of the body, with control over many important biological processes such as respiration, body temperature, metabolism, blood pressure, and the thought processes and feelings that result in decisions. It is a hierarchical organ system that has important effects on aging. And it shares with other organ systems the results of lifelong habits of diet, exercise, alcohol and drug use, and smoking. We learn that one of the shared effects that accumulate with age is the presence of oxidants that, because of their structure with free electrons, bind to proteins and become useless for their assigned biological functions.

    One learns from this volume that age alone doesn't cause problems, but it is a convenient and powerful index that enables us to group data while we search for causal factors and place them in a causal chain. How our heredity at conception is expressed in late-life outcomes involves biological mechanisms that are now being identified. At the same time, we should recognize that education and socioeconomic status contribute to life expectancy and the diseases we develop. This implies long causal chains of biological, social, and psychological interactions. This book contributes to understanding how the human organism is organized and the processes of development and aging that extend from birth to late life. It integrates knowledge about the dynamics of aging and promotes ways of modifying the life course to our advantage.

    JamesBirren University of California at Los Angeles
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    Author Index