Anti aging guide

The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and Aging



Why is autonomic nervous system(ANS) failure important?

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is that part of the nervous system that regulates the activities of parts of the body not generally subject to direct conscious control, such as the intestine, the heart and blood vessels, certain glands such as sweat and salivary glands, and the pupil of the eye. Some of its functions; such as the act of emptying the bladder, seem to be under conscious control and yet the contraction of the muscle of the bladder is not a deliberate act in the same way as the contraction of a muscle of the hand is.

A great many reflexes are mediated through the ANS, and diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease which commonly affect the central nervous system (CNS) may be associated with failure of these reflexes. If you suddenly leap out of bed first thing in the morning, perhaps bursting to empty your bladder, your blood vessels will be widely dilated but they rapidly constrict to prevent pooling of blood in the lower extremities and a catastrophic fall in blood pressure. Even if the pressure does fall, blood flow through the brain is selectively maintained in order to preserve consciousness. People, usually elderly, suffering from postural hypotension due to non-functioning of these reflexes are liable to feet faint and to collapse. Other causes of postural hypotension include varicose veins, loss of circulating blood volume, and certain drugs, notably antidepressants, tranquillizers, antihypertensives, and drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Homeostatic failure and old age
If there is a single feature which is the hallmark of the medicine of old age, it is this tendency for homeostatic mechanisms to become less efficient. Our bodies are too finely tuned to tolerate swings of temperature, pressure, or chemical make-up. Failure of homeostasis is the main reason why illnesses, accidents, or surgical operations from which a young and otherwise healthy adult would recover quickly, may be life-threatening to an aged person.

Posted by Carol Hudgens - April 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm