Updated: May 15
Written by Dr Victor H H Goh, Professor, Science of Ageing, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National University of Singapore.
Aging affects everyone without exception. It starts once an individual reaches adulthood. It is the chronological and progressive degradation of all organ systems manifesting in changes in body shape, and a higher susceptibility to age-related illnesses such are diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, bone and muscle disorders, frailty, low sense of well-being and an increased likelihood of demise. While ageing can begin as early as in our 20s, the manifestations tend to be more pronounced and visible in people older than 60 years old. There are many factors that dictate the rate of ageing. These include the genetic make-up, the environment we live in, and more importantly, the lifestyle habits we choose to adopt. These factors are unique to each individual. Hence ageing affects people differently with some ageing more rapidly than others.
A common effect of aging is the differential change in body shape. In a big mall in Singapore, one can see people of varying sizes, shapes and postures. In their youth, people are often slim, good looking and walk with an upright posture. Older women tend to have broader waist, and larger hip, as a result, some may exhibit a “Pear-shape” outward body form. Older men, on the other hand, tend to have a bigger belly, sometimes called “Beer” belly and they often appear comparatively smaller than their female partners.
Many elderlies are bent at the waist and hunched at the shoulders. Some appear to have weak knees, and have difficulty walking, and climbing stairs. Others shuffle their feet while walking, or need the use of a walking frame or wheelchair. The observed differences in the body shape of men and women are due to their individual, unique, and immutable genetic makeup. On average, men compared to women:
Are about 10 cm taller,
Are 13 kg heavier,
Have 20 kg more lean mass,
Have 7kg less fat mass, and
Are 62% stronger.
Changes in body shape and other metabolic functions are due, in part, to these gender differences in body composition and how they change with age.
This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional for specific advice on your health.
Welcome to our series of articles on aging! This is article 1, where we are introducing some general concepts related to the aging process. In the next few articles, we will dive deeper into aspects of aging and provide useful tips and strategies for healthy aging. Stay tuned for article 2 about Age-Related Changes in Body Composition: Gender Differences Revealed.
For a more detailed discourse on how Singaporeans are ageing and what measures can help slow down the rate of ageing, refer to the book “Healthy Ageing – For Feeling Good and Looking Good” by Dr Victor H H Goh.